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.

Startup Santa Summary

Over 50,000 books raised for Utah’s kids.

Health Catalyst delivers a car full of books to the United Way.

It’s a wrap on this year’s Startup Santa book drive, where over 50,000 books were collected and distributed to kids across the state.

We are pleased to present the Startup Santa Leaderboard Top Ten:

Domo, Traeger, and Brainstorm were obviously our biggest donors, but we appreciate every donation, some made by companies with only a few employees. These donations support literacy programs across the state. Thank you for your generosity.

Executech sorts their donations.

We also want to thank Boomsourcing, for hosting our kickoff event at Rice Eccles Stadium,

Real Salt Lake for hosting our Startup Santa Mixer in the Audi Executive Club, and the volunteers who spent their morning reading to kids at Fox Hollow Elementary School.

Chris Willis of Domo

Marcus Liassides of Sorenson Media

Also, a huge thanks to United Way for their hard work in coordinating the program, collecting the books, and distributing those books to kids in need.

We look forward to seeing what this community can do in the next year to learn, connect, and serve.

Want to spread holiday cheer all year? Contact your United Way to learn how you and your organization can make giving back to your local community a part of your New Year’s resolution.

Start Your Startup Santa Giving


Startup Santa is underway and it’s a thrill to see the Startup Santa Leaderboard updating with new donations every day. But we still have a ways to go in order to exceed last years totals — 87,000 books and $437,000.

So, if you haven’t already, add your company to the Startup Santa leaderboard.

Once you’ve added your company to the leaderboard, we will email you a link that you can send to everyone within your company. Employees may use this link to make monetary donations.

Then, get a collection bin. Literally any container that can hold books will do. It can be cardboard. It can be plastic. It can be nonexistent if you plan to just donate money. But if the box is an actual tangible object, download, print, and attach this poster to it:

Encourage everyone in your company to donate NEW children’s books and collect them in your now very cute bin. These books are Christmas gifts for children in elementary school, so the reading level should be anywhere from K-6. Update your book donation totals for the leaderboard through the link sent to you via email. Don’t lie about the amount of books you’ve donated. That would be dumb.

Then, drop your books at any of the following locations from December 4–15 during business hours:

  • United Way of Northern Utah 2955 Harrison Blvd, Ogden, UT 84403
  • United Way of Utah County 148 N. 100 W. Provo, UT 84601
  • United Way of Dixie 948 North 1300 West #2 Saint George, UT 84770

Or, if you’re in Salt Lake, December 4–6 during business hours at:

  • Columbus Community Center 3495 S W Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84115

Alternatively, download the Giveit app (GooglePlay Version), and Giveit will pick up any donation of ten books or more.

And, of course, you can always donate money and still be on the leaderboard.

You have until December 15 at 11:59 PM to do your part in getting new books to Utah kids. We can’t wait to see what this community is capable of this year.

If you have any questions at any point, email me:

Instructure Crosses $1B Market Cap, Launches Bridge Perform

“More great software, more happy customers, more happy employees, and happy investors.”

Earlier this month Instructure hit a market cap of $1,ooo,ooo,ooo marking a significant milestone for Utah and its thriving entrepreneur community.

In 2008, Instructure cofounders Devin Daley and Brian Whitmer enrolled in Josh Coates’ “Intro to Venture Startups” class that he was teaching as a volunteer adjunct instructor in BYU’s Computer Science department. Coates, who had previously founded Mozy (sold to EMC Corp in 2007), became the first investor in Instructure, then later the company’s CEO in 2010.

In 2011, Instructure launched Canvas, a cloud-based Learning Management System, which soon became the standard learning platform for Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Wharton, and campuses all over the world.

In 2015, Instructure launched Bridge, a corporate learning platform used to train employees of companies like Tesla, Shopify, and Slack. The company went public in 2015 on the New York Stock Exchange and now has a valuation of a cool $1B.

“The $1 billion market cap is a milestone on a steady path towards continued growth and success in the market,” says CEO Josh Coates. “We’re proud of our success as a public company, with year-over-year growth, as well as our continued growth in multiple learning markets: K-12, higher education, and corporate.”

