utah – Stay N Alive

Here are 10 Utah Entrepreneurs You Need to Know

Every year vSpring Capital releases the Utah v|100 list, a list of 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and tech professionals who are likely to have success in the next 5 years within the technology industry. I’ve been on the list twice as a winner, and I’ve been nominated again this year. While this is a very humbling experience, I want to be sure others have the opportunity to also be on the list. I decided this year I want to come up with and vote for 10 people that have never been on the list before.

The task of finding others who have not previously been on the list has proven to be a much harder task than I thought. However, I think I found 10 that I can really stand behind – my hope is that, if you’ve been nominated, you can consider these (I won’t be offended if you do not choose me this year), and if you haven’t, hopefully this will give you a list of a few new sites, services, and people to look out for in the coming years, whether you’re in Utah or out. Despite never having been on the list before, these are some of Utah’s finest tech professionals and entrepreneurs (in no particular order) – chances are most of these never even asked to be on this list (and some have never even met me):

  1. Allan Carroll, CTO, Piick.com – Allan is former CTO of FamilyLink and helped them get to one of the top positions in the Facebook Application directory. He’s one of the top Facebook application developers I know, and he even helped do the technical editing for my new book, Facebook Application Development For Dummies.

    Allan is now in his own startup, I believe as co-founder, this time starting a new, up-and-coming social commerce company called Piick. I’ve seen a preview and I admit it’s pretty cool. In or out of Piick, I expect to see big things for Allan in the future. I’m a sucker for entrepreneur developers and Allan’s one of the best.

    He is @allanca on Twitter.

  2. Joel Dehlin, CIO, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – I don’t just say this because Joel’s my boss. Joel’s a long-time friend for several years before I started working for the LDS Church. I’ve been following his efforts for years now and was quite surprised he had not yet been nominated for the v|100 list.

    Not to discredit the hard work of many others before him and that have worked with him, but Joel has practically revolutionized much of the technology and web efforts of the Church in his time there. Some results of his leadership include the new LDS.org design, the new Mormon.org, and he is the reason for me working for the Church and some of the Church’s turn towards social (not to discredit others that have also been involved in that effort, of course).

    Joel has also been a strong leader in a huge new volunteer effort within the IT talent of the Church at tech.lds.org, resulting in a yearly conference of hundreds of volunteers that collaborate to work on the Church’s IT projects. As a result of that, the majority of the Church’s mobile apps have been developed by volunteers, and many other technologies have also resulted from this volunteer effort. Oh, did I mention he was on both the PocketPC and Surface teams at Microsoft?

    Joel is @joeldehlin on Twitter.

  3. Tyler Bye, Owner, Protoven – I became familiar with Protoven with some of their mobile work that they’ve done at a few places I’ve worked. I admit I don’t know Tyler personally, but I certainly know his company. If any of you have ever downloaded the ABC app for iPad or iPhone, you have downloaded their work. They make beautiful iOS and mobile apps, and Tyler deserves a lot of credit for what his company has done in this area. This company deserves much more attention.

    Follow Tyler at @tbye on Twitter.

  4. Ed Orcutt, Principal, Los Lobos LLC – I’ve been extremely impressed with Ed Orcutt’s talent and creativity in developing browser extensions that complement your experience viewing the web. I know Ed most from the amazing browser extensions he’s created on the Kynetx platform.

    Many of you know I’m a sucker for Kynetx and my vision for “The Web With No Log In Button“. Ed is making a lot of this possible with what he’s created.  Some example extensions of his include HoverMe, which enables a HoverCard that appears over all your social network profiles and friends’ profiles and shows the other networks they belong to. He also wrote LikePlus, an extension that shows like buttons next to Tweets and companies on LinkedIn. The same extension also shows Facebook Like buttons next to Google search results, along with the list of people that shared those items amongst your friends on Facebook (even better than Google’s +1!).  He wrote TwiKlout, an extension that shows a person’s Klout score next to their profile on Twitter.com. Ed’s got creative juices flowing through his veins, and he really gets the future of the web.

