Meet the ITU graduate behind Zendesk

Morten Primdahl is co-founder of Zendesk, one of the biggest ever Danish IT success stories. Here he talks about his time at ITU and passes good advice on to next generation of IT entrepreneurs.

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The story of Zendesk started in 2007 with three young men, a small apartment in central Copenhagen and a good idea: a piece of software that could gather all of a company's customer requests and information in one place. A little more than 10 years later, this combination has been transformed into an international company with 2,000 employees, over 119,000 users, headquarters in San Francisco and a stock market value of DKK 23 billion.

One of the three founders is Morten Primdahl, a graduate from one of the very first classes at the IT University of Copenhagen. He joined ITU with a bachelor's degree in biotechnology from DTU and a feeling of not having found his right element. At the newly founded ITU, which back then was located in northwestern Copenhagen, he met an environment that inspired him.

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I fell in love with the spirit and the people who were there. It was a lot of fun - there was room for differences and people with all kinds of backgrounds were working together.

Morten Primdahl about his time at ITU
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"I fell in love with the spirit and the people who were there. It was a lot of fun - there was room for differences and people with all kinds of backgrounds were working together. I did projects with people who had studied everything from architecture to chemistry before. It was inspiring to be around people who thought differently, and it quickly became a melting pot," he says.

"For the first time I felt that I had found my place. It sounds philosophical and deep, but it isn’t really. I was just super happy with the practice and creativity I experienced at ITU."

From Copenhagen to San Francisco

Already during his studies, Morten Primdahl worked in a startup company called Caput, and upon graduating, he started working full time until the company failed. After a couple of years as a consultant, he missed working with his own product. He teamed up with Mikkel Svane and Alexander Aghassipour and started writing the software that would eventually become Zendesk.

Zendesk was launched in 2007, but the company struggled to take off in a Danish entrepreneurial environment characterized by a lack of risk capital.

"We got a few investments from friends and family, but no one really believed in us. Fortunately, the startup scene is a lot different today," he says.

In 2009, the company managed to get an investment from the United States, and the three entrepreneurs moved to San Francisco. Here the company grew rapidly. In 2014, Zendesk became listed on the New York Exchange.

Today, Morten Primdahl has moved back to Copenhagen, works part-time at Zendesk and spends the rest of his time on his family and on helping new startups. Among other things, he is currently looking into collaborating with ITU on developing students’ business ideas.

Students have a finger on the pulse

Last week, Morten Primdahl, together with the two other Zendesk founders, received the prestigious IT Award 2018, given by The Danish ICT Industry Association. The jury emphasized that the three with their clear ambitions and willingness to take risks are a role model for other Danish IT companies.

Morten Primdahl is happy to pass good advice on to student entrepreneurs who dream of creating the next major Danish IT success.

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It is extremely important that [students] understand that even though they are young and inexperienced in the labor market, they have an insight and a finger on the pulse that is very much in demand.

Morten Primdahl
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"First of all, they should know that with their thesis, they have an incredible opportunity to build the foundation for a good product that they might be able to making a living from afterwards. It is extremely important that they understand that even though they are young and inexperienced in the labor market, they have an insight and a finger on the pulse that is very much in demand. Also, they are used to living a life without major costs, so they don’t need to take a job that pays 40,000 kroner a month," he says.

Even if the startup dream ends up busting, the hard work will not have been in vain, Morten Primdahl adds.

"Nowhere will you learn as much and as fast as you do when you start your own company. It may cost you a small debt or decrease in income, but having had your own business will make you very attractive to employers if you should decide to return to a regular job."

Further information

Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email viar@itu.dk