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Onward, Ever Onward

This letter appears in the Fall issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine.

A good chunk of my 16th birthday was spent begging my parents for a $400 loan so I could buy Grandpa’s 19-wish-I-could-remember Chevy. While the body of the old farm truck was red and the doors were inexplicably blue, the most prominent color was rust. That heap of rotting metal would eventually get you where you were going, but the odds of the trip being comfortable or even pleasant were never in your favor.

After hours of acting like I was somehow going to miraculously transform into the best son that ever lived if I were only granted the privilege of driving a vehicle that left me drenched in sweat in the summer and suffering from frostbite in the winter, my parents did what parents do best: they said no.

Then Grandma got involved. Somehow she’d caught wind of the fact that the only thing I’d ever wanted (or ever would want for as long as I lived) was the opportunity to own a truck that sounded like it suffered from black lung disease every time a key was turned in the ignition. Grandma told my parents I could have Ol’ Rusty if I was willing to do $400 worth of work on the farm. I readily agreed and spent nearly every day that summer working down at the farm, dreading what would inevitably be a hot and miserable ride home.

But it was my ride home. There was a pride that came from knowing I’d earned it. My friends had much nicer cars and much richer parents, but I had Ol’ Rusty and the farmer’s tan to prove it.

It’s no secret Utah is having a much-deserved and hard-earned moment right now. There’s never been more money, talent, or resources available to startups and companies in our state’s history. We’re no longer a small community with just a couple of success stories. We’re rapidly becoming a globally recognized hub for tech, business, and innovation. We have the entrepreneurs and companies to prove it.

So why and how is all of this happening now? The answer is simpler than you think. Turns out all we had to do is finally look behind that mysterious Zion Curtain. It’s been hiding there this whole time! Boy do we have egg on our faces. Makes a person wonder what might be hiding inside that abandoned Tesla dealership in Salt Lake City. (Looking at you, 2018 legislative session.)

The truth is we’ve had to earn it. And we’re going to have to continue to earn it. Silicon Slopes is home to entrepreneurs and leaders who have earned global recognition through hard work, a focus on building exceptional companies, and a willingness to serve others.

That must continue. There’s still more work to be done. We have real and pressing issues to solve around inclusion, recruiting, education, air quality, and transportation.

Opportunity only exists to all if we’re willing to extend it to all. It is our community’s solemn responsibility to ensure the Silicon Slopes don’t rise while the rest of Utah falls.

May we always strive to be a community that is open and accessible to everyone without regard to religion, race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or origin of birth. Entrepreneurship is often just as much about chances that are given as it is about chances that are taken. May we give a chance to anyone with a desire to take and earn it. Once earned, may they reach back to give a chance to someone new. I’m confident we’re up to the task.

Onward, ever onward.