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Zendesk opens Asia-Pac headquarters in Singapore

Just a year shy of buying S'pore startup Zopim, Zendesk has expanded the scope of its S'pore office

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Zendesk founder and chief executive Mikkel Svane (left) with Zopim founder and general manager Royston Tay. Zopim became a local start-up success story last year when the San Francisco-based, New York-listed customer-service firm acquired it for US$30 million. The entire Zopim team in Singapore joined Zendesk after the acquisition.

Singapore

HOMEGROWN live-chat startup Zopim, acquired last year by New York-listed customer-service firm Zendesk, on Thursday unveiled its newly-expanded Singapore office, which is also Zendesk's new Asia-Pacific headquarters.

With its space at Haw Par Technocentre - triple the size of Zopim's last office - San Francisco-based Zendesk announced that it would double its headcount to 80, a move observers said would be a boost to jobs, skills and intellectual property here.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, who was at the opening of the office, said the time was long overdue for Singapore to have a global company like this. Referring to Zendesk's US$30 million acquisition of Zopim as a landmark deal here last year, he added: "Both relatively young companies (formed in 2008), they have grown to become market leaders in the online customer-service space ... (and demonstrated) the entrepreneurial spirit that we would like to see more of in Singapore."

Steve Leonard, executive deputy chairman of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, said Zopim and Zendesk's office expansion not only added to the growing energy and attractiveness of the Singapore startup ecosystem, but also spoke to the Republic's ambition to become a "smart nation".

Zendesk, which has offices in Europe, the US, Australia and Japan, picked Singapore as its regional headquarters because of the talent pool here, and a "motivated government supportive of innovation", Zendesk founder Mikkel Svane told BT.

Since its acquisition last April, Zopim has become a core part of Zendesk, he said. Its live-chat software, which Zendesk said was "far superior" to its own, has been enhanced and integrated into Zendesk.

Mr Svane said live chat represented a shift in the way companies were engaging their customers; the platform enabled them to be proactive - no longer just reactive - in real-time on web and mobile.

Royston Tay, co-founder of Zopim and vice-president and general manager of chat at Zendesk, said: "It's an ideal marriage for both companies, thanks to the synergies in our products, similar startup working styles, and a shared fun-loving culture."

Mr Tay, who founded Zopim with fellow NOC (National University of Singapore Overseas Colleges) peers Wu Wenxiang, Kwok Yang Bin and Lim Qing Ru, stressed that this milestone would not have been possible without early support from the university.

Lily Chan, chief executive officer of NUS Enterprise, said as much: "The NOC programme has spurred many of our students to set up companies that develop innovative solutions for the global market. Beyond the financial returns, Zopim's success has inspired the local startup community and created more high-value jobs."

The tight-knit NOC community may be the closest thing Singapore has to the PayPal Mafia, said serial entrepreneur and NOC alumnus Darius Cheung, referring to the group of PayPal founders and employees - among them Peter Thiel, Elon Musk and Reid Hoffman - who went on to set up tech firms such as LinkedIn and YouTube.

Zendesk, which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange last May, had a market cap of US$1.8 billion as at Thursday and more than 52,000 paid customer accounts across 150 countries.