    Ed can be found at @edorcutt on Twitter.

  5. Brad Hintze, VP, Kynetx, Inc. – Brad’s an old friend of mine, and that friendship goes all the way back to the 2 years I served in Thailand as a missionary. However, we met again recently, previously when he was working for Bungee Labs, one of the very first Platform as a Service companies (even before Google App Engine). Most recently though, Brad has started with the developer community outreach at Kynetx, and he’s doing an amazing job there.

    Brad’s not just a marketer or typical community guy though. I’ve actually caught him coding a few times. Brad gets down and works in the trenches with the best of them. Brad will continue to work with successful companies in the future and he will play a big part in the reason those companies are successful.

    Brad is @bradhintze on Twitter.

  6. Melanie Day, www.Sugardoodle.net – Melanie doesn’t know me, but I certainly know her site. Melanie’s site is a wealth of downloadable content (clipart, music, and other useful items) for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Melanie’s site is known by members of the LDS Church worldwide and she deserves some credit for that.
  7. Rob McMillen, VP of Sales, Rhomobile – Among the mobile frameworks out there, Rhomobile is one of the best. Their mobile platform allows developers to write in simple Ruby code and generate native iOS and Android SDK apps under just one code base.

    I don’t know Rob well, but I do know their company. If the caliber and reach of what their company has been able to provide is any reflection on their VP of Sales, Rob McMillen should be a safe vote for the v|100.

    Rob is @rhobmobile on Twitter.

  8. Brad Cahoon, Kalood.com – I admit I know little about Kalood, but curiosity got the best of me. Their site calls themselves “The Social Deal Platform”. It requires a Facebook login. It’s in private beta so I can’t try it out though. Based on their about page they look to be similar to Groupon.com or LivingSocial, but my guess is they have a bit more social twist on how you are delivered your daily deals. Having been one of the main developers on SteepAndCheap.com, also a Utah site, I’m very familiar with these types of sites, and a more social focus could be an interesting twist to what has already been shown to be a successful business model. I’ll be watching this one.

    Brad is @kalooding on Twitter.

  9. Ryan Elkins, iActionable.com – I first saw iActionable and Ryan at a Utah Launchup event. iActionable is building a service model around gameification. Gameification is the process for apps and websites to keep customers and users engaged by casually rewarding them and encouraging them along the way. iActionable provides Foursquare-like reward badges and other items that you can integrate into your own platforms to engage and entice users to stick around. Gameification is a budding new industry that I think has a lot of future, and I think it’s great that Utah has a company that is thinking about how to monetize this industry.

    Follow Ryan at @ryane on Twitter.

  10. Robert Nay, Nay Games (Creator of Bubble Ball) – I’ve never met Robert (although I have met his older brother) – this is one entrepreneur I really, really want to meet some time. If I could teach my kids to be anything like him I would consider myself a successful father.

    Robert is the 14 year old creator of Bubble Ball, which was once the number one application in the iTunes app store. Yes, he was the man, er, kid, who took out Angry Birds. He’s not finished though. He has his own Game company, and plans to build more apps for the iPhone and other mobile devices. This is one smart kid, and I admit I’m a bit jealous of him in that I didn’t have mobile devices and app stores to write for when I was his age. I’m very impressed by this young man – can’t wait to see what he’s done in 5 years.

    Robert can be found at @naygamesllc on Twitter.

Of course, there are many more Utah entrepreneurs and techies I wish I could add that weren’t even nominated. Unfortunately I missed the nomination email for some reason or I would have been able to nominate a few more of my favorites. Maybe I’ll save that for another post.  I hope you’ll check out these guys and the companies and organizations they work for and have started. Most of all, I hope you follow each of them into what they do in the future.

