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Startupland

“Required reading for anyone considering leaving their job to set up their own venture.”—James Hurley, The Times UK

Finalist for Best Entrepreneurship Book of the Year —800 CEO Reads Business Book Awards 2015

The real story of what it takes to risk it all and go for broke.

Conventional wisdom says most startups need to be in Silicon Valley, started by young engineers around a sexy new idea, and backed by VC funding. But as Mikkel Svane reveals in Startupland, the story of founding Zendesk was anything but conventional.

Founded in a Copenhagen loft by three 30-something friends looking to break free from corporate doldrums, Zendesk Inc. is now one of the hottest enterprise software companies, still rapidly growing with customers in 150 countries. However its success was anything but predestined. With revealing stories both funny and frank, Mikkel shares how he and his friends bravely left secure jobs to start something on their own, how he almost went broke several times, how they moved themselves and their families across the world to California and the unknown, and how the three friends miraculously stayed together for Zendesk’s IPO and (still growing) success.

Much like Zendesk’s mission itself—to remove friction, barriers, and mystery in order to make customer service easier and more approachable—Startupland removes some of the myths about startups and startup founders. Mikkel’s advice, hard-won through experience, often bucks conventional wisdom and entrepreneurial tropes. He shares why failure (whether fast or slow) is awful, why a seemingly boring product or idea can be the most exciting, and why giving back to the community is as important as the bottom line. From how to hire right (look for people who are not offended by swearing) to which customer service rep personas generate the highest response rates, Mikkel answers the most pressing questions from the perspective of someone still in the trenches and willing to share the hard truth, warts and all.

While there are books by consultants who tell you how to build businesses or by entrepreneurs now running billion-dollar businesses, there are few books from people still in the trenches who acutely remember the difficult daily decisions, the thrill (and fears) of the early days, the problems that scale with growing a business, and the reason why they all went on the adventure in the first place. Startupland is indispensable reading for all entrepreneurs who want to make their ideas the next big thing. The book will inspire and empower you to follow your own dream and create your own story.

 

Critical praise for Startupland:

“The book follows the Silicon Valley version of an American dream, from garage to Tesla.” — Re/code

“Required reading for anyone considering leaving their job to set up their own venture, providing an entertaining and frank insight into the often harsh realities of running your own business. There’s plenty of humour and a happy ending—his company floated on the New York Stock Exchange last May—but the self-deprecating Mikkel Svane, the Danish entrepreneur behind Zendesk, is at his best when revealing the sacrifices, fear and alienation that went into getting there.” —The Times UK, Book of the Week

“Honesty, humour and insight pour from every page of Startupland and it’s a must-read for all budding entrepreneurs. A few typical tips include his advice to swear when interviewing job candidates, to put spelling mistakes in your emails in order to get better customer response, and not to go out drinking during your IPO roadshow.” —Business Life Magazine

There’s no shortage of startup origin stories from inside Silicon Valley, believe you us. And often, these narratives are uh, how do we say, punched up so they sound cooler and more Hollywood-ready than they actually are (“kids drop out of prestigious institution to found world-changing company in their garage!”). Refreshingly, Mikkel Svane is not part of that world. Or at least, he wasn’t when he cofounded the software company Zendesk in a loft in Copenhagen. He and two buddies used an old kitchen door as a desk. Sure, Zendesk is now headquartered in San Francisco, but it’s the account of these unusual early days that satisfy our need for something a bit different —Wired, best books of December


What people are saying about Startupland
:

“Mikkel Svane’s Startupland is a refreshingly honest and provocative account of his journey building Zendesk, complete with the hard choices, unexpected turns, and sheer terrors involved in running a startup. Svane blends practical advice with deeply personal reflections on the company, the industry, and Silicon Valley as a whole. A must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs.” —Aaron Levie, cofounder and CEO, Box

“Mikkel Svane is a great founder who wrote a great book about some of the not-so-great moments throughout his entrepreneurial escapades. With honesty, humor, and humility, Startupland shows what it’s really like.” —Paddy Cosgrave, founder, the Web Summit and Founders 

“I read Startupland over one weekend. I laughed, I cried, and mostly I was so happy I was on the other side. Mikkel Svane knows what it’s like and tells it as it is. A must-read.” —Julia Hartz, cofounder and president, Eventbrite, Inc.

“Startupland is a refreshingly honest and humble inside look from Mikkel Svane, a Silicon Valley outsider. Startup founders will want to keep it as a reference for whenever things aren’t going according to plan (which is all the time).” — Ben Chestnut, cofounder and CEO, MailChimp

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