Utah’s Pioneering Spirit Extends to its Technology Sector
by Marcus Liassides, President/CEO at Sorenson Media.
I’m not a Utah native. My accent makes that quite obvious. But even to transplants like me, Utah’s pioneer history is well known. Today, the state’s pioneering spirit manifests itself in its is dynamic tech sector, but it often lacks the awareness that the covered wagons and beehive iconography still enjoy. So, when people are surprised to learn that Sorenson Media is based in Salt Lake City, and is part of a much larger tech sector in the area, I’m eager to tell them what’s happening here — and what came before us, too. To anyone who has been paying attention, this story isn’t new.
First, a quick history lesson: Philo Farnsworth, a Utah native, is a great example. He was a pioneer in the invention of the television and, in 1938, he unveiled a prototype of the first all-electronic TV. There’s a statue of him at the United States Capitol representing the state.
Why do I mention this? Because people here have never limited themselves to small ideas.
Modern innovators like Novell, WordPerfect, and Omniture may lack bronze monuments, but they are shining examples of Utah’s history of fantastic successes in technology on an international scale. Those companies were the catalysts for an explosion of growth in the state that continues today. Additionally, they created a pool of business leaders and mentors like Jim Sorenson, whose guidance and experience have been of great help to me personally and professionally.
Now, a new generation of entrepreneurs are thinking just as big — if not bigger — than their predecessors and mentors. It’s been proven beyond debate that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to get noticed or succeed. To the contrary, being in Utah is huge advantage for many of these entrepreneurs. I know this firsthand. One of the most important things I’ve learned in my career — that I wish I had known when I was younger — is how to filter out the noise and solve problems with the appropriate amount of urgency. I’ve applied that perspective into every aspect of my life in Utah, thanks in large part to the calmness that is expressed through the state’s natural beauty, as well as the simple fact that we’re hundreds of miles away from the more frenetic cultures of Silicon Valley. That allows for a work/life balance that is unprecedented in the tech industry and is value additive to every single company here.
Of course, there have always been advocates for Utah in Silicon Valley. When investors arrive here, there’s both an awareness and a conversion that happens at the exact same time. They see the halo effect that takes place when yet another Utah company succeeds, and how others are lifted by the attention, investment, and spirit of cooperation that allows knowledge to spread rapidly amongst our community.
It’s not a coincidence that now, 90 years after Philo Farnsworth’s first public demonstration of his electronic television, Sorenson Media is disrupting the television industry in ways that he never could have imagined. Utah has long been where big ideas are realized in big ways. That’s one of the reasons I’m proud to call Utah home.
While some people might be confused — or even bemused — by the innovation happening within our borders, it’s always been obvious to those with a keen eye that Utah’s pioneering spirit didn’t stop when the wagon trains reached the mountains.