Family Village – A Facebook Game I Can Get Addicted To

I’ve always avoided Facebook games such as Farmville, now Cityville, and other “Virtual Worlds” that seem to suck up your time while annoying your friends via your news feed.  The fact is that’s all they do – they fake a sense of accomplishment, suck up all your time, and annoy your friends, depleting your wallet as you go.  I just don’t see the productive use of them.  Networking? Hardly.

I just came across a new game, still in Alpha, that may change my mind on the subject.  The game is called “Family Village“, and it aims to turn a thing that can often sound boring to the typical Farmville player, genealogy, all of the sudden sound fun and exciting.  It’s something your Mom, and your kids, can be proud of.  The game is quite addicting!

Family Village rests on the goals and integrates with Utah-based FamilyLink, previously number one application in the Facebook Application directory, which aims to introduce you to your ancestors by helping you get to know and interact with the living individuals around you.  Family Village turns this premise into a game, pitting you against your friends and family on Facebook, where accomplishing simple genealogy tasks such as filling out your family tree earns you points and money in the game.  You’re given a character, which represents you, and you can slowly build your family as you’re able to handle by accomplishing tasks such as “street sweeping”, “stacking books”, and even “catching dreams”.  Each task earns you money and you can build houses and “build your increase” by accomplishing them.

One of the first tasks the game had me do was add myself and my wife.  As I added my wife, a new character was created for her, and I could assign a job and house for her as well.  Immediately, I was presented with a Newspaper front page of the day my wife was born, taken from FamilyLink’s archive of documents. (Paul Allen, founder of FamilyLink, and also one of the founders (I think) of Family Village, was also one of the founders of Ancestry.com)

At the center of your Village is a “Heritage Tree”, which grows as you add more people to your family tree.  Being new to the game, I’m still unclear if there are ways of importing other trees from services such as FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com, but at a minimum, it forces you to go into your tree and collect information about each of your ancestors and family members, learning about each along the way.  I added my Mom and Dad, and it gave me the opportunity, using money I earned in the game, to “immigrate” them into the game.  Again, it found a Newspaper from the day my dad was born – pretty cool!

As more data is provided and more individuals are “immigrated”, you can visit your library and access documents FamilyLink has discovered for you.  You can create new homes for new families and individuals.  I assigned my dad a cardboard box and moved him as far away from my own home as possible, but still far enough to visit every so often with the kids. (Love you dad!)  He started out with a “Street Sweeper” job.

For those struggling to learn their heritage, Family Village may just make this process possible for the first time through a fun, enjoyable atmosphere.  Family Village reunites you with your lost and deceased relatives in ways you never discovered, and it happens as you’re having fun!  I can see countless hours spent in this game in my family.  I normally don’t subscribe to virtual world type games, but Family Village is one I can feel proud I’m addicted to.  I welcome any Family Village posts in my News Feed.

The game is currently in Alpha, and they make it clear when you start that there will be bugs, which there are.  Be patient and you’ll get through though.  This one’s worth any growing pains you have to go through with it.

If you’d like to try it out, give it a try at http://apps.facebook.com/myfamilyvillage?partnerid=staynalive.  This is one company, and one game I’m proud to share and promote.

Disclaimer: I was not approached to promote this, but Family Village is a Utah startup I’m impressed with and thought my readers should try.  FamilyLink is a former client of mine.

Miss Those Old Style Retweets on Twitter.com? Try This Kynetx Extension

One of my biggest annoyances with the new Twitter API has been the migration to the new “retweet” structure where clicking the retweet button pulls the person’s Tweet into your own stream, with the person’s name and profile picture attached to it.  The problem with this method is that it is not near as visible, especially on many clients that do not fully support this.  Using the old style, “RT @soandso such and such” is a much more effective medium in most cases, and, in my experience, results in many more people sharing and seeing your message.  Evidently I’m not alone, as Mike Grace, a developer for Kynetx, wrote his own extension for Firefox and Chrome, which adds a old-style retweet link next to the new-style retweet link, giving you more options in retweeting your friends’ Tweets.

