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Provo-Orem area ranked 11th for high-tech startups (heraldextra.com)
35 points by vyrotek 1541 days ago | hide | past | web | 48 comments | favorite



The problem with the Orem Provo area isnt the jobs but the fact that you then have to live there.

The food choices are sparse and honestly compared to places like Seattle, Chicago, and SF down right terrible.

Shopping is mostly limited to big box shops like Target, Macy's and the like.

To be completely frank the biggest issue is the monoculture. If you aren't white and Mormon you don't fit in and it is very obvious.

Granted there are upsides like the mountain sides for camping and skiing. Also Harmon's is an extremely nice grocery store.


I once studied in University of Utah Salt Lake City. I was from NJ, near NY. So were other students mostly, as it was a summer program. The nature was fantastic, but people laughably bad in the way you could imagine. It is called the Mormon bubble, and one of our closest friends, an out-of-faith Mormon guy, was a favorite cultural expert to explain how often we were treated so oddly and rudely.

It was fun, but not for long.


I lived in Provo and Orem for a number of years while I was attending University, and I feel you've nailed some of the major issues. Life was drastically different there compared to where I grew up (and now live) in the Bay Area.

One on-topic aspect I appreciated about Utah was the quality of the Computer Science program at Utah Valley University. The chance to learn from experts like Chuck Allison [1] and David Heldenbrand truly expanded my mind and was an incredible opportunity. Really, all the CS faculty was excellent and commendably eager to do the teaching themselves rather than offloading the most critical parts to TA's. Given the high ratio of religious fanatics in the surrounding region, the school is a remarkably open and progressive institution.

As soon as I finished school I moved back to Palo Alto and would never consider returning to Utah other than to visit friends, go skiing/snowboarding, or go to hike at Moab or Zion National Park.

I definitely wouldn't recommend going to Provo or Orem to start a tech company.

To put things in perspective: Provo is 29 short highway miles from Eagle Mountain, which is primarily composed of polygamist compounds. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being a polygamist; it was just a surprise to find out about it only after several years of living in Provo.

There is a reason that Provo and Orem often referred to as the "Utah Valley Bubble". It is an isolated community and if you aren't Mormon you will likely pretty strange when you discover how poorly you fit in with the homogeneous culture.

With that being said, there are some upsides to operating a business in Utah Valley:

You can hire high-quality engineers for pennies (or perhaps a quarter) on the dollar compared to other places. At one point I interviewed at Omniture, and they scoffed at the salary I asked for.

People who live in Utah Valley are also less likely to move away as much compared to other places, because their immediate and extended families tend to live nearby. This means that it is possible to expect to retain employees for much longer period of times than in a place such as Silicon Valley.

Finally: If you are into discriminating against people for their sexual orientation, it is completely legal to do so in Utah. There is no legal protection from sexual orientation discrimination in Utah.

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=chuck+allison


Mind if I rearrange your enlightened comment?

If you are into discriminating against people for their sexual orientation, that is actually completely within the bounds of the law in Utah (if that's what you're into).

I definitely wouldn't recommend going to Provo or Orem... where there are many polygamists.

Keep in mind that, until relatively recently, homosexuality was as socially taboo, if not more so, than polygamy. Now, I won't weigh in on whether it's fair to group the two; perhaps it's not. But before you publicly castigate a community for their views on a particular sexual orientation, you should refrain from committing the same offense.


[deleted]


No worries; I think I understood your intent, but hijacked the wording to make a point =/ In any case, you're spot on that the culture of fundamentalist polygamy has myriad issues with respect to authority, abuse, etc..., for which tolerance is not a solution.


I suspect a tech company which fired people on that basis, even if fully within UT law, would be punished in the marketplace (both customers and employees).


Mind if we ask you to rearrange your own comment, or at least clarify any differences, if any, you may happen to see between....oh...innate sexual orientation... and the historic and recent practice of polygamy in Utah. Maybe you'd comment on anything you know about the leaders of recent polygamist "churches" and their treatment of women and their attitude toward and/or behavior around sex with children.

