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Zendesk delivers philanthropic message by air mail

Wisconsin State Journal

By Judy Newman

Zendesk is keeping its philanthropic promises — with the help of pigeons.

Employees of the tech company released seven homing pigeons Wednesday evening from a third-floor balcony of the U.S. Bank Building at 1 S. Pinckney St., where Zendesk occupies the sixth floor, giving a literal launch to the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation’s involvement in Madison.

Zendesk, a publicly traded San Francisco company, provides customer service software to 57,000 companies worldwide. Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2007, the company had $127 million in revenue in 2014.

When Zendesk opened its Madison center last September with 50 employees — its second largest U.S. office — co-founder and CEO Mikkel Svane vowed to contribute to the community, as it does in California, and to double the Madison staff.

Svane returned to Madison on Wednesday to announce that Zendesk, through its new foundation, plans to give $100,000 to local organizations in 2015.

The first round, totaling $23,000, went to the Madison Children’s Museum, the Madison Public Library, the YWCA, the Boys & Girls Club, and Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center.

The pigeons carried the news, with each contribution listed on a slip of paper tucked into a canister banded to one of the pigeons’ legs.

The birds flew to the roof of the Children’s Museum, where they roost, met by Madison and Zendesk officials.

Zendesk has had its longest relationship in Madison with the Children’s Museum, sponsoring events and volunteering at programs, said Tiffany Apczynski, executive director of the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation in San Francisco.

Volunteering is a key element for Zendesk employees worldwide, Apczynski said.

Working in the tech industry, often with high salaries and posh benefits, it’s “very easy to get spoiled,” she said.

When workers go into the community and see how others live, “you come back with your focus reset,” she added.

Zendesk employees commonly volunteer in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, where the company has its offices, an area known for problems with poverty and crime.

In Madison, Zendesk is up to about 90 employees and is now the headquarters for worldwide customer service.

“Two hundred people report in to this team here in Madison, based all over the world, from Melbourne to Manila,” Svane said.

Zendesk is adding sales staff and building a network operating center in Madison to monitor the company’s network and infrastructure, he said.

There is room to grow, he added, and offered no projection on the number of future employees. But he said, “We are incredibly happy about the people we hired here.”
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