As ‘Unicorns’ Emerge, Utah Makes a Case for Tech Entrepreneurs

When Josh James traveled to the Bay Area in 2000, seeking funding for a web analytics company he had founded, he spoke at length with a venture capitalist about his plans for growth. The conversation was going well, Mr. James recently recalled, until the investor asked where he was based. “As soon as I told him I was from Utah, he literally, without saying a word, turned around and walked away.”

Utah entrepreneurs no longer get that icy response.

The state has a thriving technology hub in the roughly 80-mile swath from Provo to Ogden, with Salt Lake City in between. The region has given rise to at least five companies valued at more than $1 billion. The concentration of these so-called unicorns is surpassed only by California, New York and Massachusetts, according to CB Insights, which tracks venture capital investment.

Mr. James has even helped coin the name “Silicon Slopes” to brand the region — a wink at the Bay Area and a nod to the renowned ski areas in the state, home to the 2002 Olympics.

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