You know. Since, yeah, you not-so-disingenuously went ahead and grouped polygamy with homosexuality as both somehow innate "sexual orientations", as you groped toward analogy.


Polygamy is very damaging to the community. The boys they have to kick out to support the high female/make ratios become wards of the state, have little education, and it's just a sad state of affairs. This and the pervasive child rape going on, there are good reasons for the UT AG to be harsh on this.


The populations of Chicago, SF and Seattle are 2.7 million, 800,000 and 620,000 respectively. Provo's is 115,000 while Orem's is 95,000. It seems weird to compare the shopping and food options of some of the larger cities in the United States with Provo. Size-wise, it makes more sense to compare to something like Boulder.


Comparing the size of the city doesn't fix the issue that food, shopping and cultural events (art, theater etc) are dismal compared to other cities.

The fact that Orem/Provo is better or worse than your average city in the same class doesn't make the food choices any better.

Now, since Ann Arbor Michigan which is on par with your listed population size for Provo actually has good food some decent shopping and a fairly large number of cultural events your argument comes up strongly lacking.


A lot of the comments here claim that the deal breaker here is the culture. This could come off as glib, but is Silicon Valley really in any position to be complaining about another culture being too homogeneous, or too exclusive of "different" demographics (e.g., I dunno, women)? Don't make me laugh.

This is particularly disappointing because there are much better reasons to justify your decisions to not found your startup in Utah. Let's start with the fact that the investment scene, and in particular, the angel scene, is completely and utterly toxic.

I won't go into specifics, because badmouthing people on the Internet is mean, but most of funding (especially angel funding) in Utah is structured as a competition, where startups compete for money. The result is that there is no camaraderie between companies in the way that there is in, say, NYC or the bay area. People are friendly, but there is not really any knowledge ventilation because the angels cultivate this atmosphere of competition. The result is a divisive and poisonous atmosphere that is antithetical (IMHO) to hacker culture. In my experience, this lack of sharing knowledge makes it quite hard to build things. You're extremely unlikely to find a successful coworking space here, for example.

So ultimately, the talent pool here is deep, but until this cultural problem is fixed, Utah will always be a distant 11th to other venues.

EDIT: and before we all jump on the hate train, I'm an avowed atheist who left Mormonism. I don't like the culture here either, but let's not forget that Sili Valley needs to pull its head out of its ass on a pretty regular basis too.

EDIT 2: and for reference, I graduated in CS from the University of Utah this year (2013). So my experiences are pretty fresh.


I'll give another good reason to avoid living there: The air quality along the Wasatch Front (Ogden, Salt Lake, & Provo) is among the worst in the nation. http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/city-rankings/most-pollute... ranks the Provo-Orem area as the 11th highest nationwide for short-term particle pollution (SLC being #6 and Logan being #10).

I left Salt Lake City 6 years ago. I miss many aspects of life there and have considered moving back. But the air quality there is an absolute deal breaker. The winter inversions are absolutely miserable.


The good news is that this has become a forefront issue. Governor Herbert has started making air quality a priority, but also key local groups like Envision Utah.

Fixing the inversion problem though will take active involvement from the community. If we could get 1/3 of the cars off the road on the 10 days/year it mattered the most, it would be a game-changer. The tech companies in the area could make a big difference in this effort if they let their collective thousands of employees work from home on those days.


While I think its wonderful news that it has become a priority, I remain pessimistic. The geography of the valley cannot be changed and combined with the common high-pressure weather patterns the air is trapped for weeks at a time.

Even with massive cut-backs in emissions our industrial economy and expanding population ensures this will remain a problem long into the future.


Or they could have their office in downtown SLC, making transit a viable option to get to work.


SLC is unique in that they suffer from inversions, that lead to AQIs as high as 70 2.5 ppm. I now live in Beijing where we sometimes get up to 700 AQI (also with inversions!), so I remember the first world problems I had in SLC.

If I move back to the states, I'm going to avoid living in bowls or valleys.


I lived in Utah for a year (Logan) and San Francisco for many.

