There are many reasons why tech is bubbling up in this particular place, at this particular moment in time. Office space is cheap in Utah relative to San Francisco, for one, and the weather’s nice enough to entice outdoorsy types who might otherwise make their homes in Northern California. But almost everyone will tell you that Utah’s real secret weapon is its people.
Indeed, ask the leaders of Utah’s tech scene about the benefits and drawbacks of their particular labor pool, and they’ll respond with the discomfiting bluntness that only an in-group observer can offer: “They don’t show up hungover,” says Dave Elkington, a Mormon himself and CEO of InsideSales, a company that makes an intelligent tool for business-to-business sales. InsideSales is yet another Utah unicorn, this one also located in Provo, which is 89% Mormon and the home of Brigham Young University.
“They’re more loyal, on average,” says Gavin Christensen, founder of Kickstart Seed Fund and a member of the LDS Church. “Big generalization, but the perception is they’re more loyal.” Christensen’s fund is located on what he calls Utah’s Sand Hill Road in a comparison to the Menlo Park street that’s home to Silicon Valley’s biggest venture funds. Christensen also suggested that Mormons are more industrious and hardworking. “BYU wins most sober school every year by a landslide. You go to BYU, and it’s intense. Nobody smokes, nobody drinks, nobody parties,” he says. “People grow up fast. They get married and have responsibilities.” Christensen sees a through line between what the challenges of Mormonism teach young people — “determination and grit” — and the qualities a good startup founder need. “That’s a lot of what entrepreneurship is,” Christensen says.