The Provo Startup Scene Is Like No Other

I was recently visited by a business partner and friend from out of town. Living out of state he was excited to have a reason to visit Provo. He had previously visited Utah for both business and pleasure but had never made it down to Utah County. Let alone specifically to Provo, Utah. He was eager to see what I am always raving about; how the Provo startup scene is like no other.

One thing about the Provo startup scene, where I have spent the last 5+ years of my short career, it has a secret sauce. I can say this because of countless encounters with hundreds of startup founders and experiences I’ve had over the years. In my dealings, I can honestly say I am usually left with impressive warm hospitality, lean startup hustle, and earnest intentions.

The Provo Startup Scene

While preparing for my guest’s visit, I began to think about how to best show him everything I claim about the area. I thought about what to show off, where to take him and which introductions I should make. Many things and people came to mind.

I wanted to deliver a magnificent tour because my colleague is no dummy. He is an honors graduate of Princeton, Yale, and Harvard Business School. He has broke bread over dinner with Peter Thiel. He had a past startup backed by Jay Leno and is currently at the helm of another successful venture. I wanted to make sure to pack a Provo punch. Especially for him.

I am happy to report that Provo delivered and the out-of-stater fell in love.

The List: 10 reasons why the Provo startup scene is like no other

During my visitor’s stay, he was so amazed by Provo that he made a list of reasons why he thinks the Provo startup scene is able to achieve its secret sauce. With the help of myself and other entrepreneurs he met, he was able to formulate a list so impactful that I wanted to share the list with you. Here are my friend’s top 10 reasons why the Provo startup scene is like no other:

1. Vices: My visitor: “why are there so many startups in Provo?” A Provo VC: “There aren’t a lot of vices here. We eat dinner, go to movies, and start companies.” (An example: at a few startup hotspots we visited, there were soda and milk dispensers — not kegs.)

2. Talent: A very heavy Mormon-populated Provo means that most 21-year-olds in the area have had 2 years of learning door to door sales through a Mormon mission. This provides a huge foundation for SAAS and also multilevel marketing in the Provo area.

3. Lean: Companies like the Provo grown Omniture start lean, raise no money for a while, and emerge on the scene with $30m in ARR and $10m in profit. They then continue to raise big checks to get to $1B valuation. All while the founders keep most of the company.

4. Affordability: Everything is way cheaper in Provo. The cost of living in Provo is so inexpensive, except for car insurance. A local Provo entrepreneur, “given our demographics, there is a huge percentage of 16-year-old drivers.”

5. Happy Valley: Elites from Salt Lake City pejoratively call Provo and the surrounding area “Happy Valley” — but locals admit: “We are happy!”

6. Mormon Influence: Provo is the only city in the world with two Mormon Temples. Our visitor said, “Is this the Mormon Vatican?” Provo just opened a wonderfully restored temple that adds to the beauty of the downtown area and is most definitely a majority of the religion.

7. Family Oriented: It is no secret that Provo citizens have large families with anywhere from 1-17 kids. Joke, kinda. Most Provo entrepreneurs are driven by good families, good friends, and profitable companies that impact the good of the world.

8. BYU: BYU is like Disney World (or North Korea?). If you deface a bathroom stall, it will be cleaned in a few hours. Males only have the choice of being clean cut and professional because of strict hair and beard rules. BYU has a top Entrepreneurship program and is a major contributor to the startup ecosystem in Provo.

9. Tech/Stem: There is a huge tech / STEM bent among Provo citizens. There is actually a nationally renowned virtual charter school focused on engineering based in Provo. The city of Provo is almost always promoting business and tech.

10. The Mayor: The Provo Mayor is a startup founder himself. His company helps people create false identities online so as to not be tracked by Google and other advertising companies. It has been said that he was voted most likable mayor in the country.

When my friend showed me this list, I told him that “you’re preaching to the choir. I am already a believer.” In my mind, his list is added to an even larger list that includes Provo’s half dozen unicorn companies and Provo’s City rankings in innovation and quality of life as reasons why Provo is the place to be.

Make it a goal of yours to come out to Provo, Utah and just as my guest experienced, you will see that the Provo startup scene is like no other.

I Quit My Job to Work on My Own Startup

Quit my job to work on my own business

I am definitely not a business consultant because a typical business consultant would call me crazy, so take my entrepreneurial advice as you wish. Business consultants always coach clients to never leave one job or business before the new venture is successful and lucrative. They say it leads to a roller-coaster ride. Believe me it does. But hey, the majority of people like roller coasters. Right?

