In the beginning, Silicon Slopes was a phrase that rolled off Josh James’ tongue in a meeting with the state of Utah. Then it became a lively wall poster, showing a caricatured landscape map of tech companies along the Wasatch Front that was sent to venture capitalists around the country and hung in offices along I-15 to build pride and belief in our state’s loosely named brand.
And now, Silicon Slopes is a phrase thrown around by government officials, entrepreneurs and high schoolers — and many of them aren’t actually referring to the official 501(c)3.
“And we are totally OK with that,” says Clint Betts, executive director. “Shout it from the rooftops.”
While the slopes are totally dope in 2018, the biggest splash for the year is already in their high-tech back pocket.
The Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, held in January at the Salt Palace, garnered 15,000 registrations, world-class speakers, educational tracks and unparalleled hallway networking.
“We all share a consistent, clear vision for the future of Utah. Our objective is to lift Utah’s profile nationally and globally so we can attract more amazing talent and increase diversity, which companies desperately need. We are changing perceptions about our state. We aren’t looked at as backwater anymore on the global scene. Utah has been elevated.” — Aaron Skonnard, Silicon Slopes Board Member
Leave Egos at the Door, but Wallets Welcome
Unlike Silicon Valley and other entrepreneurial breeding grounds, Utah has captured lightning in a stem bottle by gathering the titans of tech around a united brand — with no direct ROI for their contributions. In fact, board members contribute in the neighborhood of six figures to grow the organization and provide free and low-cost events.
“Everyone around our table knows how to build incredible companies and host world-class conferences, and yet our conversations focus on how we can create a Silicon Slopes ecosystem that outlasts all of us,” Betts says.
And with less than three years of concentrated effort toward building Silicon Slopes, they’ve captured headline after glowing headline.
“Each of our summits so far has been the biggest tech event ever in Utah,” Betts says. “With the trajectory we’re on, we may be one of the biggest and most influential tech events in the world, and it’s all due to these CEOs and their vision. They’ve set their egos and companies aside to build something for the community, the state and the nation.”
Betts says his biggest memory of the event actually wasn’t during the two-day business casual mecca.
“We were in our Silicon Slopes conference room until 5 a.m., with conversations about how to make Utah’s tech community better. It’s a unique and amazing thing happening here with leaders who compete for recruiting and notoriety.”
The organization has also led out by promoting the Parity Pledge and the initiative to get computer science in every Utah school.
Their hope is so dope.
This is the Tech Place
1. A small city. Final registration number for Silicon Slopes Summit 2018 held at the Salt Palace Convention Center was 15,000. “Over the next five years, that number will rise to 50,000 attendees from around the world and be viewed as a can’t-miss tech event.”
2. Meet and greet. Silicon Slopes will hold close to 200 events in 2018. And with “slopes” opening in Ogden and St. George, the number of events will rise, with most being free. Silicon Slopes is an open-door organization, with funding coming from sponsorships and not entry fees or dues. “From the start, we didn’t want to be like a traditional Chamber or trade organization,” Betts says.
3. Premiere event. A partnership between Silicon Slopes and the Sundance Film Festival resulted in the largest movie premiere ever in Utah, with 1,500 attendees watching a film as part of their January 2018 Silicon Slopes summit experience.