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Swinging again from a 2020 that bore the worst financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is closing out as a banner 12 months for innovation firms typically, and Utah tech issues in particular, with the previous 12 months a veritable spotlight reel of monster offers, sudden recoveries and report progress.
Simply two years after a deal worth $8 billion interrupted buyer expertise innovator Qualtrics’ public inventory providing plans simply days earlier than fruition, the corporate lastly made it to the markets in January. Whereas trade watchers pummeled German software program big SAP for overpaying on an acquisition that set a report on the time, the transfer regarded much more prescient as Qualtrics raised $1.5 billion ahead of its stock launch and a spectacular new valuation of $15 billion.
Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith and CEO Zig Serafin rang the opening bell on the NASDAQ alternate to have a good time the market debut on Jan. 28, even because the hubbub from another seismic Smith-related information was nonetheless dying down — his purchase of the Utah Jazz from longtime homeowners and Utah philanthropists, the Larry H. Miller household, in a deal reported to be value over $1.6 billion.
It’s laborious to fathom why, and the way, 15-second clips of NBA stars throwing down slam dunks or artworks that exist solely within the digital ether are producing a whole bunch of tens of millions in gross sales in newly rising markets which are shut cousins to bitcoin and different cryptocurrencies.
Particularly while you study that almost all of that very same content material stays extensively obtainable to anybody else who desires to view or copy it whilst “ownership” is transferred to an individual and licensed by a singular digital identifier often called a nonfungible token.
Welcome to the world of NFT.
Deal visitors generated by NFTs measured within the tens of billions of {dollars} in 2021 and included a slew of mega-sales that drove headlines and investor curiosity alike. Digital artist Mike Winkelmann, who works underneath the title Beeple, snared $69 million in an public sale for certainly one of his digital collages; Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet bought for greater than $2.9 million; and pop musician Grimes snared over $6 million for a bunch of works that included music movies and digital artwork.
In May, tech entrepreneur and cryptocurrency innovator Justin Sun informed the Deseret Information there’s much more at stake with nonfungible tokens than meets the attention. He sees their emergence as a step towards democratizing these belongings each from a collector’s viewpoint and, maybe extra importantly, on behalf of creators and artists.
“Basically our idea is in the future everybody can sell and receive payments for their artworks for almost zero transaction fees,” Solar mentioned. “This enables lots of possibilities. Great art work will come from those who are now creating small artworks. With a million new creators who can access markets, there’s going to be another Picasso. It’s about building a very friendly environment for those creators to grow.”
Pandemic-related restrictions and rampant unknowns associated to the general public well being disaster quashed tech funding exercise in 2020 however pent up demand helped drive a 2021 that noticed a slew of megadeals involving Utah firms.
And whereas the $500 million in secondary market investments that Lucid introduced in June wasn’t the year’s biggest deal, it was notable as a result of the Utah collaboration software innovator noticed a one-year valuation improve that vaulted from $1 billion to $3 billion.
That ascension was pushed by an annual income progress price north of 100% for merchandise which are proving to be very properly suited in serving to firms navigate the distinctive challenges wrought by COVID-19 and the altering world of labor.
“Last year was certainly an interesting and challenging one for everyone,” mentioned Lucid co-founder and CEO Karl Solar for the June story. “Going into COVID-19, none of us knew what to expect. Almost every knowledge worker went remote … and began looking for better software tools to stay connected and be productive.”
Traeger Grills has amassed a widespread and devoted fan base amongst outside cooking fanatics and busted into the public stock markets in July, elevating over $400 million and using an early surge in share worth.
The corporate, based mostly in Salt Lake Metropolis, was coming off a 12 months that noticed gross sales skyrocket amid pandemic-induced isolation that drove a slew of latest curiosity in house cooking. In its SEC submitting, Traeger reported $32 million in web earnings on revenues of practically $546 million in 2020, blowing by $363 million in revenues and $29 million in web losses the 12 months earlier than.
The inventory occasion marked the second time CEO Jeremy Andrus, a BYU and Harvard Enterprise College grad, has helmed a Utah-based firm into the general public markets. The primary was for Park Metropolis’s Skullcandy, the onetime hipster-favorite maker of headphones and shopper electronics. Andrus joined Skullcandy in 2005 and helped develop the startup, based by Rick Alden in 2003, from lower than $1 million in annual revenues to nearly $300 million in gross sales in 80 nations forward of taking the company public in 2011.