The extension, built on the Kynetx platform, is just one of many useful extensions (including my “like” button extension) intended to bring more functionality, using a single extensions (and event-driven) platform to the sites you browse on the web.  According to Grace, “I got really sick of doing the copy and paste dance so I built a Kynetx app that adds the “RT” functionality that I want.”

So, if you’re looking for old-style retweets on top of Twitter.com, head on over to Mike Grace’s blog and download the extension.  I think it’s a pretty nifty extension!

Disclaimer: I have no ownership or interest in Kynetx other than I think they’re a really cool, Utah-based, technology startup that gets us much closer to the web with no log in button.  Oh, and they have great free lunches they offer to the public on Fridays – you should come!

Counting "Real" Likes on any URL – Evaluating the Salt Lake City vs. Fresno Campaign

Like ButtonIn the last week I saw one of the most amazing campaigns of unity amongst 2 communities, Salt Lake City, Utah, where I live and where I asked for your help, and Fresno, California. Both cities were entered into Walmart’s “Fighting Hunger Together” campaign in a race to get the most “likes”. The prize? 1 million dollars donated to the Food Bank of the community with the most “likes”. $100,000 would be donated to each of the next 5 communities with the most “likes”.  Thanks to yours, and others’ help, both Salt Lake City and Fresno seemed to take off the most.  Both cities launched media blitzes, a telethon of sorts, that telethon lasting more than 3 days, begging viewers, listeners, and readers to like their communities in hopes to rally the individual community to earn their cool $1 million towards the hungry and homeless.  I don’t know of a TV or Radio station in Utah that wasn’t talking about this every 15 minutes or so.  Campaigns were even set up to help people set up their Facebook accounts, and then close them when the campaign was done!  It was a Christmas Miracle to see both communities fighting so hard to win, Fresno outranking Salt Lake City by around 200,000 votes at one point, but Salt Lake City sprinting to the finish, obliterating the competition.  In the end, Salt Lake City rallied, soliciting over 5 million votes, completely overshadowing Fresno at second place by over 1 million votes.  The third place city didn’t even eclipse 500,000 likes.

The real story though is how each city grew their “likes”.  Walmart was counting “likes” by the total on the like button embedded in the website.  You can see that still on my previous article soliciting your help (click the link), something any website can embed using Facebook Social Plugins (I also included the HTML so others could embed it on their sites).  The “like buttons” tally votes by the number of shares of the URL, followed by the total number of comments on each share.  It’s hardly a count of the total number of people that actually liked the post, and some would argue, not a fair tally.  Fresno was even calling foul, perhaps out of jealousy, that Salt Lake City was using tactics such as creating Fake profiles, sharing the page thousands of times, and encouraging others to click through and like each share on the Fake profile.  Of course, Fresno was doing the same.  It was rather ironic that in the end Salt Lake’s total “likes” exceeded the total population of Utah as a whole!  I’m sure it could be possible, especially considering bloggers like myself were sharing outside of Utah to solicite votes, but hardly believable.  Of course, Fresno was in the same boat.

There is a way however, for anybody to get the “real” tally of votes for a URL with Facebook Graph API.  It turns out with Graph API you can pass a URL to it to get the ID and additional information about that URL.  So, without further adieu, here are the actual “like” counts for both Salt Lake City and Fresno:

Salt Lake City (click the link to see the Graph API response): 136,820 total likes (unique people)

Fresno (click the link to see the Graph API response): 89,578 total likes (unique people)

So, it would appear that, no matter how you “like” it, Salt Lake City still won the competition, fair and square.  In one of the most amazing feats of unity around such an amazing cause, I’m proud of my city because of this.  Salt Lake City gets social media.  We get how to rally, and we get how to work with each other to help out the homeless.  As a result, Utah’s Food Bank believes it can turn that 1 million dollars into 7 million dollars with the programs it has in place.  The 4th place city, Ogden, Utah will also get $100,000 – Utah Food Bank has pledged that the $100,000 from Ogden, along with the $1 million will get shared across the entire state of Utah, multiplied by 7 in helping the poor and needy.  Homeless from all over the nation actually flock to Utah because of our Homeless programs.  THANK YOU for your help.  I know many of you voted, and I’m sincerely appreciative for this.

