Anyone looking outside of Silicon Valley as a potential hub for their startup should take a look at Utah – at least that's the trend of the new Silicon Slopes Venture Fund hopes to create.
The newly founded fund, compiled by Qualtrics Co-founder Ryan Smith, Omniture and Domo founder Josh James Stance's co-founder, Jeff Kearl of Pelion Venture Partners, promises to invest only in Utah-based startups. The goal? To be as remarkable as a16z or Sequoia Capital.
"I grew up in the Bay Area," Kearl told TechCrunch from the energy he feels in the state. “It feels like it was in the Bay Area in the 1990s. There are hundreds of vacancies on the Wasatch front. "
Utah has a reputation for being a religious, conservative, and sleepy mountain region for nature lovers, but technology has quickly become the leading professional sector in the state. Some salaries from companies like Adobe and Qualtrics are comparable to those in Silicon Valley. The state has recently pledged to take at least one computer science course at every state high school by 2022, and has just hosted a massive startup festival with 25,000 attendees called the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, which hosted a debate by both Utah's governor and Steve Case Mark Zuckerberg spoke on stage.
It is unclear how much the fund has earmarked for its mission to help Utah become a full-fledged technological ecosystem that competes with Silicon Valley, but one could imagine that there is a substantial amount to invest, if how Smith TechCrunch says Utah should help emerging startups go from seed to IPO.
"I want companies to grow even bigger than Qualtrics … in this state," said Smith. Qualtrics sold to SAP in 2019 for $ 8 billion, especially the largest private enterprise software store in technology history.
One of the many problems that tech hubs face around the world are both networking skills and the ability to invest after the launch or Serie A. Most startups around the world still need to travel and make connections in Silicon Valley to keep them going the next step in growth. So far, this has also been the case for every billion dollar startup idea in Utah. Both Smith and James used Silicon Valley Venture for their companies, as did Unicorn, which became the public technology startup Pluralsight and the recently renamed sales platform Xant (formerly InsideSales) before it gets big.
However, this new fund represents the kind of boost that Steve Case will need to create a strong innovation ecosystem in the future mentioned on the stage of last week's summit. "Venture capitalists need to look at what's going on in the Silicon Slopes and make sure it happens elsewhere," said Utaher Deseret News, the AOL founder.
Pelion Venture Partners, The company, which operates in Utah and Southern California, will support the Silicon Slopes Venture Fund and cover the organizational effort. Each partner continues to keep their job and donates most of the fees to support the day-to-day running of the nonprofit tech organization Silicon Slopes, which hosts the annual tech summit of the same nickname. However, the Silicon Slopes Venture Fund will be an independent Pelion fund with the sole purpose of investing in the deal flow that the three partners find through their respective networks within the state.
"I used to hate the phrase" a rising tide lifts all boats "because I want to be the only boat," James told TechCrunch. "But I really think it applies to what we're trying to do here [in Utah], "