Just a couple of weeks ago Instructure released Bridge Perform, a performance management tool and the newest addition to the Bridge platform. Bridge Perform provides a platform for facilitating regular and more meaningful manager-employee interactions, tracking individual goals, accomplishments and milestones, and capturing valuable peer assessments, creating a holistic picture of employee performance over time. Additionally, Bridge Perform provides business leadership and HR teams with the critical data and insights required to effectively manage employee performance and development, at an individual level, across large organizations.

When asked what we can expect from Instructure in the coming years, Coates says, “More great software, more happy customers, more happy employees, and happy investors.”

Governor Herbert Announces IT Pathways Program

“The New IT Pathways program will build bridges between high school, college, and business, preparing Utah students for brighter futures.”

This morning Silicon Slopes, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, hosted an IT pathway discussion in an effort to identify what the tech community must do to better provide students and educators the resources they need to succeed in STEM-related fields.

After an introduction from Clint Betts, Vance Checketts (Dell EMC Vice President & General Manager and a major advocate for STEM education in Utah) spoke of the progress the industry has made in advancing STEM education efforts, but added that we still have a ways to go. “The time is right for us to put together a more comprehensive umbrella that really targets the needs of Utah,” Checketts said. “The industry is engaged and ready to get behind this initiative and close the divide.”

Cathy Donahoe, Vice President of Human Resources at Domo, spoke of the need for all students to have access to technology in education in order to fill workforce needs. “Almost all of our businesses run on technology,” Donahoe said. “All businesses and jobs need tech skills.” Then Donahoe asked, “Are we giving the right message to our students that there are lots of jobs in tech?” and said that we need to be better at doing so.

Clint Betts then led a panel discussion with UVU President Matt Holland, Commissioner of Technical Colleges Dave Woolstenhulme, Utah State University President Noelle Cockett, and Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin. Together the panel identified what needs to be done to properly educate Utah’s future workforce. “We need a broader communication effort to help students get excited earlier. This has to be a state-wide effort,” said President Holland. “When students come to college, they’re not sure what they want to do. I think we can start directing students earlier,” added President Cockett.

After the panel answered questions from attendees, Vale Hale, Executive Director of GOED addressed the need for a public-private partnership. “If we’re going to continue with our prosperity, we have to solve the talent and education issue,” Hale said. Hale then welcomed Governor Herbert.

Governor Herbert praised Utah for its thriving economy but said Utah cannot rest on its laurels if it hopes to compete on a national and global level. “We’ve got to unite and focus our education efforts to make sure we’re training the future workforce today,” Herbert said. “We have more jobs and openings than we have people available to take them. Hence the importance of education.”

Governor Herbert then announced plans to create a working group that will create an IT Pathway for Utah students. “The new IT Pathways program will build bridges between high school, college, and business, preparing Utah students for brighter futures,” Herbert said.

This working group will bring top tech industry leaders and state leaders together to focus educational efforts to not only provide students a well-rounded education, but also train them for the many jobs that will be available in the Utah workforce.

Silicon Slopes will report on the progress of this working group and the initiatives it implements.

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.”

We Have A Director Of Marketing And Programs Now

It’s me, guys.

The Silicon Slopes team is pleased to announce the reassignment of Meg Walter, a star on the rise, to Silicon Slopes Director of Marketing and Programs.

“With Meg at the helm steering marketing and programs, I have no doubt that Silicon Slopes will sail into a horizon of safety and prosperity,” said an anonymous source from within Utah’s tech community. “Oh, she’s in the marketing business? I was sure she was a super model,” said another.

The responsibilities of her new position, where we all know Meg will absolutely excel, include coordinating with members of the community to plan and market programs and events. So if you have an event you would like to plan or market, contact Meg at

Want to start a forum? Email Meg. Want to promote an event? Email Meg. Want to let us know what we can do better? Email Meg. Want to discuss this week’s episode of The Bachelorette? Email Meg.

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.