“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.