Zopim’s $300K to $30M journey to Zendesk (Startup Asia preview)

Zopim founding team

Zopim founding team, with CEO Royston Tay seated in the middle.

Living on US$400 a month in one of Asia’s most expensive cities – where rent generally costs twice that – is painful, but the founders of live chat software Zopim did just that for two whole years. Today, the Singapore-based company has more than 18,000 paying customers in 150+ countries and has just announced their acquisition by customer service company, Zendesk.

The latter has in turn filed for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange to raise US$150 million. As this is the mandatory quiet period, information cannot be confirmed by the companies, but from Zendesk’s S-1 filing, Zopim was bought for about US$30 million in cash and equity (including earnouts over the next few years).

Amidst the plethora of consumer-focused products and companies in Asia, Zopim stands out in another way by focusing on enterprise customers. Zopim has developed one of the most widely used SaaS products on the international stage for the SMB market, with a mix of customers coming mostly from the US and Europe.

Having struggled to find a business model, and then rebuffing an acquisition offer of about US$5-10 million from a NASDAQ-listed competitor back in 2012, Zopim has come a long way. The first prototype of their live chat software was put together in two weeks, just so they could have something to demo to DFJ’s Tim Draper when he asked for it. While no investment came out of that pitch, they have since raised US$300,000 – and that was all the external funding ever put together by Zopim.

In an interview from more than a year ago, co-founder and CEO Royston Tay told Tech in Asia that Zopim could hit a valuation of US$50 million in “two or three years”. While US$30M is not an insignificant amount, when placed alongside startups who have raised tens of millions of dollars with nary a product and companies being bought for upward of US$1 billion in this current climate, a question might be posed to Zopim: did you sell out too early?

Join me as I ask co-founder and CEO Royston Tay this and other questions regarding their six year journey to Zendesk, on stage at Startup Asia Singapore on May 7.

If you have questions for Royston, send in questions via this form. On the day of the fireside chat, we also welcome questions on Twitter via the #startupasia hashtag. Remember to get your tickets! You have up till April 24 to get your 10 percent discount using the code “earlybirdapril”.

(See: Tech in Asia’s coverage of Zopim over the years)

Editing by Terence Lee, Steven Millward
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