Mountain West Capital Network Honors Ryan Smith as Entrepreneur of the Year

“This is going to be my last job.”

Last Friday the Mountain West Capital Network hosted a lunch to honor Qualtrics CEO and Silicon Slopes Board Member Ryan Smith as Entrepreneur of the Year. The hour-long program featured a number of speakers who paid tribute to Ryan Smith and the company he’s built.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox sent his regards from Governor Herbert, who was recovering from surgery, and quoted the governor as saying he wants to be like Ryan when he grows up. Not because of Ryan’s success in business, but because of Ryan’s golf game.

Ryan’s brother and Qualtrics cofounder Jared Smith made a number of jokes about Ryan’s hair and love for Diet Mountain Dew before lovingly explaining the reasons for his brother’s success. “He doesn’t take cues from others,” Smith said, and described the motor that is Ryan’s unstoppable drive.

That drive is something Bryan Schreier of Sequoia Capital and Ryan Sweeney of Accel Partners both mentioned in their praise of Ryan. Schreier said it’s rare to find a generational company, one that influences an entire generation, and that’s what Sequoia found in Qualtrics. Sweeney spoke of Ryan’s notable desire to win for the right reasons.

Then Ryan’s wife Ashley spoke of Ryan’s scrappiness, the quality she believes led Ryan to where he is today.

In turn, Ryan praised Ashley for her grit and honesty when he spoke with Startup Grind CEO Derek Andersen. He then praised another important woman in his life, his mom Nancy, who he says showed him how to be an entrepreneur. When Ryan was young Nancy went to school, earned her PHD, started a scrapbooking company, and then sold the company. At the time she received flack for not being home with her kids, even though according to Ryan, it’s her influence that led to so many of her children’s successes. “We have too many women who get crap for wanting to be like Nancy,” Ryan said. It was a statement that was met with boisterous applause.

Ryan called the Entrepreneur of the Year award a reflection of his entire company and thanked his team. “I love going to work after 16 years,” he said, and then added that he plans to continue working hard for years to come. “This is going to be my last job,” he said.

Andersen asked Ryan about his passion for Utah, and Ryan explained that a love for the Beehive State is in his DNA, and it’s that love that makes him want to see improvements. “It’s awkward for a lot of people here,” Ryan said, citing the lack of diversity and the Utah lifestyle quirks. “We need to make it easier for people to be here, because we have all the makings to make this a major tech hub.”

MWCN President Drew Yergensen, MWCN EOY Chairman Tyler Harvey, and MWCN EOY Vice-Chairman Jason Roberts then presented Ryan with the Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Meat and Potatoes Episode 2

A Silicon Slopes Production

Meat and Potatoes shines a light on the people in Silicon Slopes who get things done. Hosted by Silicon Slopes Director of Operations Garrett Clark and random interns, Meat and Potatoes explores how, why, and when they get those things done, and why their work is the meat and potatoes of Utah’s tech community.

In Episode 2 Garrett chats with Cameron Hale who is the Director of Sales at Podium. Cameron talks all things sales and how he works with his team on a daily basis. Questions about Blockchain are tossed around with no conclusions made. A short book review about Nike shoes rounds out the Podcast.

People Helping Puerto Rico Auction Begins On December 2

Because Puerto Rico still needs help.

Weeks ago the media stopped really covering Puerto Rico and the devastation Hurricane Maria left on the island. In what feels like a never-ending stream of shocking headlines, news of Puerto Rico has been overshadowed by more recent events. But while our attention may have shifted to other issues, Puerto Rico is still suffering and still needs our help.

Most of the island remains without power or clean water. “Running water that may be available to some of the island is contaminated and needs to be boiled but they have no working stoves or resources to do so. Going to the bathroom without running water is the reality the island has been dealing with since September,” explains Nichelle Jensen, co-founder of People Helping Puerto Rico. “Only a small percentage of the hospitals on the island are operating and those hospitals are operating only at a fraction of their normal capacity. This means most people aren’t receiving basic healthcare like something as simple as an asthma inhaler. Makeshift medical clinics in school gymnasiums and churches are currently serving the majority of the medical needs for the island. Most people are living without roofs which makes most homes breeding grounds for mold, if they are not already covered in mold. Puerto Rico is hot, humid, and covered in mosquitos, many children and elderly folks aren’t healthy enough to handle the combination of the heat, lack of water, and lack of shelter for such a long period of time. Even for some citizens who may have power restored, their refrigerators are now covered in mold and their stoves were destroyed by the storm. An average cost for a new roof is about $3,000 and with a large percentage of businesses not in operation, people are without work and without funds to put another roof on their home or buy a new stove.”