When you hate your job the idea of jumping ship seems like a no-brainer. But if you have a well-paying job you actually like the question becomes a little more tricky. Obviously situations will vary depending on the type of corporate job you have and what kind of venture you want to start, but in general, for a person who is trying to start a new venture and wondering if they should quit a current lucrative position, my short answer is, “I would.”

Why I quit my job.

But first let me explain my situation. It was the summer of 2013. I was working around-the-clock for a Utah tech accelerator called BoomStartup after graduating from Brigham Young University. The accelerator was housed in a co-working space in downtown Provo. This co-working space expressed an interest in bringing in a coding bootcamp that at the time were only found in larger metropolitan areas like New York or San Francisco. Instead of bringing one in I, a front-end designer, teamed up with an amazing developer and a operations guru and we started our own coding bootcamp. We named it DevMountain and to this day it is housed in that same co-working space but now we have grown so much that we have taken over the whole building instead of just one room.

Back in August of 2013 DevMountain started out as side project. Our whole co-founding team treated it that way. As a result of it being a side project when my summer BoomStartup job ended I accepted a job as the Director of Business Development at a healthcare and genetics company called Tute Genomics. It was a great salary and opportunity but it was working for someone else, not myself. I was not a founder, owner, or anything close to it. I was paid, did my work, and that was it.

You cannot be two people at once.

After a few months of working at Tute Genomics I found myself caught between the two jobs. Working as an owner at DevMountain in my free-time and working as an employee at Tute Genomics as my day job was not ideal. It was horrible because I wanted to succeed so badly in both situations but time just didn’t allow it. Trying to please Tute Genomics investors and management while also pleasing my DevMountain co-founders proved difficult. In both situations I was accused of not giving my full 100% which was an accurate accusation.

I quickly came to find out that one simply cannot stay working for the man (someone else) while also truly pursuing your own business. Giving 100% of your dedication and effort to really grow your startup takes just that…100%. Since no one can clone themselves and become two people then a side has to be chosen. Otherwise half effort is given at both companies and as a result half of the job is left unfinished and all parties involved are upset and disappointed.

Go where the most value is.

After some sleepless nights I ultimately decided to quit and pursue my new business venture. The ultimate decision maker was considering the differences between being a business owner and being an employee.

I broke down what would happen scenarios if I were to stay at Tute Genomics or quit to work on my own business. At Tute I would have been earning a nice yearly salary. But it is just that, a yearly salary. No more no less. At DevMountain I would be earning less in salary, but the equity I had in the company of being an owner and co-founder was worth more than that yearly salary. Especially if my co-founders and I were to focus 100% on DevMountain and grow it into an even more successful business than it already was. The choice to me was clear, quit Tute Genomics.

Quit my job - quit your day job

Some people crave security and would never be happy in the variable world of the entrepreneur, but that is not me. I enjoy the risk (and reward) of building my own company. A day job requires no risk but grants little reward. In my situation I had to go where my focused effort, time, and skills would give me the biggest return. I literally wrote down both choices on a piece of paper and found that the situation with the most value for my family and I was/is my own company, DevMountain.

Be patient.

That is exactly what I did, in August of 2014, I quit my day job to work full time on my startup.

Everything worth having takes time, and patience, passion, and perseverance. All of which are important foundational elements for an entrepreneur. When I quit my job to work at DevMountain I most certainly took a pay cut. I no longer have the nice cushion of a padded pay check every month. But as I said before, in the long run, after everything is said an done, DevMountain will be the better choice. As an entrepreneur you deal in patience, you can take steps every day to work on doing something to improve, build, and construct your new venture.

Get your personal life in order before making the switch.

It has only been a couple of months since quitting my job and joining DevMountain, the company I co-founded full-time, but I can say my stress levels have decreased and my quality of life has improved. I love having the ability to create, build, and grow my own venture, rather than doing it for someone else’s.

Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of grit. It is critical to ensure that your personality has the drive to forge your own agendas. Make sure your personal life can uphold what you are about to take on. If your loved one doesn’t approve of you quitting your current job, it is going to be really hard to be successful building your own company. Make sure you are in a state of life/mind where eating ramen for a couple months or more isn’t that big of deal.

Success starts with you as a leader. But you can only lead if you have followers. Make sure your family is on board, or you will never hear the end of it. Balance the opinion ultimately with what your own mind is telling you. It is a tricky task.

