When people think of Salt Lake City, they may picture a glowing metropolis nestled between breathtaking mountain views. It’s certainly known for its mountain getaways and ski trip destinations. However, Salt Lake City has been not-so-quietly attracting tech startups and several other businesses for years, with its pipeline of talent and loads of unique opportunities. Named the new “tech mecca” by Forbes in 2017, it launched 42 startups in that year alone. Now it has earned the nickname of “Silicon Slopes” as Salt Lake City continues to provide innovation and ample talent to companies even in 2020.
Why Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake City draws in startups and young people alike as a bustling community for entrepreneurs. Many Silicon Valley startups during the last decade “dipped their toe” and explored options in this city, eventually setting up shop in Salt Lake City’s downtown area. The main draw of this area is its affordability; it is both cheap to lease office space and boasts inexpensive land as well as affordable housing. Take for example tech giant Adobe, who opened a 680,000 square foot office in 2013. Additionally, Salt Lake City ranked 8th among the 10 lowest cost markets to start a tech business according to CBRE’s annual “Scoring Tech Talent” report. Following this new trend, billion dollar tech companies like Qualtrics, Omniture, Domo, and other companies eventually found their way to this area, finding cheap spaces to expand their vision.
Salt Lake City today provides a sense of opportunity for businesses, and stellar quality of life for employees. According to CNBC, the city received an A+ economic rating in 2017, with wages reporting to be increasing for residential employees as late as January 2020. This metropolitan hub for hardware and software companies has a population of 1.1 million, with a median income of $53,036 and a median home price of $243,300. A decent wage and comfortable quality of life provides tech startup employees with a healthy lifestyle and the feeling that they are in a “tight knit community. It is a place where these young, active employees can network at areas like the commercial area of Riverwoods and then check out the lively Downtown area right after. In sum, startups in Salt Lake City can find space to grow and acquire talent, as young employees find a decent wage among some of the fastest growing tech industries.
Venture Capitalists Take Note
For venture capitalists, it would be impossible to ignore Salt Lake City’s “hotbed of tech entrepreneurship”. Venture capital investing increased in Salt Lake City in the last decade, making a sizable jump from $299 million across 34 deals in 2013 to $732 million across 55 deals in 2015. This means that because of Salt Lake City, Utah has raised more venture capital funding than New York. Some of these industries where these deals are being made include sales, education technology, and smart-home devices, although venture capitalists support a variety of tech startups in Salt Lake City. Venture capitalist groups like the Kickstart Seed Fund, the Park City Angels, Peak Ventures, and others focus on businesses that can be expanded in the Utah area and ones that show signs of “substantive growth materials”.
Talent Pools Are Key
Salt Lake City hosts four major universities for the state: Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, Utah State University, and University of Utah. All four of these universities host young students looking to work in Salt Lake City, specifically in the tech sectors. When these tech students graduate, they can receive an average tech talent wage of $84.4k and live in comfortable living conditions, with opportunities to network and play with other people their age in the city.
And there are plenty of other young people in the area – Salt Lake City has a uniquely high number of millennials in a metropolitan area. It was ranked as the #5 most concentrated millennial markets in 2018, with 21% of the city’s population being of the millennial generation, compared to the national average of 13.9%. Overall, there is a highly educated and talented pool of young workers, looking to fill their roles up in startups, establish roots, and grow their careers in the city.
Uncertain Time for Startups
During this time, as a pandemic ravages cities and businesses, startups may not be so enticed to make the shift to a new city. However, Salt Lake City’s spirit of innovation and problem solving found its way into its own companies during this unprecedented time. This is the attitude of the startup companies in Salt Lake City, where they are finding new ways to reevaluate their business models and demonstrate to investors how their company can solve problems with action.
Companies and startups in Salt Lake City are still looking to investors and are coming up with new ways to help their employees. Startups like Learn In are still receiving funding from Salt Lake City venture capitalists, as they were granted $3.5 million in seed funding to help their clients improve their workforce because of the pandemic. These companies are trying a new approach to what we saw nationwide; instead of laying off employees or furloughing them, they are trying to “upskill” the talent they already have to reduce economic downturn. This is a benefit to the company, as retraining as opposed to refilling hard-to-fill roles can save a company as much as 33%. These companies rather encourage their employees to go digital, as 20 of these startup companies are being supported in their efforts by the Master of Business program from the University of Utah.
For some companies, the pandemic increased hiring in Salt Lake City, as they saw unprecedented demand. Startups in the fields of telemedicine, like the startup Doxy.me, saw a 1,000-fold increase in demand for employees in the Salt Lake City area as of recently. Salt Lake City remains full of positive transformation during these uncertain times, as startups are keeping employees on with new skills and inviting other companies to check out the city.
With an active pipeline of talent, and a tradition of investing in startups, Salt Lake City remains a new giant in the booming tech sector. Even as some cities see some of the economic downfalls during this time, this bustling city in Utah continues to see companies grow and employees embrace challenges with new skills. Overall, Silicon Slopes is a little-known tech-giant gem that is no longer being hidden and soon, companies will start taking note of this undiscovered, mountain surrounded treasure.
At One America Works, we are future-focused on how to connect the dots in the national economy for growth companies, thriving cities, and individuals looking for their next opportunity. Connect with us if you need help working through what the future of work means for you!