Who is Ryan Smith?
Smith, 42, is a Utah technology CEO whose family founded Qualtrics. The company, based in Provo, is a world leader in customer-survey software. If you’ve taken an online survey, there’s a decent chance it used Qualtrics.
He’s wealthy, high-energy and outgoing, known for charitable work, boosterism for the Beehive State and an exuberant and kinetic quality in appearances at annual events for Silicon Slopes, a state tech industry group he helped create.
Born in Eugene, Ore., the son of a University of Oregon lecturer, he moved to South Korea at the age of 17 to teach English. Smith eventually attended Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business in Provo.
Ryan Smith is nothing if not an advocate for his business. He is said to be the upbeat and relentless counterpart in the company to his brother Jared’s more understated, engineering-minded approach.
How did he create Qualtrics and what does it do?
Smith helped co-found the company in 2002 with Jared and his father, also a BYU marketing professor, managing to grow Qualtrics in its early years without the financial losses typical for many tech startups.
Smith has credited the influence of the state’s tech sector for part of the company’s success: “Everything I got came from Utah,” he said in January. "... It’s this ecosystem that has helped our organizations be successful.”
What has Ryan Smith done since he sold Qualtrics?
The global organization, which urges supporters to donate $5 for cancer research, has paid to advertise its work with jersey patches worn by Utah Jazz players.
What do we know about Smith’s love of basketball?
Like many Utahns, he grew up playing basketball in the Junior Jazz youth program, and told observers at Wednesday’s news conference that he wanted to play for the Jazz growing up, though that didn’t work out.
It’s been a long-time passion, too. He’s golfed with former Jazz star Deron Williams. On many early mornings, he plays pickup basketball games at BYU. In 2017, he attended Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the clinching game in a Golden State Warriors win. He’s also been at most Utah Jazz games in recent years, either on or near the front row.
What do we know about Smith’s pursuit of the Jazz?
“There’s been discussion of that and I’ve looked at that. But, you know, it’s not all gold when you own a team. I mean, it’s a job and it’s a big job. And I’m really busy right now. I’m really happy with what I’m doing right now,” Smith said.
“I mean, there’s a lot of people who like to just go buy a team anywhere and do that. You know, I have some friends who have done that. And then they’re living four time zones away from their team. And that’s just not that interesting to me. I like Utah and something around here.
“But, you know, timing has to be right. And we’re in a seven-year bull market and teams are at an all-time high. I think the NBA asset, owning one is definitely probably one of the best investments you can have. But it’s a big commitment and watching and getting close to the Millers and seeing how they’ve put everything into this, they’re phenomenal stewards over this franchise.
“What they’ve done," Smith continued, "I think the world’s waking up and realizing, wow, they’ve done a really good job.”