Tipping The Scale From Skepticism To Recognition

This article was published in the Spring 2019 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine.

By Chad Waite, Marketing Manager, RainFocus

I remember the first time I told someone from outside of Utah about the state’s burgeoning tech scene being referred to as Silicon Slopes. It was 2011 and I was conversing with an individual from an affiliate marketing tech company headquartered in San Jose/Silicon Valley territory. Their immediate reaction was the same as most out-of-state people hearing their first mention of Silicon Slopes: delightful skepticism.

And who could blame them for that reaction? For decades, Silicon Valley has been the gold standard that tech-friendly cities, states, or regions hoped to emulate. It was a tall order to believe creating, fostering, and growing an environment in which the tech industry thrives like Silicon Valley is possible. Harder yet was imagining that place to be Utah.

Utah locals of course understood what was happening here. But it wasn’t until Adobe broke ground on their campus in Lehi that I found out-of-staters giving pause to that delightful skepticism, replacing it with a “Wait, really?” A continuous flow of events like being selected for Google Fiber or the sale of Qualtrics to SAP help reinforce the legitimacy of the Silicon Slopes designation, both in and out-of-state.

But these noteworthy events, however, tend to do poor justice to the true scope of Silicon Slopes.

The Silicon Slopes Tech Summit was a rare moment when something entirely conceptual in nature — like the title of Silicon Slopes — became immediately tangible and quantifiable. Now, in addition to a reputation built on headline-worthy items like IPOs or breaking ground on a new cutting-edge headquarters, the full depth of the Utah tech community came into view. Individuals from small startups (from enterprise SaaS companies to tech-focused balloon vendors) were all under one roof. On display was the entire ecosystem of our technology-centric community coming of age.

It wasn’t just Utahns participating in this either. As a platinum sponsor, RainFocus had a booth in the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit exhibit hall in which a significant number of our conversations were with out-of-state attendees. Furthermore, as the event marketing platform that powered the conference, we were able to see exactly how many attendees were not from Utah. It was a significant percentage.

Take a moment to think about the significance of what that means for our state. People from other tech hubs across the country had invested their time and money to make a pilgrimage to Silicon Slopes to see it first hand. And with them was an absence of the traditional skepticism that accompanied talking about Silicon Slopes in the past. Instead, it was a full demonstration of a tech community that is vibrant and diverse, both in the companies and the people that choose to call this place home.

Rewind back to 2011 when my friend scoffed at the mention of Silicon Slopes. In that moment, even I would have found it hard to believe that the entirety of a mature and thriving Utah technology scene would fully manifest itself during a 24,000-person conference made up of local and out-of-state participants from the tech sector.

With this momentum, it’s difficult for anyone to predict how Silicon Slopes will grow and evolve in the next five years. What is for certain, however, is that our state’s tech environment has finally come of age, brining with it the respect, recognition, and bright future that it so greatly deserves.

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