If you ever need to tally the “real” likes for an Open Graph URL that uses the “like box” Social Plugin, use the technique I mentioned above – simply pass https://graph.facebook.com/http://pathtoyoursite.com to your browser and you’ll get the likes for your site.


If you want tips like just like this one, be sure to pre-order my next book, “Facebook Application Development for Dummies”.  Any “dummy” can understand cool stuff like this!

Want to Give me a Christmas Present? Please Like This.

Fighting the homeless is something near and dear to my heart, especially when it’s at home.  I have a non-profit idea I’ll share here later which I may pursue at some time and I think could completely (or closely) eradicate the problem of homelessness.  This Christmas I’m thinking a lot of those that are less privileged, and even if not homeless, hungry.  That’s why I’m supporting the Utah Food Bank this Christmas.

If you give me anything this Christmas season, will you please just click like on this page, supporting Salt Lake City’s food bank?  If we can get enough people to like it Salt Lake City’s food bank earns $1 million to distribute to the needy.  This year is of particular need for the Utah Food bank.  In a down economy, they are seeing increasing need for help, with a shortage in what they are able to provide.  They claim this year to have a 30 percent increase in the number of families coming for food.

Will you please give to me this Holiday season by giving to the homeless and clicking “like”?  This will be one of the greatest gifts you can give to me this season, and even great would be if you could blog about it and share it to your friends as well.  Again, here’s the link – just click “like” on the following page:


To help, here is a box you can use to like it (just click “like” here!):



Free Tickets to Come See the Will it Blend Guy (oh, and me)

Need I say more?  This Thursday (that’s tomorrow), I’ll be speaking at the Small Business Tech Tour here in Salt Lake at the Miller Business Resource Center.  I’ll be speaking on making your Small Business Big with Social Media – it’s one that can’t be missed!

Here’s why I’m coming though (who cares if I speak, right?) – Tom Dickson, founder of BlendTec, and Kels Goodman, Producer of the “Will it Blend” videos will be there talking about the success of their amazingly viral video campaigns.  These guys, more than anyone in Utah I know, know video, and are known throughout the world now as a result for their amusing “Will it Blend” series.  I highly recommend, if you come for anything, you come to see them speak.

In addition, some of my favorite other Utahns, Jeremy Hanks of Doba, Kelly Anderson of Startup Princess, Jyl Pattee of Mom it Forward (she started the #gno movement that happens every Tuesday on Twitter), Brandt Page of Launch Sales & Marketing, along with Jordan Guernsey and Brock Blake of Funding Universe, as well as myself will all be speaking.  It’s a great group of speakers and should be well worth your money – which, if you’re one of the first 20 from this blog, is, well, free!

If you do choose to come to my presentation be prepared for some great stats on Social Media and how it has improved business after business for little to no cost.  I’ll also be covering, hands on, some very small things you can do to your website that will make it instantly social, just by a simple copy and paste into your HTML.  Overall it should be very worth your time, and well worth the gas money you spend to come out here (and if you’re not one of the first 20, it will definitely be worth the price of admission).

So why aren’t you coming?  The first 20 that enter JESSESTAY at registration get in free.  Click here to register!

In the meantime, you can decide – will it blend?


Who are the Utah Tech Bloggers on Twitter?

I had this long-winded post on how I thought startups, entrepreneurs, and investors in Utah aren’t reading enough Utah based tech blogs, hoping to start a “Read Utah” campaign, but I figured I’d do something about it instead.  I’m looking for every Utah Tech blogger you know on Twitter.  The Rule is they have to post new blog posts at least somewhat regularly on their Twitter account.  I’ll put all those you list on this Twitter list: http://twitter.com/Jesse/utahbloggers/members – please tell your friends about it, get them to follow it, subscribe to it in TweetDeck and FlipBoard, etc.  Add their blogs to Google Reader (anyone want to create an OPML file of their blogs?).

