Utah is rich with innovative science and technology talent. Industry leaders say the state should tap into that innovative spirit to overhaul the public education system and refocus efforts on science, technology and math disciplines. The panel of technology and life science insiders also discusses the increasing depth and complexity of the state's tech ecosystem, along with suggestions for attracting new expertise to Utah.
We'd like to thank Richard Nelson, founder and CEO of the Utah Technology Council, for moderating the discussion.
Marc Porter, Holland & Hart; Alex Lindell, Lineagen;
Richard Hanks, Mindshare Technologies;
Vance Checketts, EMC
Layne Webb, Edwards Lifesciences;
Richard Nelson, UTC; Tim Sullivan, Ancestry.com;
Michael Wilkinson, Spillman Technologies;
Jeremy Hanks, DropShip.com
Gene Levinzon, Goldman Sachs;
Clark Turner, Aribex; Julie Simmons, MarketStar;
Sara Jones, School Improvement Network;
Kim Jones, Verite; Mukund Karanjikar, Ceramatec;
Lanny Gray, Comcast
Jared Crocker, Crocker Ventures
Every year, we hear that finding talent is one of the biggest challenges for the Utah tech industry. Tell us about your company and what your hiring challenges are, as well as any other challenges you're facing.
CHECKETTS: EMC started up a new operation in Draper last year. We received an incentive from the state to hire 500 people over the next five years. Less than one year ago I was the only employee in that facility. We now have just over 250, so we've got about 250 more to go.
If you don't know EMC, we are responsible for storing, protecting and helping manage the world's information. Our particular challenge hasn't been finding people. We've hired 250 people in less than 12 months. But the training and the investment that we've had to put into that effort, as well as getting the people up to speed on the technologies that are important to us, has been significant. And we are concerned about being able to continue to hire at that same rate over the next 12 to 24 months.
JONES: Verite does creative services and web tooling for a variety of corporations mostly in the tech sector. So EMC is a client. Intel, Symantec, Adobe--they're customers. We've got about 29 employees, and we're hiring as well. We tend to hire rogue developers because if you really want to get in the trenches of native mobile development and other types of tooling required for that, it's typically taking a developer who isn't necessarily graduating with a computer science degree to find the finest talent. My biggest challenge is knowing the difference and also knowing when we really need that fundamental framework that a CS degree brings a developer.
HANKS: Our company has about 100 employees; we hired about 25 last year. Mindshare Technologies is a "voice of the customer" company. We take surveys. You may have seen a message at the bottom of receipts locally at Market Street, Costa Vida, Cafe Rio. We basically take the survey and then give that customer-satisfaction information to our clients. Our biggest clients are McDonald's, Marriott, Comcast--all the big companies really in the United States. We take about 200,000 surveys a day all over the world, in 128 countries and 30 languages. One of the things we're most proud of is our text analytics. We're on the cutting edge of text and speech analytics because when people do the survey, they'll just talk into their mobile phone. We turn that into text, take the text and mine it.
You just had a big funding event, too.
HANKS: One of the local private equity firms, Swanson Capital, just helped us raise $27 million.
SIMMONS: MarketStar, which is owned by Omnicom, is one of the world's largest global advertising marketing companies. We are an outsourced sales and marketing organization that really extends or augments a manufacturer's sales channel.
We have about 2,000 full-time employees. We hired a little over 1,000 last year. A lot of those are part-time people for event type work for holiday events. Our recruiting department told me the other day that we hired about 250 people last year just in Utah. A lot of that was for Google, but we represent clients like Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, HTC, et cetera.
HANKS: I am cofounder and CEO of a new startup called DropShip.com. We build software to help manufacturers and retailers connect to the e-commerce data supply chain. We came about as part of a spinoff from Doba, a company I started about 10 years ago.
We have 14 people and have a lot of openings. We're trying to figure out in what order each of the openings should come so we don't mess everything up and blow the company right down to hell.
KARANJIKAR: Ceramatec was founded in 1976 as a spinoff from the NorthStar Utah, and since then we have been owned by several different organizations and individuals. In 2008, Ceramatec was acquired by CoorsTek, which is the largest ceramics manufacturer in the world with 47 manufacturing locations.
At Ceramatec, we incubate R&D technologies, particularly Klin-Tec, mostly energy and water space, and then commercialize those in partnership with Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies. Hiring is always a challenge in high tech, particularly chemical engineers, scientists and mechanical engineers, due to the energy renaissance in the country with all the natural gas and oil drilling. It's impossible to find those type of people.
You can get lucky with somebody who wants to be in Utah and you find that person. But you can get pretty unlucky with people not wanting to be in Utah. They want to be where energy is hot: California, Texas. And in the energy industry, by far, they pay a lot more than any other industry sector does now in terms of net cash that employees take home. So it's always a battle for us hiring people.
WILKINSON: Spillman Technologies is a public safety software development company. We do software like 9-1-1 dispatch, jail management systems, record management. If you get a traffic ticket in Utah, that's our software.
Our challenge right now is finding developer talent and also keeping up with the technology needs of our customers. We work with state and city governments, even Indian reservations, and they're very diverse in their needs and their policies and how they do things.
We hired 12 people last year. We're hiring five this year and we've got three openings right now. We have 250 full-time employees.
TURNER: Aribex is a small medical device manufacturing company in Orem. We make a battery-powered, handheld X-ray machine that we sell primarily to dentists. We're selling now to veterinarians, too.
We've been growing about 30 percent...