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Zendesk grows its Madison hub

October 13, 2018

Zendesk’s Madison office is blossoming, with a $12.7 million move to bigger, new offices on Capitol Square and plans to add more than 100 employees over the next several years.

Madison is the San Francisco customer service software company’s second-largest U.S. location. Now, Zendesk’s Madison operations have moved into three floors of the Old National Bank building at 25 W. Main St. — that’s just been updated in a $115 million remodeling project — with views of the state Capitol and both Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.

Since its debut here in 2013 with a staff of five, Zendesk has expanded its ranks in Madison to nearly 300 employees and its new quarters will provide space for at least 100 more.

“I’ve always had a personal crush on Madison,” CEO and founder Mikkel Svane said. “Since our earliest days in Madison, the city has felt like a second home for Zendesk.”

The company had occupied the sixth floor of the U.S. Bank building, 1 S. Pinckney St.

“We ran out of space,” said Jess Hannes, senior director of global customer support, in Madison. “We’ve had some tremendous growth with our company.”

Global operations in Madison

Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2007, publicly traded Zendesk reported $430.5 million in revenue in 2017 and has 2,300 employees worldwide, including about 900 at its San Francisco headquarters.

The Madison office is the headquarters for worldwide customer service, and also houses staff specializing in sales, finance, engineering, customer outreach and corporate social responsibility.

“The company is always about the team. We have great people in Madison; they are motivated ... they make us better,” Svane said.

The new offices are modern industrial chic, with an open floor plan, a barista bar, a wellness room for yoga and plans to add a ping-pong table and an air hockey game.

Employees can help themselves to snacks such as fruit and yogurt, as well as the makings for salads and sandwiches. And as is the case with several local tech companies, there is free beer.

The goal is to help employees “feel comfortable, be creative and foster innovation,” Hannes said.

Zendesk is getting up to $800,000 in state income tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. that will depend on the company’s promise to create 136 jobs over the next three years.

Serving communities

In addition to adding jobs, Zendesk is expanding its philanthropic efforts in Madison. The Zendesk Neighbor Foundation will donate $110,000 to community organizations including the Madison Public Library Foundation, Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin and the River Food Pantry.

Zendesk also is collaborating with the Overture Center for the Arts on a half-day diversity and inclusion symposium on Oct. 25.

Zendesk employees pledged this year to give six hours a year to volunteer activities, and the company said it has received a commitment from Urban Land Interests, owner of the 25 W. Main St. property, and Old National Bank, which occupies the second floor and part of the first floor of the building, to have their employees put in six hours of volunteer work, as well.

“We want to be more than just a visitor” in cities where Zendesk has offices, said Tiffany Apczynski, vice president of public policy and social impact. “We truly want to be embedded in that city.”

Apczynski said through the first nine months of 2018, Zendesk employees worldwide had donated 13,000 hours of community service.

Future plans for the Madison office are yet to be determined, CEO Svane said. “It depends a lot on our leaders. Can we find the right combination of long experience and great talent? There are still things to figure out,” he said.

In the meantime, Svane said he enjoys visiting Madison and brought his children here last year to attend a football game and visit the Madison Children’s Museum.

“It’s a very welcoming city in many different ways,” he said.

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