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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Forbes names SLC the next 'tech mecca'

By Liesl Nielsen | Posted - Apr. 5, 2017 at 12:30 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — While Utah’s explosive growth in the tech industry isn’t really a surprise for long-time residents of the state, it appears the rest of the nation is also taking note.

Forbes recently named Salt Lake City the next "tech mecca" looking to overthrow Silicon Valley, and listed Denver, Colorado, Atlanta, Georgia, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, as other possible tech hot spots. Compared to Silicon Valley, Silicon Slopes is an ever-growing but less-frenzied version of the tech scene in the Bay Area, Forbes said.

A few decades ago, not many would have handpicked Utah to foster a budding tech scene, but the city’s stable workforce, top-ranking tech universities, low cost of living, attractive climate, low crime rate and family-friendly atmosphere have contributed to the industry’s rapid growth, Vaughn Aust, EVP of marketing and product at MarketStar, told Forbes.

“Plus … Mormon missionaries often return to their Salt Lake City roots, bringing back multilingual abilities and phenomenal sales skills,” Aust told Forbes.

Utah’s business-friendly climate, fostered through the region’s cultural roots of self-sufficiency and industriousness, is another reason for the state’s vibrant growth, Julie Kehoe, VP of Communications at Domo, told Forbes.

Several large tech companies, including Adobe, Microsoft and Ebay, have offices in Utah and the state is home to thousands of startups.

The I-15 corridor from Provo to Ogden, affectionately known as the “Tech Corridor,” houses tech campuses that are expanding and popping up on what used to be farmland, while some of these startups have long outgrown their hometown.

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“We have a vision for what Utah can be,” Aaron Skonnard, founder of Farmington-based tech education company Pluralsight, told Forbes.

Pluralsight, one of Utah’s four tech unicorns (venture-backed startups valued over $1 billion), along with Qualtrics, Domo and InsideSales, hope to see more of this growth, though they note that Utah differs from Silicon Valley.

“Look, we’re not the Valley. I think that’s a good thing,” Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith told Forbes. And others agree.

Nate and Vanessa Quigley, founders of Chatbooks (now with an estimated revenue between $10 million and $20 million) told Forbes that Utah had just the right amount of capital — enough for them to raise venture funding but not the excess of Silicon Valley that has raised the cost of living and made standing out so hard.

“There wasn’t that frenzied feeling like we felt in the Bay Area,” Quigley said.

And while the tech scene continues to grow, Silicon Slopes plans to carve out a path all its own.


Liesl is a reporter at KSL.com, section editor of KSL Tech and a student at Brigham Young University. You can email her at lnielsen@ksl.com and follow her on Twitter at @liesl_nielsen.

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