Initially based mostly in Oregon, Traeger caught the attention of Andrus after he heard a slew of buyer testimonials that appeared unusually enthusiastic for a corporation that makes a speciality of outside cooking gear.
Andrus and funding companion Trilantic North America acquired the corporate, moved its headquarters to a brand new constructing in Sugar Home, and Andrus took the helm as CEO in 2014.
“We’re not looking for simple improvements like better handles or a nicer paint job,” Andrus mentioned in a 2017 Deseret News profile. “We’re working to disrupt and innovate in an industry whose most recent benchmark was the advent of propane in the ’70s.”
One other Utah firm that noticed meteoric good points because of house isolation amid pandemic circumstances was on-line house items retailer Overstock.
Predictions of the e-commerce big’s impending demise had been rampant in early 2020 and the corporate’s inventory was hovering at an all-time low on March 13 of that 12 months — the day President Donald Trump declared a nationwide emergency within the face of the rising COVID-19 menace.
However lower than two years later, the company was hitting record performance numbers, its inventory worth had risen over 2,000% and the oft-maligned furnishings and residential items retailer was outperforming lots of its rivals.
In a September profile, Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson mentioned house isolation served to speed up a shopper development that was already in play properly earlier than COVID-19 hit.
“Over the last decade the home furnishing market has been migrating to online sales at a rate of about 1% to 2% a year,” Johnson mentioned. “At the end of 2019, about 23% of those purchases were online.
“The pandemic has accelerated that and what have been three to five years of growth has happened in months. We’re now looking at about 36% of purchases happening online.”
In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook was in Salt Lake City for the Silicon Slopes Summit, taking the stage with Utah GOP Sen., and Apple product fanboy, Mike Lee for a chat concerning the vast world of excessive expertise and Utah’s rising repute as one of many hottest locations within the nation for tech and innovation startups.
Cook dinner, who took over the reins at Apple after the corporate’s legendary founder Steve Jobs died from problems associated to pancreatic most cancers in 2011, delivered what could be the most effective praise ever for Utah’s booming tech ecosystem.
“What I look for when I go places is people who want to change the world,” Cook dinner mentioned. “Technology should serve humanity and not the other way around. And that’s what I see here.”
Abhi Ramesh had a lightbulb moment when visiting an apple orchard close to his hometown of Philadelphia as he watched the farm proprietor shifting carts of apples that had been picked from the bottom and deemed too ugly for a grocer’s bin. As a substitute, the nonetheless edible fruits had been headed for a cider mill, or the rubbish dump.
“I saw the farmer there rolling thousands of apples that had been picked up off the ground into a shed,” Ramesh mentioned. “I asked him about it and he said they were misfit apples that he couldn’t sell through traditional retail channels because they were misshapen or had a little dent or scar. He told me they try to sell them to secondary markets where they can become apple sauce or cider, but most of them would probably be tossed out.
“That’s really when things started to click for me.”
Ramesh’s concept would result in the launch of Misfits Market in 2018, an internet low cost grocer specializing, initially, in less-than-perfect natural produce that might be simply accessed and inexpensive for Philadelphia residents, the place giant parts of the inhabitants reside in useful meals deserts.
Reduce to 2021, and Misfits Market has attracted over $560 million in enterprise funding, earned a valuation north of $2 billion and, in November, opened a large new distribution heart in West Jordan that has the capability to produce its rising buyer base within the western U.S. The power has created over 150 new jobs and will add a whole bunch extra if present progress continues.
Misfits Market has additionally expanded its stock, providing 500 merchandise and is aiming to develop to supply a pair thousand. That’s dwarfed by a typical grocery retailer that will have 40,000 gadgets obtainable at anyone time. Misfits’ curated choice, Ramesh mentioned, finally ends up making it simpler for patrons to search out and buy every little thing they’re after.
“No one really needs to spend three hours at a store browsing through tens of thousands of items to find what they need,” Ramesh mentioned. “About 95% of most customers’ grocery lists are the same every week. We don’t need, for example, 30 different types of peanut butter to choose from. We have three or four.”

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