Salt Lake City’s Entrepreneurs Are as Young as They Come—Here’s Why

Published on October 2, 2018

Salt Lake City, Utah is home to more than just the Mormon culture; it’s home to the youngest entrepreneurs in the United States. 

According to a recent study, the average entrepreneur in Salt Lake was only 37.8 years old, with Buffalo, New York and New Orleans, Louisiana creeping at 37. This study focused on when the individual(s) launched his or her first venture.

While Salt Lake has been highlighted in recent news when it comes to entrepreneurial ventures and technology, the city has long been accustomed to the entrepreneurial atmosphere and prevalence of startups headquartered there.

Local Heroes

Salt Lake has birthed the success of many startup ventures, such as Extra Space Storage—a nationwide self-storage powerhouse. Other ventures include technology unicorn companies such as Domo, Qualtrics and Nuvi.

It’s impossible to drive up I-15 from Provo to Salt Lake City (through the area now called Silicon Slopes for its popularity with tech companies) without seeing dozens of bright billboards and high-rise offices for new businesses. Startups are inescapable; you see them wherever you turn.

But, why?

Familiarity. Students in the Salt Lake area are likely to be as familiar with Josh James or Todd Pederson (the under-50 CEOs of Domo and Vivint respectively) as they are Kanye West or Logan Paul. Successful entrepreneurs are local heroes in the same way athletes or musicians might be in other places.

The Influence of Nearby Universities

The Salt Lake City metro area is home to three major universities, as well as many smaller specialized colleges. Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University and The University of Utah all boast outstanding tech programs, as well as offering programs that specifically focus on preparing students for entrepreneurship.

What this means for local businesses is a wealth of hungry, qualified talent being introduced to the job force every year at graduation. It makes staffing up a startup with qualified employees simple and relatively affordable, especially compared to other areas of the country which lack comparable educational infrastructure.

For students already enamored with the prospect of working for themselves or founding their own startups, entrepreneurship programs at Utah universities teach the fundamentals of business-building—lessons available only through the course of a long career.  

Universities are implementing their “perfect storm” by placing a stronger emphasis on entrepreneurship. The result?  Every graduate leaves as a potential startup founder, and nearly every student an aspiring entrepreneur. No wonder Salt Lake City startup founders are the youngest in the country.

Business-Friendly Laws and a Low Cost of Living

At the end of the day, we need to look at how the Utah legislature has addressed the business-friendly environment.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Utah is already relatively low (significantly less than the national average), which allows entrepreneurs more flexibility and freedom than they might find elsewhere.

From The Ground Up

Starting a business often requires sacrificing a salary. In today’s workforce, this is often unheard of and/or impossible to accomplish in a more expensive location. With a low-cost of living and business-friendly laws, entrepreneurs are flocking to the city for their new home. 

But, friendliness also brings a more likely chance for failure. Tax breaks and lower wages across the state, means a larger margin for error than those in other locations. 

Low Barriers to Entry

In 2016, Utah was ranked the top state in America to do business in, after finishing in the top 5 for more than a decade.

Less Initial Capital

To create a viable business, the amount of capital required is much lower. This allows for startup founders and the younger demographic to thrive on creativity.

While New York or California entrepreneurs are waiting for their business to thrive, Utah entrepreneurs are already on the move. 

While Salt Lake City isn’t the only place to build a successful enterprise, it’s still becoming the home to the youngest entrepreneurs in the United States.


Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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