My hope is that we can create a list of who these bloggers are so that a) startups can invite them to their press events, and b) so that we can start to get the Utah tech scene “Reading Utah”.  I think it’s too often we default to Silicon Valley when we think of blogs to read.  How many Utah blogs do you read?

I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but if you can please forward this to a Utah tech entrepreneur or investor that you know, I’d really appreciate it.  Retweet this, share it on Facebook, Google Reader, and Buzz.  Send it in an e-mail or print it out.  Truth is I don’t get a ton of people from Utah reading this blog – my audience is mostly outside Utah.  I’d like to change that.  I’d like to change that for every Utah tech blogger.  Let’s grow this community from the inside out!  It’s time we “Read Utah” – our community will never grow if we don’t.

If you’re not in Utah, maybe you could do the same for your community?  Share with me your own community lists, as well as any Utah blogger you’re aware of that I can add to mine in the comments.

UPDATE: Will King has created an awesome list of not just tech bloggers, but tech companies in Utah here.

Twitter Opens Up First Job Opening for its Utah Data Center

Just a few days ago, Twitter announced it was opening a new data center in Salt Lake City, Utah in order to expand its ability to accomodate its ever growing user base.  The announcement was still somewhat vague, not specifying much about how many local jobs would be available and where in the Valley the new location would be.  Just a few days after the announcement Twitter quietly revealed a few more details about that announcement by announcing a “Site Operations Technician” position in the Salt Lake City area through one of its employees.

In a post by Twitter employee, Brady Catherman, who lists on his LinkedIn profile as an Operations Engineer at Twitter (and graduated from the University of Utah), Brady told his brother who lives in Salt Lake City to send people to an unlisted page on Twitter’s job site advertising the job.  The listing doesn’t appear in the main list of Jobs however.  The job is still rather vague, but due to the fact no management positions are listed or were mentioned, it leads one to believe Twitter has either hired them, it will be through a third party, or Twitter will be moving some of their own employees over to manage the process.  Based on messaging by employees, it would seem to be the latter, as Catherman’s brother, Bryan Catherman, implied on his Twitter profile that his brother “would get to leave his Twitter office and visit often.” He also implied that it was his brother doing the hiring for people out here.

Where will the new operations center be?  In a response to Mark Nielson, Bryan Catherman also stated that it would be at the “South end of the Valley”, “easy access from I-15”.  He wasn’t willing to reveal any more info when I asked, but that would probably put the center somewhere either around Riverton (where there is still lots of real estate), or perhaps Draper or even South Jordan or Sandy.

Utah is known for its superb hosting accommodations.  With the high altitude, dry air, and cool climate, costs of hosting are very low for most hosting facilities.  It is the site for a massive NSA hosting facility in the West end of the valley, as well as home to other hosting locations for Ebay, and the billion-plus record database inside the Granite mountains on the East for FamilySearch.org.  As the home to the start of Wordperfect, Novell, Omniture, FreeServers.com, and home to 2 major Universities within an hour of each other (BYU and Utah), Twitter will also have no problem finding talent here.

Having a new hosting facility in Utah is an exciting thing for those of us that live here.  It is just one more proof that confirms the recent claim that Provo, Utah (near Salt Lake City) was recently named the 9th most innovative city in America by Forbes Magazine.  It is also one more confirmation that I have said before that the Salt Lake City area is one of the top tech and startup hotbeds in our nation right now.  I hope more tech news outlets are watching this and noting this great add to the already amazing talent we have in this area.

If you have any more details about this announcement, please e-mail me at jesse@staynalive.com or feel free to mention them in the comments.

