Move Over Boulder: This Ski City Is Becoming a Booming Startup Scene
By Zoë Henry, Inc. — Salt Lake City and the surrounding area is most famous for being the world headquarters of the Mormon church. But this little-known Western tech hub is also churning out fast-growing companies.
Dozens of companies are based in and around Riverwoods, a commercial and residential paradise with 192,000 square feet of retail, at the base of the Wasatch Range. A mile down the road are the headquarters for Vivint, a smart-home company valued at $3 billion.
One of Salt Lake City's artsier neighborhoods, Sugar House is home to a cluster of startups, along with fashion boutiques, a streetcar, and gastropubs that sell local craft beers Polygamy Porter and Big Bad Baptist.
Lehi-based farm, garden, museum, golf, and shopping complex Thanksgiving Point, hatched decades ago by WordPerfect founder Alan Ashton, has become a bustling hub for Utah Valley founders, not far from the northern stretch of Utah County housing dozens of companies, including genealogy website Ancestry.com.
Who to Know
Josh James and Ryan Smith are considered the godfathers of Silicon Slopes. Smith, whose Qualtrics is now a $2.5 billion analytics behemoth, is a longtime buddy of James, who sold his first data company, Omniture, for $1.8 billion. James--now on to his second data play, Domo--is known for his wit and panache. "People see him as this Willy Wonka character," says Banyan's Carine Clark, a fellow board member at the Lehi-based startup network Silicon Slopes. "He does a lot for people that they don't even know about, including supporting education, technology in schools, and women in tech."
Like many repatriated Utahans, Carine Clark first came to the area to attend BYU. Building on her three-decade-long technology career, she's now CEO of medical software company Banyan, a judge for the annual Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for the Utah Valley (she herself was a 2016 honoree), an adviser at BYU and UVU, and one of the few women in the local tech scene. Clark says of being a woman (and a practicing Mormon) in an area dominated by the LDS: "You have to be pretty tough here to make it, and not afraid to run to the fire. A lot of women are not like that."
Who's Bringing Companies Here
When Washington, D.C., native Jeremy Andrus--the former CEO of headphone maker Skullcandy--acquired Traeger Grills in 2014, he relocated the now $350 million company from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City to access more experienced talent. "I knew I could hire great people here," Andrus says.
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