2015 Technology in the State of Utah
This past year was a remarkable one for the State of Utah and technology. It was a year for Women in Tech, Billion Dollar Valuations for many Tech companies, IPO’s, and global recognition for Utah.
Invariably, when creating a list like this, some noteworthy achievements will be missed. I did an email to over 150 Corporate tech execs throughout the state and got some terrific responses, and obtained input from the Utah Tech council and the Women’s Tech council; as well as some good input to inquiries I put out there on social media to my 5000 FB friends and 15,000 linkedin connections.
This list represents Doers. I am amazed at the Spirit of Entrepreneurship and “Can Do” attitude in this state. I often say:
“The World needs dreamers and the world needs doers but most of all the world needs dreamers that do.”
The year started off with a Female Executive – Carine Clark – pulling off one of the biggest corporate combinations in Tech in the history of the State of Utah. She combined her company – Allegiance Software with Maritz Research to form Maritz CX – building a 900 person company with dozens of offices around the globe.
Later in January, Attask, a company that Scott Johnson founded, announced its decision to rename the company under the new corporate brand “Workfront.”
“Simply stated, we have outgrown the AtTask name,” said Eric Morgan, CEO of Workfront. “We now have over 500 employees, and more than 1,000 clients.”
At the end of January, one of the State’s hottest companies – Pluralsight announced that it acquired a Code School For $36 Million. The Florida based Code School, offers dozens of instructional courses and videos for developers both online and via mobile apps. The deal was Pluralsight’s SIXTH acquisition in the past 18 months, as it continues its strategy of buying up smaller companies to expand its footprint in the online learning industry.
Most recently, Pluralsight acquired Boston-based Smarterer for $75 million and Oklahoma City-based Digital-Tutors for $45 million. The acquisitions have helped Pluralsight to grow its online catalog to nearly 4,000 courses.
February saw Ancestry.com, which is the world’s largest set of online family history resources, with over 2.1 million paying subscribers around the world, announce that they are doubling down in Utah by building their New Headquarters in Lehi at the Corporate Center at Traverse Mountain in Lehi.
Today, the company has grown to more than 1,400 employees globally, 1,000 of whom are based in Utah.
Speaking of Headquarters and 1.5 billion in sales, how about Overstock.com? Patrick Bryne and Jonathan Johnson,now running for Governor and leaders of that company – announced that OverStock is on track to open an iconic building in Midvale that showcases what founder Patrick Byrne is calling “the duality of man.”
From the sky, the circular building will look like a massive peace sign, while the ground view will give the impression of a Roman coliseum. Patrick Byrne said. “The peace sign is a reflection of the duality of man.”
The 260,000-square-foot building with a price tag between $80 million and $100 million will be 7200 South between 700 West and 1000 West in Midvale.
Obviously these headquarter buildings are being built to house the 1000’s of Tech employees in this State. At Governor Herbert’s State of the State address in February, he highlighted Utah’s strong employment numbers. New rankings show Utah is home to the nation’s fourth lowest unemployment rate and the third highest job growth rate.
Carine Clark, mentioned in this overview, was awarded CEO of the Year by Utah Business Magazine. The award recognizes leadership, as well as measurable indicators of company growth, and how CEOs overcome adversity or unique situations.
In the Spring, it was not just big private companies dominating the Tech news – SLC based Lineagen announced a 15 Million dollar funding round and Tute Genomics of Provo announced a big deal with Google. Tute is supporting the genomics research community and the growing number of clinicians utilizing genomic data to create something called Precision Medicine. Thus, Tute Genomics, along with some folks at at the University of Texas, have teamed up with Google to grant public access to a database of 8.5 billion annotations of genetic variants through Google Genomics.
Also – Provo based, DevMountain, in 2 years from scratch, built a leading dev bootcamp with now over 500 graduates with 60% of current enrollment coming from outside Utah, attracting talented individuals to the state.