Utah culture does have some positives. The work ethic is very strong, the atmosphere is pro-business, and employees are loyal almost to a fault. In California I think the M.O. is "looking out for number one" -- in Utah I felt that even low level employees often have a sense of commitment to their employers. I also think that Mormons specifically can be good in sales due to their missionary work which is two-years of religiously mandated door-to-door sales training.

But the Utah culture lacks in other areas -- specifically on "being a hustler/hacker" and being creative, neither of which is plentiful in Utah.

By the way, Overstock and Novell are the only tech companies in Utah I can think of -- are there any that are more recent?



Omniture is another succesful Utah-based tech company.


If it is just investment which is mostly fucked, Utah seems like an awesome place for a raised-money-in-SFBA company to have a second office and hire a lot of developers. If they're committed to Utah, they probably won't leave very soon.

I'm thinking WA state makes a little more sense (I personally prefer UW to BYU/UU, and I like the culture in WA more than (my limited experience with) UT), especially if you want to have only a single location which appeals to both "city people" and "country people" (an overgeneralization, but I think accurate). However, SF+UT seems like a really strong option.

The awesome thing about this is that if UT becomes the backend dev shop for lots of startups, SFBA VC will be drawn there to finance new startups at some point, solving your financing problem.


I attended UW for my undergrad and UU for my PhD. Seattle is definitely more dense in tech talent, but this has as much (if not more) to do with Microsoft than UW's very good program, which still doesn't crank out that many students (and those students are mostly off to google anyways).

Also, WA doesn't just mean Seattle, but I'm sure the startup scene in Spokane is kind of moribund.

The interesting thing about Utah is that it has a tech talent scene at all...I just wouldn't have expected it before I was living there. Rents are also more affordable and it's an ok city to live in.


I'm looking at moving to WA-8 in early 2014 (assuming the stupid CA gun laws pass). That's not Spokane, but potentially could be an office around Redmond and me living somewhere east of there, with other people choosing to live in Eastside or even Seattle (I guess). (I actually really like E/NE WA too, and Idaho, but that isn't exactly viable.)

What I like about UW is specifically their aero program and their cryptography and law programs. UU/BYU are not as strong on that. And MSR is amazingly proper.

I guess I've known about the strengths of Utah for a while, but that's because I met a lot of Mormons in the military and in general overseas, and they did a great job of selling the state (actively and passively).


The problem with the methodology is that it's based on density, which is far from all that matters. The fact that a startup industry exists within a larger industry doesn't really detract from the vibrant startup community. If anything, it enhances it.

It's pretty telling that New York isn't even mentioned in that report despite there being areas in the city where every other office is a startup.



Reading the full study, I was surprised how big Colorado was in startups, especially areas like Boulder.

I anticipated moving out to the Austin TX area after college for a startup experience. I can't afford the California tax, both the government and other cost of living expenses.

Colorado is gorgeous, and so is the Wasatch front. I'll be looking more aggressively for jobs in those areas.


I live south of Denver. I moved here from the East Bay 4 years ago due to cost of living. Tech jobs were highly competitive and I wasn't able to get a job that made it affordable to stay. So after 3 years in the Bay Area, I treked out to Colorado where my wife is from. I got a good programmer job about a year later.

In Denver there's a whole area called the "Tech Center", and there are quite a few startups in Downtown. I've heard a lot about Boulder and the tech community up there, but it's way too far away for me to look for work up there.

Plus, there's a lot to do around here all year round.

(Side note, I also lived in Provo for 5 years and SLC for 1)


Do you not feel like you can get a good startup experience in Austin?


No, I absolutely feel I can get a good startup experience in Austin.

I just prefer skiing over humidity :)


Being 11th on a power law distribution with so few samples isn't a good place to be.

Even being 2nd means you'll have to fight more than twice as hard for resources.


If we were to think about the distribution of companies and opportunities, I would think that the power law distribution would be most appropriate. Being #11 when even #2 and #3 just don't match up isn't exactly something to be proud of.


Good to hear that other areas are growing.

Boulder has the same issue of people leaving though. Both because of a lack of money and because of a lack of physical space for companies to move to. Rally Software manages to find space inside Boulder, but it's difficult.