BoomStartup Brings TechStars-like Seed-Capital and Mentoring Program to Utah

I’ve talked often about Utah’s tech scene.  While it doesn’t always get the publicity it deserves, there is an incredible booming tech scene happening here in the Salt Lake City area right now.  Just last Wednesday I attended a Launchup event, where about 100+ entrepreneurs, investors, and bloggers all conjoined in this monthly meeting to hear 3 other startups have their claim to fame.  Kynetx, Simler, and iActionable were all given advice and free help from those 100+ peers hoping for them to succeed.  With a very tight-knit environment, coworking spaces like BetaLoft and CoWork Utah, along with close proximity to the mountains, 15 minutes from great skiing, rock climbing, hiking and other outdoor activities, along with some of the hardest working people I’ve ever been around, it deserves more attention.  Along with all this, BoomStartup, a new Mentoring and Seed-Capital program that hopes to mimic TechStars (out of Boulder, CO) announced it is taking applications for its Orem, Utah (just outside Salt Lake City) location.

BoomStartup brings such mentors as Josh James, former CEO and John Pestana, his co-founder of Omniture, Inc., which just sold to Adobe. Joining them is former Novell Luminary, Ralph Yarro, former Cisco Executive Martin Frey, and former former HP Executive Warren Osborn.  Also participating are Nobu Mutaguchi, one of Utah’s most prolific angel investors and Warren Osborn, an active venture and private equity investor.

John Richards, an early founder of InfoSpace, Inc., and later investor in Omniture and EnticeLabs, founded BoomStartup to “provide current and aspiring tech entrepreneurs an ideal opportunity to get their businesses up and running by presenting each company with seed capital, mentoring and networking from successful entrepreneurs and technologists.”  BoomStartup provides each selected company in the program “with seed capital (up to $15,000), mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and technologists, free office space and resources, and education that takes them through the various steps of getting a tech startup off the ground. Key to the program is the involvement of “investor-mentors” who give of their financial resources and their time as mentors.”

Applicants must meet specific criteria including a founding team of 2 or more, focus on the web, mobile, software, or non-hardware tech, must be scalable, must be able to apply full-time commitment from May to August during the program, work from their Orem, Utah based offices, and have a CTO/master coder with at least 20 percent equity in the company.  They are hosting a series of “Meet the Investor/Mentor” days, the first happening today at 4pm at their offices in the former WordPerfect buildings at Canyon Park Technology Center, Building J (1401 N. Research Way, Orem, Utah).  At the event, applicants can talk and ask questions about the program from the Investors-Mentors.

Living in Utah I’m very excited about this program.  With the wealth of experience here, former Novell Execs, WordPress Execs, and many of the early Web 1.0 startups that formed the history of the software world as it is today, there’s no doubt there will be enough experience to foster some very interesting companies from this program.  I’ve also offered my help if they want it to mentor in the realm of social media, getting blogger attention, etc. so perhaps you’ll see me around as well.

If you’re looking for a cool place to live during the summer, along with some great mentors, and what I know will be a very successful startup mentoring program, I encourage you to apply.  Applicants can apply at http://www.boomstartup.com – and while you’re out here, look me up and show me what you’re working on!

Create for a Cause

Recently here in Salt Lake City we had the opportunity to have Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google visit. While I didn’t have the chance to see it, reading about it, he seemed to talk about a common worry I hear throughout this State. Here in Salt Lake City and around the area we have a lot of successful businesses! From my Uncle’s Freeservers.com, to Omniture, to Mozy, to Novell, Wordperfect, and many others, there’s no shortage of success in this area. It’s a hotbed of talent and technology the world doesn’t give enough credit for. The problem is that we have no Yahoos or Googles or Facebooks or Microsofts to give us credit for that success. We have no home-grown success story that didn’t eventually sell out for big bucks to one of the big West Coast companies.  I think this is a common problem for many areas.  Why is this?