Further, Pura Scents – the most awarded student team out of UVU last year, has had 500 unit pre-orders for the world’s first Internet of Things (IoT) fragrance and essential oils dispenser that plugs into the wall and in controllable via mobile devices. Multi-billion dollar companies want to partner for analytics which could transform the fragrance industry.
In late March – Google announced that SLC, Utah’s capital city, is going to be the latest site for Google Fiber, the tech giant’s gig-per-second internet offering making Provo and SLC two of the only places in America to have this blazing fast offering.
As we moved into April, SpringTime was a time of bounty for Domo as it announced the closing of a $200 Million investment round at a $2 Billion Valuation. Domo, provider of the world’s first comprehensive business management analytics engine, brought in premiere out of State VC’s like BlackRock who led the round.
Later in the month, long time Tech leader and one of the first to innovate in the online eLearning space, Western Governor’s University announced that it had won Two Awards for Excellence in Distance Learning.
The United States Distance Learning Association presented WGU with two awards for excellence in distance learning.
As we rolled into May, we learned that Utah companies raised more than $200 million in venture capital during the first quarter of the year, the largest in the Rocky Mountain region, beating out Colorado, Arizona, and Idaho COMBINED.
Utah ranked sixth nationally, behind New York, California, Texas, Massachusetts and Washington, according to the Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the National Venture Capital Association.
Utah’s largest deals in Q1 included Health Catalyst at $70 million, Instructure at $40 million and InsideSales at $60 million.
About this same time – New Yorker magazine came out with a insightful article about how Utah became the next Silicon Valley- they pointed out that the Wasatch Front region of Utah—containing Provo, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, looks a lot like Silicon Valley in certain ways. Then they surmised that, much as Intel and other semiconductor manufacturers helped create Silicon Valley, the software company Novell—one of the flagships for the Utah super-sector—was founded in Provo and gave birth to many of these companies.
Novell’s contribution to this growth was highlighted in a stunning back and forth between Stephen Colbert – the hot late night talk show host and the popular acted and Comedian Steve Carell. For those of us who lived the Novell dream, see this video… amazing:
The funding news continued unabated in early June with a terrific announcement from another company that I had some to do with called HireVue. They have pioneered the digital interviewing industry, and they announced on June 4th the Close of $45M in Funding and unveiled their new Team Building Software – Accelerate – to empower team leaders to build and coach the world’s best teams. The software includes new products that leverage HireVue’s proprietary digital video and predictive analytics solutions.
Data Centers were also a hot item in the State of Utah –The State is the proud host of eBay’s massive it datacenter. Think about it – over $80 Billion dollars in daily transactions of eBay are run through the Utah datacenter. C7 Data Centers also announced the construction of Phase 2 of Granite Point II, its flagship data center and office complex in Bluffdale, Utah. This will complete Granite Point 95,000 feet of space, laying claim to its position as Utah’s newest, ultra-modern, state-of-the-art multi-tenant data center complex.
July was the month a couple of our Women tech leaders shown brightly.
Jill Layfield pulled off another big deal at BackCountry.com when TSG Consumer Partners LLC (“TSG”), a leading strategic equity investor in high-growth consumer brands, and Backcountry.com, LLC (“Backcountry”), one of the largest online specialty retailers of outdoor gear and apparel, announced that TSG had acquired Backcountry from Liberty Interactive Corporation (“Liberty”).
Later in the month, Cheryl Snapp Conner, a fixture in Utah’s High Tech PR world for years, announced Content University™ an in-depth program that trains and prepares individuals and executives to become expert content authors and creators. ContentU teaches participants to tell the best and most interesting stories available.
This was followed the announced of a singular achievement accomplished by Greg Butterfiled, CEO of Vivint Solar and his Chief Legal Counsel, Shawn Lindquist when it was announced in Mid-July that SunEdison, Inc. (NYSE: SUNE), the world’s largest renewable energy development company was merging with Vivint Solar pursuant to which SunEdison would acquire Vivint Solar for approximately $2.2 billion. Here are just a few of the accomplishments for the team at Vivint Solar during 2015:
- 300 million raised in IPO
- 500 million raised in warehouse, aggregation facility and working capital
- Hired 2500 new employees
Utah companies raised more than $300 million in venture capital in Q2, up from $148M in Q2 last year, putting the state on track to beat its previous record.
