Startupland: A Review

How 3 thirty somethings from Copenhagen built a Unicorn On 16th Feb, I posted my Top 5 SaaS books in SaaScribe You’ll note my complaint about the...

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How 3 thirty somethings from Copenhagen built a Unicorn

On 16th Feb, I posted my Top 5 SaaS books in SaaScribe You’ll note my complaint about the dearth of books around SaaS in general and my call out at the end for the likes of Aaron Levie of Box, Jason M Lemkin of Storm Ventures & SaaStr fame, who have enough material for a book, to write one damn it! With maybe Stewart Butterfield of Slack and Parker Conrad next up as their respective stories are pretty interesting, if you don’t know.

What I Somehow missed, owing to my lazy nature of simply searching for keyword SaaS within Amazon, was that Mikkel Svane, CEO of Zendesk Inc, a SaaS Customer Service Platform, had already released the type of book that I was searching for and now, in retrospect had I have know, this would have made the top 5 list.

Startupland is the tale of how Mikkel and his two friends Alex and Morten, approaching their mid thirties and with one failed Start-up behind him, decided to build a SaaS company, out of a Copenhagen loft, giving one more shot to make it, and make it they did. Here’s some reasons to read it:

Its a warts and all journey
Mikkel doesnt pull his punches or sugar coat things. This is an honest account. The good, the bad and the ugly side of building a start-up. 1 in 3 startups fail and indeed the ones that succeed almost always come close to failing, but you dont often here about that side of things. This book talks about the harder, darker moments of running a startup. Zendesk were close to failure on a few occasions, but look at them now (50,000+ Customers and $1.8Billion Market Cap!!). Mikkel racked up some serious debt, kept it from his family, all in the pursuit of the dream. The honesty, that building a startup is not always so glamorous, at times, is refreshing and appreciated by this reader.

Inspirational to fellow entrepreneurs
Along with needing more books about SaaS, I gladly welcome books such as Startupland, that inspire the current and next wave of entrepreneurs. The picture oft painted in the media of Startups being founded by twenty something, Harvard dropout, slightly aspergers, white guys in Silicon Valley may not inspire those who are older, or not in silicon valley, or not with slight aspergers, that they will have the same opportunity to make it. However, Mikkel and co. have gone against that cliched version and proven that it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you are from or where you are based, if you’re good enough and your product is good enough,  if you work hard enough, keep on going, you can make it.

Proving boring and not sexy SaaS can win in the end

In the early days, when describing Zendesk a common reaction was ‘Boring’. Maybe customer service was/is not as sexy as collaboration (subjective), but Mikkel and co were solving a problem that hadn’t been solved before.
‘Sexy Stuff sometimes happens when you make the mundane things easy and accessible’. Boring paid off in the end. If you’re creating a product thats boring and are worried, then think of early days Zendesk feedback and then think about present day Zendesk.

Staying humble pays

Throughout the journey, you get the sense that the Danish culture of being humble, which is clearly ingrained within Mikkel, has helped him and Zendesk all the way to the IPO. Through his discussions with VCs, to recruiting his staff and on the media IPO roadshow , you can sense that Mikkel didn’t change from who he was, sometimes not always saying the right thing, in the right way, but generally coming across as a good and humble guy and its certainly a part of why Zendesk is where they are today.

Read in 3 sittings
Startupland makes for easy and enjoyable reading. After a long day at work, you may be averse to picking up a book and would rather pick up the remote, however Startupland proved an escape from the daily rigours and a proved real page turner. Keep the TV turned off and treat yourself to this truly fun and interesting read.

A Big Recommendation from SaaScribe!

by Alex Theuma @alextheuma

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1 comment

  1. Quora

    What are some good books on startups?

    I like Startupland by Mikkel Svane of Zendesk. Here’s a review I wrote about it

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