Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith has long championed his home state of Utah. Now, he’s not alone

March 14, 2023, 9:07 AM UTC
Ryan Smith of Qualtrics at the 2015 Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland.
Sportsfile/Corbis/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Good morning. This is Michal Lev-Ram, writing from Utah, where Fortune will be holding its Brainstorm Tech conference later this year.

Landing in Salt Lake City early last week was a beautiful sight. A fresh sprinkling of snow made the surrounding Wasatch Mountains appear even more spectacular than usual, their white peaks glistening in the sun. “Before, my largest concern was water,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox told me during a sit-down interview later in the week. “But we’ve gotten so much snow.” The Governor’s new concern? Population growth has been on a tear in the Beehive State—partly the result of an influx of pandemic-era tech transplants—and so, in turn, has the cost of living.

I met Gov. Cox at X4, the customer conference put on by Utah-based software company Qualtrics, which was attended by about 10,000 people. “I remember trying to recruit to Utah 10 years ago, and it was hard,” Ryan Smith, Qualtrics co-founder and executive chairman, told me. “We used to be scared to relocate people here. We’d, like, make sure their kids were okay at their new school.” 

Smith, who along with his wife also owns the Utah Jazz NBA team, has long been bullish on his home state. He’s no longer a lone voice. According to Zig Serafin, CEO of Qualtrics: “There’s a lot in Silicon Valley and Seattle that people aren’t loving.” That may be true, but Utah’s relatively low taxes and affordable real estate—yes, even despite the recent uptick—might have something to do with the appeal of the state too. And its surprisingly high rate of unicorns is helping to attract all sorts of suitors. 

Speaking of: Just this Monday, private equity firm Silver Lake and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board agreed to acquire Qualtrics in a $12.5 billion deal. (During interviews that took place at X4, Smith declined to comment on the then-impending acquisition, though he said being a “private company with scale” was the most exciting time in Qualtrics’ history.)

This wave of activity in the state—coupled with its natural beauty—is the reason we’re bringing our Brainstorm Tech conference to Park City, Utah this July. You can find out more and apply to attend here. The snow will be gone by summer, but the Wasatch Mountains will be just as picturesque.

Michal Lev-Ram


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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Jackson Fordyce. 

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