Co-founder Ryan Smart adds, “In other areas[affected by disaster], people are connected by land, so you can drive in resources, neighbors can come help rebuild — not on an island, especially on an island that has not had basic needs met for a long time. These people are suffering. Puerto Rico is in an even worse state than it was the days of the storm .”

Jensen and Smart wanted to help alleviate some of Puerto Rico’s pain so they reached out to the Vivint Gives Back initiative, whose leaders have served as invaluable mentors, and partnered with the nonprofit Wings of Hope. They created the Instagram account People Helping PR, and started asking businesses and individuals to donate goods and services to be auctioned. “These items range from something as simple as a baked good all the way up to a week’s stay at a VRBO in Hawaii — if you’re lucky you can bid on both and be eating a chocolate cream pie on the beaches of Oahu,” Smart says. “We post the good and service and ask the donor along with all our friends and businesses to share the cause on their feeds.” All donated items will be available for bidding Saturday, December 2 at 8 pm (PST), and the auction will close Sunday, December 3 at 8 pm (PST). The highest bidder on each post will win the item, and their donation will go directly to the people of Puerto Rico.

The list of items is both long and impressive, and all donated by people who just want to help. “People are good — that’s what we’ve found,” Smart says. “The majority of people are so willing to help however they can, most just don’t know how. People may not be able to donate a lot of money or go and physically help, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing. All people have talents and this lets up tap into that, allow them to do good, and use that talent to help so many others. It’s also contagious, when people see others jumping in to help, they don’t want to miss out either. It’s a great way to join people together, create a mini community and also show off people’s talents — so many side benefits on being a part of one of these auctions.” Jensen adds, “Making people see that there is a lot of value to be had from any size effort has created a domino effect and more donations keep rolling in.”

Jensen and Smart hope to raise enough from the auction to see roofs go on houses and see food, water, and medical supplies reach the Puerto Ricans that need them. “We’d like to help as many people as we possibly can,” Jensen says.

Remember, the auction begins SATURDAY at 8 PM (PST), and can be found at @peoplehelpingpr on Instagram. Your winning bids will help People Helping Puerto Rico live up to its name.

This Is The Place Podcast Episode 21

A Silicon Slopes Production

This Is The Place (A Silicon Slopes Production) delivers wide-ranging, rarely serious commentary on tech, Utah, and everything in between. Hosted by Silicon Slopes editors Meg Morley Walter and Chris Rawle, This Is The Place examines Utah-centric stories that range from inspiring and relevant to completely bonkers.

In Episode 21 Chris and Meg discuss Startup Santa and its surrounding activities, and summit plans. They present a requested tagline, and the tech talk no no turns into a tech talk yes yes. Then they talk about the latest weird Utah news which includes a a couple taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather in a unique way, and cows raining on I-15.

Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud. While doing so, please give us a positive review and rating.

This Is The Place Podcast Episode 20

A Silicon Slopes Production

This Is The Place (A Silicon Slopes Production) delivers wide-ranging, rarely serious commentary on tech, Utah, and everything in between. Hosted by Silicon Slopes editors Meg Morley Walter and Chris Rawle, This Is The Place examines Utah-centric stories that range from inspiring and relevant to completely bonkers.

In Episode 20 Chris and Meg talk about their camera debut, Startup Santa and a number of funding announcements. They present a few very bad tag lines, and address a tech term we all despise. Then they talk about the latest weird Utah news which includes a a debate over the correct pronunciation of phoenix plural, and the re-opening of everyone’s favorite mortuary.

Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud. While doing so, please give us a positive review and rating.

CloudCherry Moves to SLC

We are including our customers in building the product and making it a more proactive conversation.

CloudCherry, SaaS product that helps brands track, measure & improve Customer Experience through a Voice of Customer (VoC) platform, has moved its headquarters to Salt Lake City. “We are super excited to be here,” says Rose Bentley, CloudCherry SVP of Sales and GM of North America. “I love it here. It’s a unique, engaging culture. The people care about family and work life balance, and the integrity is high.”

CloudCherry helps their clients better the customer experience through understanding customer insights. Bentley calls CloudCherry’s voice of customer platform “a next generation product,” and explains that they have moved away from reactiveness of feedback and data collection. “We are including our customers in building the product and making it a more proactive conversation.”

“Today customers are switching from brands and products at a higher rate than ever before. Companies need to drive the customer experience,” Bentley says.

CloudCherry raised the largest series A funding round for a SaaS startup in 2016 at $6,000,000. The company has partnerships with Cisco, Microsoft, and Freshdesk, and an impressive list of customers.

“Today customers are switching from brands and products at a higher rate than ever before. Companies need to drive the customer experience.”