Eric Schmidt tried to come up with his own reasons in response to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who (Hatch) stated, “We get a corporation going and it has some tremendous ideas and all of the sudden someone comes up from Silicon Valley and buys it and takes it back there.” Schmidt responded, saying, “I don’t know whether [improving the situation means] globalizing the business. I don’t know whether we need more venture capitalist presence in Utah or maybe just more experience building the businesses from the startup. It’s not that businesses aren’t getting started, it’s that once started they aren’t growing the businesses fast enough.” So what is it that keeps the Googles or Microsofts from staying in Utah (and other states) rather than staying here and growing to compete with the big guys?

I’ve suggested the PR problem before. That’s just one problem Utah has – a lack of enough tech bloggers to get the word out to Silicon Valley. One other common problem I see in Utah is we get greedy. I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing. Too many Utah startups are focused on the money rather than an underlying cause that motivates their revenue stream. That’s part of the reason Utah businesses have been successful – we have some of the smartest business people in the world right here. Even Eric Schmidt confirmed that, stating that “Utah is one of the best places to do business.” We know how to make money! Unfortunately that’s what differentiates us from the West Coast companies like Google however.

I argue it all revolves around cause. Let’s look at Eric Schmidt’s company itself, Google. Everything they do centers around one central cause, “Do no evil”. It doesn’t even matter if they have purpose. Everything they do must be done “the right way”, even if they lose money from it. Some even argue this has become a PR pitch for them as well. Google is willing to lose money for their cause, yet they are also making money because of it. It’s an amazing strategy.

Facebook also does this well. I’ve done a lot of work with Facebook with 2 books on the company and several apps written around their platform. When you interact with them and their employees, you get a common theme from them: They are doing all they can to enable people to share in bigger and better ways. Their vision is to help you share without risking privacy. Everything they do revolves around that – their revenue model is built around their cause.

Twitter is building “the pulse of the internet”.  They want to enable better communication between anyone in the world. They’ve forgone revenue to ensure that takes place (yet they’ve been able to raise a ton of capital, I realize, but I argue that’s part due to their cause).

I see the same thing from company to company in the Bay Area and even up in tech hotbeds like Seattle (home of Amazon, Microsoft). These guys all drive revenue based on purpose! While there are currently a few exceptions, I don’t quite see this in Utah and other states, especially amongst the larger startups. It’s all business.

Eric Schmidt also stated that “It’s not an attitude problem, it’s an availability problem. To me, it’s recruiting new talent into the state and growing new talent. It’s really people and expertise and that’s the way to make it happen.” Guess what drives and keeps talent? Motivation. If people have cause to work for they come, and they stay, and they work hard at it.  I remember at BackCountry.com (a Utah company), our mantra was “We use the gear we sell”.  Employees loved that because all kinds of incentives were given to get employees using their cool gear, and the employees loved that!

80% of Utah’s population is in the Salt Lake City area. Schmidt suggested this was an incredible opportunity for people to connect. I think we just need motivation to encourage that connectedness. Motivation is what makes the Googles and Facebooks and Microsofts of the world.

If you’re a startup, anywhere, what are you building on top of? Where are your foundations? Are you building for money or for purpose? I know as I build my business I’m going to be thinking much, much more about changing the world and less about the money I make as a result of that. The money will come naturally. That is how you build Google, and keep it there.

What’s your cause? What businesses do you think do this well? Please share in the comments.

EDITORS NOTE: 2 Companies in Utah that I think are doing really well at this are Phil Windley’s Kynetx and Paul Allen’s FamilyLink.  When you interact with them you can sense their cause.  It bleeds through the company.  People are sacrificing time and money just to be sure their cause is getting through.  As a result, Paul Allen’s company was recently ranked one of the fastest growing companies on COMScore, and recently, according to Compete.com, surpassed his old company, Ancestry.com in traffic.  Cause eventually pays off!  I encourage you to learn what they do – they won’t be going away any time soon.

Source of Eric Schmidt Comments: http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_13630231