So, then companies that incubate here leave and make it seem like startups aren't flourishing. Like Next Big Sound or PlaceIQ. Investors sometimes need to help companies stay where they are from instead of artificially perpetuating the idea that small startup communities exist solely for feeding the Silicon Valley brain pool. The valley is an awful place to actually live.


I drove up the I-15 a couple weeks ago, and was surprised that when I hit northern Utah I saw a couple tech-recruitment billboards. We don't have those down in Orange Country.


I am biased since I am a local, but Utah Valley is on the cusp of recognition as a tech hotbed. Just in our office park in the corner of Provo, we have

  1. http://www.ancestry.com/
  2. http://www.qualtrics.com/
  3. us, http://i.tv
  4. http://www.moneydesktop.com/
  5. http://www.vivint.com/en/, recently bought for $2 billion[0]
There are also a bunch of other smaller tech companies.

http://www.domo.com/ and the Adobe campus are also about 10 minutes away, and there are various tech companies scattered all the way up through Salt Lake.

http://www.ng-conf.org/ is coming to SLC next year, and the local tech meetups are active and widely attended. Combine the good tech scene with the extremely low cost of living and it is a great place to be.

  0: http://seekingalpha.com/article/878211-blackstone-buys-vivint-what-you-need-to-know


I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that vivint is a tech company. They are a sales company that sells technology that is entirely developed out of house.


I'm familiar with Vivint's history. They are in the midst of an attempted transition towards becoming a tech company, partially to escape the terrible reputation they developed when they were APX.


It doesn't really surprise me that Ancestry is based in Mormon country. Interesting.


I suspect that there's a lot of cross pollination of talent between ancestry and the church's familysearch.org there.


I think this type of "next sylicon valley" stuff pretty misleading..

SV is what it is because of its pionerism.. after the first seed give its fruits to the world, the tendency now is people for different places and backgrounds start their own things in their own countries.. so we gonna start to see the next microsofts , googles and apples comming from other places as well.. without any connection between those places..

the infrastructure of course is essential.. so those SV wannabes will need to have and provide a fertile ground to those tech seed have some growth..

the word is multipluralism and descentralization.. the internet have started a true globalization movement.. and lets recall that SV started to grow and became what it is before this phenomena..

it was a flower in the desert.. but for now on, big things will start to happen in unespected places..

no need to search for the next silicon valley.. it will pop everywhere now


As a developer here I'm constantly getting contacted by recruiters. I live half way between Salt Lake and Provo so I can go either direction, but there definitely is a lot going on in the tech industry here.


Lehi? That's where I'm at :)


I'm in Herriman. I almost bought a house in Lehi :) I currently commute to Downtown Salt Lake for work though. It's about a 30-35 minute drive for me in either direction.


Ha, I was just the opposite! Almost bought a house in Herriman. This is as far south as I'll ever move though :P


This would be great for me, except I've lived in Utah my entire life and really want to leave the state once I finish school.


I left as soon as I could go to school out of state. :) Occasionally relatives will tell me of the booming tech economy and point out Adobe's "big building". It's hard to describe just how much bigger Microsoft's offices are and the land mass they occupy. (Also I don't know anyone who works at Adobe but I suspect there's a pay gap too.)


Definitely! Microsoft invited my startup out to Redmond for a week (Azure beta stuff) and I couldn't believe how huge that campus is! I would move to Seattle in a heartbeat if the cost-of-living difference wasn't so shocking. I'd also love to work at Microsoft someday too. We'll see... :)


Now we just need to work on the funding part. Lots of startups still leave Utah when they need to raise anything larger than $500k+. Our startup went through an incubator and then raised a seed round from Angels just fine but there seems to be a serious lack of larger funding around here.


I agree that this seems to be one of the major lags. Though we are based in Utah, my company raised our seed round entirely from investors outside of Utah (Google Ventures, 500Startups, etc.).

We only had to do one thing to double our valuation -- book a plane ticket from the Salt Lake airport to San Francisco.


I live in the area and I'd love to be more involved in the startup scene here. What do we have going on? Anyone looking for a 30 year old computing polymath to join your Utah startup?




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