This Is The Place Podcast (A Silicon Slopes Production) Episode 2

Who let this happen?

Stop holding your breath! The second episode of the This Is The Place Podcast has arrived.

This Is The Place (A Silicon Slopes Production) delivers wide-ranging, occasionally serious commentary on tech, Utah, and everything in between. Hosted by Silicon Slopes editors Meg Morley Walter and Chris Rawle, This Is The Place examines Utah-centric stories that range from inspiring and relevant to completely bonkers.

In episode 2, Chris and Meg discuss Jive Communications’ expansion, the launch of Sumato Coffee, and VidAngel’s take on their filtering news. Chris and Meg instruct tech people on how to talk to non-tech people, and gossip about Utah’s weirdest headlines. Then they read more tweets, cause why not?

Listen now:

Teem Named Among Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces for 2017

“Employees want and need to be more productive, more efficient, and happier.”

Inc. Magazine named Teem (Formerly EventBoard) one of the best workplaces. Teem is a cloud-based software and analytics platform for meeting management and analysis.

“We are honored to be given such a distinction that goes to the core of not only who we are as a company, but what we offer as a service,” CEO Shaun Ritchie says. “At Teem, we empower businesses to create their own best workplaces. To be recognized by a publication such as Inc. reinforces our mission. While our focus is on producing a platform that focuses on increased productivity and efficiently, it’s just as important to establish an environment that inspires employees and empowers them to strive for success.”

More than 2,000 customers — from small businesses to enterprise — leverage Teem’s technology to foster more productive and efficient meetings. Nearly 20 percent of the Top 50 Best Workplaces recognized by Inc. Magazine are Teem customers, including Elite SEM, Health Catalyst, Reliance Partners, Service Express, Silverline,, Terminus, Tier1 Performance Solutions and Wpromote.

I asked CEO Ritchie what he sees in a top workplace and how he thinks business leaders can establish an environment that keeps employees happy and engaged, because he’s clearly someone who knows.

He told me that employees need something meaningful to work on. “We definitely have a mantra of making sure we’re providing meaningful things to work on,” Ritchie says. “Employees want and need to be more productive, more efficient, and happier.”

Ritchie also explains that employers need to provide the recourses for employees to get their work done. “It’s about prioritizing where we spend the limited recourses we have,” he says, explaining that at Teem they choose to spend money on good seating, and less on desks and other furnishings.

And, of course, using Teem helps companies create happier employees and better workplaces. “We’re providing technology that helps reduce friction. People are naturally attracted to that,” Ritchie says. “We’re helping them have a better workplace experience.”

VidAngel Is Back At It

VidAngel announces new version of its platform allowing users to filter Amazon, Netflix, and HBO.

Earlier this week VidAngel announced a new version of its filtering service. This latest iteration allows users to filter Amazon, Netflix, and HBO content.

And now people have questions. Questions like, won’t this just lead to another lawsuit? And, is this new service a violation of the streaming platforms’ terms of service? And, what’s left if you filter Game of Thrones?

Some people call me the voice of the people, an honor and responsibility I do not take lightly, so I brought those questions and more to VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon, and he provided answers.

Harmon explained that the studios have three main concerns that have been brought to light in the current lawsuit:

  1. VidAngel’s old system violates the DMCA (Digital Media Copyright Act).
  2. VidAngel interferes with the studios’ windowing system and the timing of video releases.
  3. VidAngel undercuts the studios’ pricing and the studios do not get a streaming license fee for every viewing of their content.

Then Harmon explained that this new service solves all three of those problems. It does not implicate the DMCA, there’s no decryption required, the platforms get their licensing fees, and there’s no sell back that might undercut pricing.

VidAngel has had communication with Netflix, HBO, and Amazon, and when asked whether the filtering service is in violation of those platforms’ terms of services, Harmon said, “Netflix has never taken a position that VidAngel’s service violates their terms of use in our communications with them.” Harmon explained what VidAngel has done to prevent friction with the streaming services. “We described how service works, and told them we’d be driving them lots of customers.”

Since the announcement, VidAngel has had three times the site traffic they were expecting. When I spoke with Harmon a few months ago, he had let a lot of his team go. Now a lot of those people are back and working to meet the streaming demands. “We had plans for what we would do in our very first month and we doubled those numbers in the very first day,” Harmon said.

A VidAngel press release explains how this new service came to be:

“During the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing last week, Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz asked Don Verrilli, former U.S. Solicitor General and now Disney’s new attorney, about a potential alternative entertainment filtering technology that doesn’t implicate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Disney responded that if VidAngel had a new system, it should present it to the District Court in order to modify the injunction,” said Neal Harmon, CEO of VidAngel. “We’ve built a new system, and next Monday we plan to file a motion with the District Court as Disney recommended.”

