How significant is software development and IT to Utah’s economy? Industry veteran David Bradford likes to remind people that two of the four largest software companies in the world in the 1980s and early 1990s—Novell and WordPerfect—once were located within five miles of each other in Utah. He says these two Provo-based companies, and Salt Lake City’s computer graphics firm Evans & Sutherland, were the three early pioneers that triggered the IT and software development industry in the state and in the world!
Currently the CEO of Hirevue, a Draper-based startup that promises to revolutionize human resources through the use of digital video, Bradford is former CEO of Fusion-io, Salt Lake City’s storage memory innovator that recently went public on the New York Stock Exchange and can claim one Steve Wozniak as its Chief Scientist (and where Bradford remains Advisory Board Chair), and former Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Novell, which to this day has significant operations in Provo.
The impact of those three pioneering companies continues to reverberate through the industry. “What we have now is that legacy of tremendous software programming talent that has not left the state in any way, shape or form,” says Bradford. “They just morphed into other technologies and other companies.”
A STRONG PULSE
Every year, Richard Nelson, President and CEO of the Utah Technology Council (UTC), takes an informal survey to assess the health of the State’s tech industry. He says in 2011, more than 80 percent of respondents reported that revenues were “growing” or “thriving.” Further, he says that there are thousands of job openings at Utah technology companies, most of them in IT and software development.
“Most other markets with grass roots communities like UTC don’t have the same vibrant growth in IT,” he says. “We’re one of the best places to have a startup in the country. Look at all the management teams we’ve got in place. You can’t import entrepreneurial talent—that’s an enormous strength we have here.”
One testament to the value of what Utah-bred companies started is the number of outside companies that have chosen to locate all or parts of their operations here or that have acquired companies and chosen to continue to grow them here. In recent years, EMC Corporation, eBay, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and IM Flash Technologies are just four examples of companies that have established and increased their Utah presence:
- EMC CORPORATION says its new customer support center, to be built in Draper, will create 500 new jobs by the end of 2015.
- EBAY, which employs about 1,500 people in the state, announced plans for up to 2,200 new jobs in Utah over the next 20 years and the building of a new facility in Draper.
- SAIC, a Fortune 500 company, announced plans to add 200 new jobs, more than doubling the company’s in-state workforce at nine locations statewide.
- IM FLASH TECHNOLOGIES, the joint venture between Micron Technology and Intel Corporation, plans to add 200 jobs over a 10-year period and expand production capacity at its Lehi flash memory fabrication plant.
A CONTINUING LEGACY
Josh James was in his 20s when he co-founded Omniture (formerly MyComputer), a pioneering online marketing and web analytics firm, in Orem in 1996. The company once made the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in America before going public in 2006; in late 2009, Adobe purchased it for $1.8 billion. James is now Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Domo, a Lindon-based startup that promises to offer customers “a new form of business intelligence.”
There are two primary advantages to running a business in Utah, according to James. “The first is the workforce,” he says. “Utah has one of the most productive workforces in America; it is also one of the best educated, talented and loyal.” The second advantage, he says, is the cost of doing business in Utah. “Our state is very pro business and doesn’t bog down businesses with costly regulations. We have lower taxes and energy costs than most parts of the country.”
Omniture, now a business unit of Adobe, remains very much a fixture of Utah. “With the acquisition of Omniture several years ago, the greater Adobe organization has embraced the Utah team as an integral part of the overall business vision,” says Brad Rencher, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Digital Marketing, Adobe Systems. “Just this year, our CEO, Shantanu Narayen, announced our plans to focus on core pieces of what was the Omniture business strategy. It is exhilarating to see the impact our dedicated team has had on a global business that is leading the industry with innovative technologies. We will continue to grow our teams here in Utah as the business grows worldwide.”
UTAH’S GOT (VIDEO) GAME
Video gaming is a global industry, and the best game designers can work anywhere on that global stage, according to Jon Dean, Vice President and Executive Producer for Electronic Arts Interactive. So it’s saying a lot that one of EA’s primary studios is located in downtown Salt Lake City. “Utah offers a real quality of life,” he says. “[It has] four great seasons, mountain air, incredible outdoor activities, welcoming and diverse communities. The culture here is terrific for creative people, too, [with the city’s] great art, music and theatrical scenes.”
It also helps that Atari founder Nolan Bushnell—“perhaps the grandfather of videogames”—attended the University of Utah. Dean says EA finds the local universities “open to working with the video gaming industry to develop partnerships and future curriculum so that they turn out qualified candidates for our future needs.”
SILICON VALLEY TAKES NOTICE
David Bradford has found himself in Silicon Valley numerous times over the years, attempting to raise funds for one Utah-based venture or another. He says it’s not as difficult as it once was, and suggests that the success of the software development and IT cluster has played a role in that. “People used to say, ‘Utah? Why Utah?’ Now I never get that. It is no longer a question in the minds of out-of-state VCs that Utah is a place to invest. It speaks to the fact that we have a momentum in this state.”