November 14, 2012

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Taking the Leadership Reins

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November 14, 2012

BORGHETTI: There seems to be a sentiment across the room that talent is the part of the formula that is the hardest to crack. Few people understand the difference between a Utah tech person and a Silicon Valley tech person. In the Bay Area, there’s almost a hive mentality where there’s so much energy and so much enthusiasm and so many ideas being discussed. It’s just a sharp contrast to what we have here. Here it’s like, “What do I have to get done today? I have a few things on my ‘to do’ list,” and it’s isolated and siloed.

Here, you make a little bit of money, buy a big house, buy a nice car and you sort of check out. How many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley do that? A lot are driving a Prius and living in an apartment with a bank account balance that is in no way a reflection on their level of tenacity and level of interest in what they are doing.

Utah, culturally, struggles from a divergence of those values. If we can get to the core issue around it’s not so much the material stuff. I mean, your house looks great, but it’s what you are doing with your talent that’s a much bigger impact on the economy and on society, and we’ll probably see better results from it, as well.

SLOVIK: It’s not that you need this skill set or that. Because if experience is a prerequisite to a job, then I can never promote you because you have never had experience in whatever that job was. What I look for are people who are brilliant or smart, people who are passionate, and people who are nice to get along with. I don’t like working with jerks. I should be the only jerk at my company. And you just don’t see that, right?

WIDLANSKY: Like a lot of these guys, I started my career in California. At my first company, which we took public at the end of ‘98, we used to consider it a short week if you only worked a half day on Saturday. People were there until 9 and 10 at night. Not because they had to be, but because they personally had to finish the thing they were working on to make it great.

Everyone says Utah has a great work ethic, and it does to an extent. People feel like they earn their paycheck for working from 9 to 5 and they work, oftentimes, very hard between 9 and 5, but then the brain shuts off and they go and do whatever. The company I was at during that time, the average age was 26, no one had any kids. So what you thought about for 18 hours a day was making that piece of software great, getting that deal done, coming up with the right way to position that product in the market. And whether you did your best thinking at 6 o’clock in the morning in the shower or 2 o’clock in the morning while you were playing video games, you were always thinking about it.

That doesn’t happen here as naturally as it does in other places. Some of it is cultural. Some of it is the demographic here—folks have more kids and have them earlier so they don’t focus on creating greatness. And finding that kernel of greatness is harder.

PETERSON: It is tough to find good employees because if you have one, they are hired and they probably like what they are doing or where they are. We have done a really hard job of trying to find what I call the Ph.D.—someone that is poor, hungry and driven—finding those people and mentoring them and having the right culture within the business. So we haven’t really hired a lot of experienced people; we have hired a lot of passionate people that have a drive and have tried to mentor them and grow them. So far it’s been successful for us.

Regarding capital, we are in that awkward stage where we need more than $2 million or $5 million. We are really looking for a $10 to $12 million number, and it’s to accelerate our growth. But the cost of that capital is too expensive. And we have been able to grow at a great rate just doing it ourselves. I probably get four phone calls a week from somebody that wants to invest money. And then when you dig into it, none of them really do. So we are just finding ways through traditional banking to find monies with traditional loans and grow from that perspective, because we are not willing to give up the valuations or give up what we have for what people want to invest in.

If you were king, what would you want to see change in this marketplace for entrepreneurship?
RIGBY: For a long time, I have been pounding the table for tax breaks in terms of incentives for angels, because I have seen it work very well in other states. Angels are always looking for some kind of deal and some kind of bargain, and a state tax credit for angel investing would really help the environment in terms of galvanizing the angels. There are a lot of potential angels in Utah that aren’t affiliated with funds.

ESBER: What kind of tax credit would you like to see?

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