Take a Deep Breath, Collect Cash: Zendesk Wins Venture Financing for Help-Desk Software

5/6/09Follow @wroush

Almost by definition, anyone who gets to the point of submitting an online help request to a software or services company is frustrated, possibly even angry. Responding to a flood of help requests constructively takes calmness and strength—and that’s what Zendesk, a help desk management outsourcing company, tries to supply to its own customers, including big names like Twitter, MSNBC, and Rackspace.

The provider of Web 2.0-style help request tracking software announced today that it has collected on some of that good karma, raising an unspecified amount of Series A venture funding from Charles River Ventures of Waltham, MA. The startup, originally founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2007, also announced it has opened its U.S. headquarters near South Station in Boston.

Many of Zendesk’s 1,000-plus customers are themselves Web 2.0 or software-as-a-service companies such as JungleDisk, SlideRocket, Viddler, CakeMail, and WebExpenses.They have all gravitated to Zendesk’s Web-based system for managing help requests because it’s based on Web standards and is therefore easy to integrate with their own services. They may also like the company’s reasonable prices, which range from $19 to $475 per month (depending on how many support agents will be using the software) and are considerably cheaper than competing help-desk software such as BMC’s Remedy. Then there’s the matter of convenience—help tickets created by Zendesk users can be accessed and managed remotely from any Web browser.

Zendesk “has provided us with a platform that works really well for remote teams like ours,” David Abrahams, chief software architect at Sydney, Australia-based Web application design company KMS Systems, says in a testimonial on Zendesk’s website. “Zendesk provides the perfect central point, so we all know what our customers need, who from our team is looking after them and the history of previous communications in case we need to pick up where someone left off.”

Zendesk supplies customers with “help portals”—branded to look like part of their own sites, but actually operated from Zendesk’s own servers—where users can browse troubleshooting FAQs, submit support requests, and check on existing requests. And that’s about it. The company’s interface is employs a clean, no-frills design that reminds me of programs built by 37signals, the Chicago Web software firm known for its “less is more” philosophy.

“Beautifully simple. That is all you need to know about Zendesk,” says Zendesk co-founder and CEO Mikkel Asger Svane in an announcement today about the Series A funding. “This financing will help us build on our success and bring good help desk karma to any organization seeking enlightenment.” (As its name suggests, the company takes the Buddhist theme pretty seriously; among its innovations is an online “Buddha Machine Wall” consisting of 21 simulated FM3 Buddha Machine players, each programmed to play a different loop of droning New Age music.)

Of course, all is not bliss is the land of technical support. Here at Xconomy, we spent quite a bit of time using Zendesk’s system back in February, and March, and April, as we attempted to get Twitter—probably Zendesk’s highest-profile customer—to evict a squatter who was using the “Xconomy” name. We’ve written about the gory details here and here so I won’t repeat them. Suffice it to say that a help-desk support system is only as effective as the people administering it.

When I learned about the financing, I felt compelled to share my Twitter story with Zendesk. Svane replied as follows: “As you can imagine, Twitter Support may very well be one of the world’s largest online support organizations right now, providing support to millions of free users. While we cannot control individual response times, the nice thing about Zendesk is its ability to scale to support that tremendous task. But we also know it’s a colossal support process that won’t be nailed from one day to the other.”

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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