Speaking of Solar, in August, SolarCity announced it was to bring its Headquarters and 4,000 Jobs to Utah with plans to invest $94 million in capital investment over the next 10 years in the State.
Then later in August the Utah Technology Council announced its 2015 Class of Hall of Fame inductees:
UTAH Senator Orrin Hatch and Will West, a serial entrepreneur with multiple CEO wins in this state, aloong with Gretchen McClain were to be inducted into the Tech Hall of Fame. Amazingly, McClain is the first woman to be inducted into UTC Hall of Fame in its 16-year history. She has more than 25 years of global experience in both Fortune 500 corporations and government service, including serving as founding CEO of an S&P 500 global water technology company, Xylem Inc., and NASA’s Chief Director of the International Space Station.
Along the way, Aviacode secured 16 Million in funding and DigiCert announced that Thoma Bravo, LLC, a leading private equity investment firm, was entering into an agreement to acquire a majority interest in the Utah-based a global expert in SSL Certificate Authorities.
Then along came a busy month of September. It is began with Alliance Health, a health-care technology company, topping the latest list of Utah’s fastest-growing companies, according to Utah Business Magazine.
The firm owns and operates massive online communities for those with chronic health conditions, networking its members with physicians, drug-makers and each other.
Also in the vain of Utah Healthcare Tech companies, AdvancedMD became a Standalone Company following its purchase in the summer by Marlin Equity Partners, a global investment firm.
Also September saw the announcement of the Second RootsTech Conf. It is the largest family history and technology conference in the world. The actual event is coming up soon – February 3–6, 2016, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. It will feature a $100K Showdown in prizemoney for the top Genealogical oriented tech innovations. It’s the biggest tech competition in Utah hands-down by audience size (7,000 live/streaming viewers in ’15; expecting 20,000+ viewers in ’16).
October opened with a bang when Pluralsight was honored as the ‘Most Innovative Tech Company’ in America at 2015 American Business Awards beating out more than 3,300 nominations across every industry
Also in October Western Digital (announced that it was buying fellow data storage vendor SanDisk in a cash and stock deal worth about $19 billion. The result meant that Utah based Fusion-io, (that had been previously bought by SanDisk for 1.2 billion) will now be a part of Western Digital.
WD’s purchase of SanDisk comes on the heels of the data storage market’s biggest-ever acquisition Dell’s purchase of EMC for $67 billion.
On October 22nd, Forbes Named Utah as Best State For Business— saying that Utah really is “the place” at least as far as doing business is concerned. The tenth annual study looked at more than 40 points of analysis, including business cost, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, energy, taxes and, for the first time, each state’s population of millennials. Utah topped the list for the second time in a row, and the fifth time since 2010.
“Utah has been a tech destination for years, with companies like eBay, Oracle, Microsoft and Twitter building up a heavy presence in the state as a low-cost alternative to California,” stated an article about the study.
The article also cited Utah’s heavy venture capital presence—the Beehive state has the second-highest average investment per deal ($18.6 million).
A big highlight in Tech in November was the UTC Annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony, in which 3 inductees were added to the Hall of Fame – The event also featured a keynote discussion with Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, who was interviewed by UTC Hall of Famer Shane Robison, former president and CEO of Fusion-io and executive vice president and CTO with HP. Weiner and Robison discussed the culture at LinkedIn, the company’s mission and vision, and trends within the technology industry.
The next day, the State’s dynamic academic community was honored when BYU and the U of U were ranked on Princeton Review’s prestigious list of the top 25 undergraduate and graduate schools in the country for best entrepreneurship studies. Brigham Young University scored the second spot for the top 25 undergraduate schools. The University of Utah was ranked #24 on that list—the first year it has won a spot in that ranking.
