By Andrew Zaleski
Josh James remembers it like yesterday. At a business event in Silicon Valley a decade ago, he struck up a conversation with a venture capitalist about Omniture, the web analytics company James co-founded in 1996. Today, Omniture is the quintessential start-up success story: After going public in 2006, the company was acquired by Adobe three years later for $1.8 billion. But a decade ago Omniture was just another tech company in Utah, evidently the least likely state a venture capitalist expected a public company to be.
Low taxes; cheap real estate; a pool of young engineering talent from the University of Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young; and a business-friendly environment have all converged to make Utah the top location for tech start-ups, right up there with founding teams in Boston and New York in the East or Seattle and Silicon Valley in the West.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently ranked Utah No.1 in innovation and entrepreneurship, No. 2 in high-tech performance and No. 3 in economic performance in a study of all 50 states. The state also topped CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business list this year.
“It’s not surprising to see start-up formation in Utah,” said Ben Veghte, vice president of communications and marketing at the National Venture Capital Association. “There’s a natural progression that’s been happening over the last 10 to 15 years.”
The state, in other words, has a record of successful tech businesses. Among tech founders, investors and observers, the consensus is that the Beehive State’s Silicon Slopes are buzzing with potential.
It was Utah that gave birth to software companies Novell and WordPerfect in the late 1970s, followed in the 1990s by companies such as Ancestry.com, Omniture and Vivint Smart Home — first founded as APX Alarm Security Solutions in 1999. By the early 2000s a new crop of software companies would start up and grow big. Last year four such companies joined the unicorn club, including Domo, the business intelligence platform James founded in 2010.
Even established tech giants have moved to Utah. Adobe opened a 680,000-square-foot office campus in Lehi, between Salt Lake City and Provo, four years ago. Three years ago eBay opened a 241,000-square-foot facility in the suburbs of Salt Lake City and staffed it with 1,800 employees.
This story was originally published on CNBC