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The Beehive State: The Other Silicon Valley

On the morning of January 28, 2021, Qualtrics International Inc.’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Ryan Smith and Zig Serafin rang the Nasdaq stock exchange opening bell from the company’s headquarters in Provo, Utah — marking a historic milestone for the software company. Qualtrics' long journey started nearly two decades ago, when Ryan's father, Scott M. Smith started developing the software and cloud infrastructure for the company.

In the summer of 2001, Scott Smith received hard-wrecking news of a diagnosis of advanced throat cancer. At the time, his son, Ryan was an intern at The Hewlett-Packard Company and a full-time student at The BYU Marriott School of Business. Ryan took a semester off at BYU and supported his father through the next heavy stages of his life. Ryan describes his dad as a “super early adaptor,” who established the foundation of Qualtrics (StartupGrind, Anderson).

In an interview with StartupGrind — a global community for entrepreneurs — Ryan narrated the early stages of developing Qualtrics as simultaneously challenging and rewarding, as he was able to build it alongside his father, who would work on the product each day, "after [returning] from chemotherapy (TechCrunch, Anderson).

During this time; the summer of 2001, Utah’s tech industry was not as well established. In an economic report, conducted by senior researcher, Levi Pace of The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, Salt Lake and Utah counties had experienced a dramatic upward trend in industry growth and geographic disruption by early 2015 (Utah’s Tech Economy, Pace). In 2019, Pace, and a group of economic researchers began observing the industrial impact of several tech companies in the Salt Lake City Metropolitan Area. Qualtrics was chosen as a rising company to be closely observed, as Pace alludes to Qualtrics as being “the type of service … [that fosters] the share of jobs in tech occupations,” for Utah (Utah’s Tech Economy, Pace). Technology-related jobs — from information research scientists, network system administrators to industrial engineers — have experienced great development in job growth in the state. According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Utah’s tech industry job growth, from 2008–2018, saw a 4.9 percent growth rate over the last ten years triple the tech growth rate of the United States as a whole. The prime reason for Utah’s tech industry growth is due to the rise in technology companies, by “distinguish[ing] themselves by providing tech capabilities for other companies," and for personal use, states Pace (Utah’s Tech Economy, Pace). While many investors and entrepreneurs see business potential in Utah, Qualtric public relations analyst, Liesl Nielson offers her insight as to why “rain clouds,” are ahead for Utah’s tech economy (KSL, Nielsen).

As a professional in covering technology-related news, Liesl Nielson has been dedicating her life to covering groundbreaking technology news. With a background as a reporter at KSL-TV, and now a public relations analyst at Qualtrics, Nielsen fears that “Utah needs to ensure there’s infrastructure in place for the growth that inevitably comes with that [tech] boom,” she expresses in an op-ed for KSL News (KSL, Nielsen). Utah's population in 2021 is estimated to be 3.34 million, ranked “30th populous, [and] ranks 13th largest in the United States,” according to The U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts. With an ever-growing population, the tech industry is affecting the housing market, as pricing soars to enormous amounts. Nielsen expressed her concern that “Utah [needs] to avoid the problems that have affected the communities in Silicon Valley or Seattle, Washington,” in order to continue in its positive trajectory (KSL, Nielson).

With headquarters in Provo, Utah, Qualtrics, was one of the first to take off in the beehive state. As Ryan states, “[w]hen we first opened our headquarters in Provo, hardly anyone thought of Utah as a startup hotbed” (Qualtrics, Inc.) Nearly a decade later, Qualtrics Core XM alternatives and competitors began flocking to Utah, with the intent of conquering Utah's demand for management software and data visualization for academic, private, and public organizations.

By the end of 2010, Instructure, Inc. and Domo, Inc. public and private tech companies introduced their experience management and data visualization companies in American Fork and Provo, Utah, ultimately adding more tech competition to the already growing silicon slopes (Wikipedia, Instructure and Domo).

In a recent Youtube video conducted by Cody Steck, a prominent real estate investor, and agent, who has been dedicating his life to exploring and researching real estate management in the Salt Lake City Metropolitan Area, he described Lehi, Utah as a flourishing region if "you're working in [the] tech space...[and considering] moving to Utah...because there's so much growth going on" (Youtube, Steck). Sleck subtly aims at Lehi’s growth, anticipated by the rise in tech companies surrounding the region.

Ryan Smith and Scott Smith are American captains of industry, whose lives and idealistic vision have guided aspiring tech-entrepreneurs. During an era of much innovation, Ryan and Scott enabled drastic change for the early tech entrepreneurs of Utah. Qualtrics has embarked on a manifestation to provide simple, robust, and practical software for all in Utah. The next great challenge that lies ahead is to simultaneously build on Utah’s tech, while also providing affordable housing to match the growing demand. Ryan and Scott profoundly cultivated a generation of young entrepreneurs ready to tackle Utah's upcoming economic challenges.


Works Cited


Andersen, Derek. “The Story Behind Qualtrics, The Next Great Enterprise Company.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 3 Mar. 2013, techcrunch.com/2013/03/02/the-story-behind-qualtrics-the-next-great-enterprise-company/.

“Domo (Company).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Dec. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domo_(company).

“Instructure.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Jan. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructure.

Qualtrics. “Why Utah Is a Great Place to Live and Work.” Qualtrics, 6 Mar. 2019, www.qualtrics.com/about/why-utah/.

Raymond, Art. “Mammoth Facebook Data Center in Eagle Mountain Still Chugging toward Go-Time.” Deseret News, Deseret News, 1 Oct. 2020, www.deseret.com/utah/2020/10/1/21496005/facebook-instagram-whatsapp-data-center-eagle-mountain-utah-tax-breaks.

Liesl Nielsen, Liesl. “Utah's Tech Industry Is 2nd Fastest-Growing in Nation, but 'Rain Clouds' Are Ahead.” KSL.com, Ksl.com, 30 July 2019, www.ksl.com/article/46607066/utahs-tech-industry-is-2nd-fastest-growing-in-nation-but-rain-clouds-are-ahead.

Pace, Levi. “Utah’s Tech Economy Volume One: Economic Impacts, Industry Trends, Occupations, and Workers.” 2019 Tech Report Volume 1, The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, July 2019, gardner.utah.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019TechReportVol1.pdf.

Stecke, Cody. “Lehi, Utah | Silicon Slopes | What Is It Like To Live In Lehi?” Youtube, 20 Nov. 2019, youtu.be/bspT_wOjFk8.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Utah.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/UT.

“Utah - May 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31 Mar. 2020, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ut.htm.

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