More news in November included Brad Walters, perennial TECH CEO in the State, appears to have struck gold again with Monnit – Monnit has broke out in 2015 as a leading company in the newest IT industry space – the Internet of Things. With over 5000 customers and over 400 products- they are well positioned to realize massive growth in the next few years. They were just named on of the top 50 IoT
More massive tech news struck the State in November when Josh Coates’ company – Instructure (INST) , a learning management software company, went public on the New York Stock Exchange.
Instructure competes against industry-leader Blackboard, and already has secured high-profile companies and universities as customers, including Tesla Motors (TSLA – Get Report) and Harvard University.
“We were the first learning management system technology to be in the cloud. That means we continuously innovate,” said Josh Coates, Instructure’s CEO. “We’re on Amazon Web Services, so we’ve got this global infrastructure in place. It’s a very different approach to software than a lot of the old vendors have.”
In 7 short years, Instructure has grown to more than 700 employees serving 25 countries around the world.
In December, Imagine Learning was honored with a Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award, recognizing the Best Places to Work in 2016 in the SMB category.
Other exciting things continue to happen to many Tech companies in the State including DemoChimp. It is part of a crop of great new companies following in the footsteps of Domo, Pluralsight, HireVue, Qualtrics, and Inside Sales. They announced an Advisory Board that included Chief Sales guy extraordinaire, Don Cash, and this followed on the heels of the Company closing $2.8 million funding and winning a series of awards including being named to Red Herring’s list of Top 100 North America Tech Startups and being recognized as one of 10 “Startups to Watch.
Another hot Tech startup to watch is Omadi – being driven by Scott Peterson, former head of the Rollins School of business at BYU. Omadi raised a seed round of 950K last January, and a 5MM Series A, capital raise from Pelion Ventures in September. Omadi is a cloud based mobile platform for workforce management that is highly configurable and customizable.
Also during the year, InsideSales.com announced the Predictive Cloud™, a first-of-its-kind open platform that enables businesses of all sizes to build rich, powerful predictive apps that drive business results. Powered by the proven Neuralytics™ self-learning predictive engine, the Predictive Cloud taps into the intelligence gathered from analyzing nearly 100 billion sales interactions. The leading cloud-based sales acceleration technology company, was recognized by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) as the SaaS Provider of the Year for the fifth consecutive year.Inside Sales also closed on a $60 Million dollar investment which included investments from Microsoft.
Qualtrics also continued its tremendous growth during 2015 essentially doubling in sales (again) after having raised $220 million from Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital, and Insight Venture Partners over two rounds of funding. The 800-person company was valued at over a Billion dollars a year ago. Staggering to think about what its valuation is today. And it has a claim that most other unicorns can’t make – It is profitable and essentially has been since its inception.
And as mentioned above, Women in Utah in Tech continue to make a huge impact. Dr. Linda Bradford, CEO of FluentWorlds, built what is arguably the most engaging and most advanced eLearning product in the world using virtual reality and 3D games to change the world of Language learning. The App is in the market now on itunes and the Google Play Store.
Kimberly Jones- Verite – Her Company has done over 75 Million in sales over the last 15 years mostly in the tech sector as one of the first and best Web design and development firms anywhere in the country. They have created 80 jobs about 40% of which are for women. Kim also donates amazing amounts of time to entrepreneurial mentoring for Westminister College, Goldman Sachs, etc.
Cydni Tetro – 3dplusme – She raised over 2.5 million in seed financing, launched 3-D printing with Target in a major expansion in LA. Worked with major-league baseball for the All-Star game and World Series. Launched with DreamWorks. Introduced a new Marvel and Star Wars product line with Hasbro.
In summary, 2015 was a spectacular year for Tech in the State of Utah. Companies in this state raised well over $1B in financing according to Crunchbase. The 5 biggest rounds were: Domo @ $235M, PluralSight @ $135M, Health Catalyst @ $70M, InsideSales @ $60M and HireVue @ $45M
To close, the Founder of Chuck e Cheese and Atari, Nolan Bushnell, a Utah native, once said: “Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.” Based on what is happening in Tech in the State of Utah, there are a lot of people diving out of the shower and making things happen in this great State.