There are many areas in America–San Francisco, Boulder, Austin, New York, Washington DC–that are widely-known as hotbeds for technology and innovation. Utah isn’t as widely-recognized, but is quickly rising up the ranks as a focal point for tech and startups.
Here are some of the reasons the Beehive State is taking the tech world by storm:
In four of the last five years, Utah has been ranked by Forbes as the best state for business in America. There are many contributing factors–large talent pool, low cost of living, technology hub, job growth, favorable economic climate–and the time ahead is just as bright, with Forbes projecting Utah to continue as a pro-business powerhouse into the foreseeable future.
2. Quality Over Quantity
Utah is never going to lead the nation in quantity of venture-backed tech startups, that’s Silicon Valley’s area of expertise and it’s not changing anytime soon. Where Utah’s tech startups are making noise is in the quality of venture-backed deals, specifically the amount of money raised on a per-deal basis. 2014 saw two Utah hotbeds–the Provo-Orem area ($51.3M) and the Salt Lake-Ogden area ($17.2M)–rank in the top three nationally for dollar-per-deal average. Quality over quantity might be an overused statement, but it rings true here.
3. Homegrown Talent
While Utah has shown a propensity for attracting top out-of-staters, it’s the homegrown talent that really speaks to a bright future in the Beehive State. Nearly all of Utah’s biggest success stories, from Pluralsight to Vivint to InsideSales, follow similar paths–native Utahns starting a company, keeping it headquartered in Utah, and slowly but surely building an empire. And with two of the nation’s leading collegiate entrepreneur programs–The Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU and The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at University of Utah–continually feeding the talent pool, Utah can rest assured that even as times change, the talent remains the same.
4. Mormon Missionaries
I know this might sound a bit out of the norm, but think about it. Sending 18-19 year old guys & gals all over the world to teach anyone they come in contact with about religion!?! That is one of the hardest 'sales' job anyone can have. I am biased, as I served my mission in southern Brazil, learned to speak Portuguese, loved the Brazilian people, and essentially matured to become a fairly responsible adult. Mormon missions are completely voluntary, to be exact, you have to pay your own way to go. I saved up my entire childhood in order to pay for the 2 years abroad. But the reason I bring it up here, is because it made me 10x better at my interpersonal communication...aka sales skills.
Utah is full of bi-lingual, returned missionaries, who know how to work incredibly hard (you may have seen the missionaries knocking on doors in your neighborhood), they have high integrity, and they know how to communicate with people. This is why companies like Oracle, Thumbtack, EA Sports, Microsoft, Adobe, and so many more companies are building offices in Utah to take advantage of not only lower cost employees (it's cheap to live in Utah), but also for the quality and experience of the talent pool.
5. Events, Events, Events.
There are numerous weekly events–Startup Grind, Startup Conversation Series, One Million Cups, Startup Weekend–designed to highlight the rising tide of the Utah tech and startup scene. A number of Utah startup heavyweights, including Domo, Instructure, and Qualtrics, have created multiple-day events to let others learn what it takes to create a successful business. There is even StartFEST, Utah’s largest grassroots startup festival that encompasses an entire week (Aug. 31-Sept. 5) in downtown Provo and features 100 speakers, events, workshops, and concerts. Just like there can’t be smoke without fire, there can’t be successful startup events without a successful startup community.
6. Utah Venture Capital
CB Insights wrote in October 2014: Don't Sleep on Utah. With Funding Nearing $1B, the State Has Become a Venture Capital Hub.
There are fantastic Utah investors such as:
- Peterson Partners/Ventures
- Kickstart Seed Fund
- Peak Ventures
- Pelion Venture Partners
- Mercato Partners
- Signal Peak Ventures
- Zetta Venture Partners
- Subtraction Capital
- Epic Ventures
- Sorenson Capital
- Dolphin Capital Group
- Banyan Ventures
- Aries Capital Partners
- Clarke Capital Partners
- Crocker Ventures
- Alta Ventures
- Stoneway Capital
Some alternative investors or angel groups also include:
If I forgot to mention someone--please add it to the commentary below, so we can have a full list to be as relevant as possible. Also, what are other reasons you believe Utah is on the rise?