Zendesk Case Competition 2022

Following the success of three diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) focused case competitions with customer service software company Zendesk, Berkeley Women in Business (BWIB) and Berkeley Haas’s Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) were thrilled to team up once again to host our fourth annual case competition on Friday, September 23, 2022. With the shift from a highly digital pandemic-era startup culture to moving back in person, small companies need more help than ever with growth through customer service. Recognizing this, Zendesk was excited about the opportunity to gain solutions to increase the percentage of underrepresented founders in their Zendesk for Startups program, allowing these founders to find community and grow their businesses.

Based in San Francisco, Zendesk is a software as a service (SaaS) customer relationship management (CRM) company that creates software tailored to better customer relationships. Zendesk’s portfolio of products fuel billions of conversations, connecting hundreds of thousands of brands with hundreds of millions of their customers through channels such as chat, email, messaging, and telephone. While their clients run as large as Zoom and Nokia, Zendesk has been leveraging their newer platform catering to startups, Zendesk for Startups. In addition to making steady progress on DEI initiatives internally, Zendesk aims to be a catalyst for change within the SaaS space, tech sector, and global community. One of the ways Zendesk plans to reach these goals is through diversifying their startup portfolio, emphasizing intersectionality, and helping underrepresented founders grow their businesses and flourish.

Student participants were tasked with researching and presenting solutions to three aspects of DEI efforts within the Zendesk for Startups platform. First, they were asked to evolve Zendesk for Startups’s brand strategy, in order to attract more founders from underrepresented backgrounds to apply for the program. Second, they were asked to look at the platform’s application process and provide recommendations on how to vet customers in a more inclusive manner, while still ensuring applicants fit program qualifications. Lastly, Zendesk for Startups asked for recommendations on how to best establish a baseline of information to better understand the current founder representation of their startup community. They also tasked students to develop ideas for how Zendesk can give back to their startup community, and give underrepresented founders more resources to succeed.

With over 100 participants and 22 teams participating, judges were presented with a wide array of inspiring solutions to these challenges. Ultimately, our top finalists came down to Team 3 (first place): Sara Kazemini, Deepta Jasthi, Arunava Nag, Sukkriti Nath, and Clairey Yang, and Team 8 (second place): Derrick Cui, Thomas Gerken, Ploy Sripungwiwat, and Belle Tangkuptanon.

Winning team member Sukkriti Nath said about the competition, “​​Given my past involvement in the startup space, and my passion for creating equitable growth opportunities — this was truly a problem I was excited to solve.” Sentiments were similar among many participants — they were thrilled to have the opportunity to provide recommendations for Zendesk to help founders. Team 3’s solution emphasized sourcing founders from universities through a proposed program entitled “Gen Zen,” and creating a comprehensive “Startup Hub” including a wide array of resources for startups in the Zendesk for Startups program. The accomplished team of Zendesk judges was excited by Team 3’s presentation, with their Vice President of Startups, Kristen Durham, saying she was delighted to bring their ideas back to her team to implement.

I am so grateful to have worked with such a wonderful team from EGAL, Zendesk, and BWIB for several months, continuing the preparation spearheaded by Simrin Bhargava, BWIB’s past Director of Operations. It was truly inspiring to see so many creative ideas and solutions come together on competition day, and I cannot wait to see the fresh ideas presented next year!



Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGAL)

At the heart of UC Berkeley's Business School, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership educates equity-fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change.