“We want the world to know that, for all other titles and all other content not owned by the plaintiffs, parental filtering is back. VidAngel is back.”

The company is, of course, still fighting for the rights to filter the plaintiffs’ content. “We hope in court it’s decided people are given the right to filter,” Harmon said. “We will continue to battle until studios give us a license, or the court gives us the right to filter.”

We Attended The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards Gala

So many macarons.

On Saturday, June 10, winners of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Utah Region Awards were announced at a black tie gala at the Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

The event was very fancy. There was rolled salad that I, being the not fancy person that I am, had no idea how to eat. And I’m sure the unrolling method with which I consumed the salad was wildly inappropriate. But worth it because that salad was delicious. As was the steak, salmon, and dessert. I think I ate seven macarons.

The award ceremony, hosted by former KSL News Anchor Scott Haws, began with recognition of the 2017 EY Youth Scholarship recipient, 16-year-old Olivia George, owner of Mountain Blue Doodles. George received a $2,000 scholarship in recognition of her stellar entrepreneurship.

At this point I ate another macaron.

Then the Utah Region award winners were announced.

In the Consumer Services category, CircustTrix won and CEO Case Lawrence accepted the award. “This [Entrepreneur Of The Year] program is incredible and it’s been a great opportunity to be a part of it,” Lawrence said, then added, “This was such a team effort to get CircusTrix where it is today.”

In the Retail and Consumer Products category, Younique won and CEO Derek Maxfield accepted the award. “I truly believe that what happened with Younique is so much bigger than me,” Maxfield said. Maxfield spoke mostly about the company’s foundation, which seeks to help victims of sexual abuse. “[The foundation] is why we succeeded as a company,” Maxfield said. “God wanted [the victims] to have healing.”

In the Social Entrepreneur category, Operation Underground Railroad won and CEO & Founder Tim Ballard accepted the award. He also received a standing ovation. Ballard thanked his wife, who encouraged him to start OUR, and his operators currently on the ground saving children in several countries, saying he was accepting the award on their behalf. “I want to thank EY for allowing us this opportunity,” Ballard said. “This exposure leads to awareness and leads us to rescue more children. I want to dedicate this award to those children who have no voice.”

In the Distribution & Manufacturing category, Malouf won and CEO & Founder Sam Malouf accepted the award. Malouf explained that he’s never thought of himself as an entrepreneur. He just wanted to own really nice sheets (and a fully loaded Honda Pilot). He thanked his wife — with whom he built the company — and his team. “[Malouf is an] incredible place to be each day,” Malouf said. “Malouf is and will always be about the people who make it special.”

In the Technology category, Ivanti won and CEO Stephen Daly accepted the award. Daly thanked his family saying, “The biggest investment you make is your time and a lot of times family has to pay that price.” He also thanked his employees, each of whom volunteer two days a year at a school. He called the award a tribute to all Ivanti employees.

In the Real Estate, Hospitality & Construction category, Four Foods Group won and CEO/co-founder Andrew Smith accepted the award. After explaining the difficult time he had deciding whether to wear his hair up or down, he talked about why he became an entrepreneur. “I was young and naive. I wanted to change the world and make money,” he said. “But as I aged and matured, my perspective changed. I wanted to create jobs and opportunities where people can explore skills and abilities.” He also spoke to how great it is to allowed to legally make out with his cofounder (his wife.) “I love the hell out of what I’m doing, so I’m going to do it forever,” Smith said.

In the Business Services category, Lucid Software won and CEO/co-founder Karl Sun accepted the award. Fun fact: I was once on a call with Sun and I suddenly had to cough really bad, and I tried to hold it in, and that backfired, and I exploded in a fit of coughing, and he was very nice about it. That niceness was reflected in his acceptance speech. He thanked his family and his team, and recognized how far Utah has come over the last ten years since he arrived in Utah and how many great companies are thriving here. “We are so fortunate that we get to work and have fun doing it,” Sun said. “We’re doing something that we love.”

And finally, in the Direct to Consumer Products category, Chatbooks won and co-founders Nate and Vanessa Quigley accepted the award. Nate explained that when their family moved to Utah three years ago, they felt their company was on death’s door. Then Vanessa saved the day with her idea. “We have an amazing, incredible team,” Vanessa said. “Thank you to our amazing team and customers. Thank you for understanding the importance of holding on to what matters.”

Then I ate another macaron. My dress had stopped fitting four macarons before this one.

Anyway. These winners will be considered for the national Entrepreneur Of The Year program, the gala for which will be in Palm Springs on November 18.