The question of quitting your job to work on your own business is probably one of the hardest one to go about finding a suitable answer to that doesn’t sound outright crazy. It’s in fact such a hard one, that I often see people avoid the question, forever. I say, you will never know what could have been with your own venture if you laser focus on it, but you will always know what will come year in and year out at your current job working for someone else. That’s why I quit my job.

Seek Revenue not Funding

seek revenue

It is time to seek revenue over funding!

These last three months make up the second summer I have been involved with Utah’s top accelerator BoomStartup. I have had quite a unique perspective. A year ago I was in the program with a company of my own. This time around I am on the management side. By helping run operations it has been a whole new experience. I have seen companies come and go, succeed and fail, start-up and fizzle-out.

If you know anything about business accelerators then you know that the intent is to give startup businesses a set amount of money in exchange for a small percentage of ownership in the company. In addition to the money the accelerator offers services, mentoring, training, and exposure to influential people. This helps these small startup companies to have a better chance of survival and a better chance at raising capital from investors.

Most accelerators, and their mentors, push the accepted startups to work toward a goal of raising the necessary capital. Many countless hours and sweat are spent working toward the ultimate goal of making a deal with a Venture Capitalists and firms. Companies are told to seek investment so many times that it has evolved into the holy grail. It becomes the only thing startups think about. They think once they have VC money that they have made it.

I am here to tell you, it is not true. I raised money. Then I spent money. Trust me, I am still on quest for success.

Business Funding V. Revenue

Every day we read about multi-million dollar fundings of startups without ever really understanding how or why. The companies receiving these amounts of money are represented as successful. This is sending the wrong message to the every day startup: that they need to raise money and it will all be ok.

Honestly, we’ve heard this for a very long time and it has now become the norm. In my opinion it isn’t about raising the money. It is about making it. If you make revenue, it solves problems.

If I could go back to when my team and I were accepted into BoomStartup I would change many things. The biggest change would have been getting to revenue sooner. Companies who have entered into an accelerator are so worried about landing the largest amount of capital from investors that they forget to start making revenue. I don’t care who you are, if you and your company are making money hand over fist, investors are going to be knocking on your door step.

Why? Because money is the ultimate goal for everyone. Investors and founders alike. Investors want to be part of a deal that makes them money. Normally something that gives them 10x what they invest.

This isn’t to say that seeking out investment is not important, because it is. What I am saying is that a company should concentrate on generating money, then with that traction the ‘seeking’ of seeking investment becomes alot easier.

Every company should ask themselves (especially those in an accelerator) an important question before hunting for an investor: How well can we demonstrate our ability to generate sufficient financial returns for a potential investor?

Cash flow needs to be stable and regular. It would be better to have a track record of recurring or growing revenue that is documented. It isn’t necessary (look at Instagram or even the Utah local Scan) but I would recommend it if you want any investor to look seriously. Many angel investment groups will not even consider you if you are pre-revenue.

Seek revenue people!

Accelerators everywhere need to be focusing on their companies generating revenues. I hope the accelerator ‘seek funding’ facade blows over because I got tangled up in it, and you could too.



Rip off and design – an Entrepreneurs best friend

Why is rip off and design an entrepreneurs best friend? Because finding opportunity where others can’t is the job of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial leaders, like greats in the past, create opportunities in any fashion they know how. I wanted to post about this to prove that to “rip off and design” is not that uncommon.

Sometimes the opportunities come by introducing a new product or service based on an unmet need. Sometimes the opportunity is built around an existing product or service from one market and then introduced into another where it may not be available. Or sometimes opportunity is made from literally taking an idea that has been tried/tested before and doing it again.

We call this Entrepreneurial R & D. Also known as Rip Off and Design.

“Entrepreneurs seldom invent and market unique products; rather, they build their ventures around incremental innovations and modifications.” – HBR 1998 The Road well Traveled

What is Rip Off and Design?

Rip off and design is literally when you identify a good idea from your neighbor where there is a significant pain or opportunity. Then modify, add to, take away, make it better, use it differently, or completely change the product. This is not blatantly copying a product but changing it to improve it.

Being unique is overrated. So many companies have taken the rip off and design approach and been successful. They took someone else’s idea and ran with it, making it worth millions or even billions in the process.

Facebook - Rip Off and Design


You’ve probably heard how Mark Zuckerburg stole the idea for Facebook from his Harvard classmates and founders of ConnectU. This story has been told in the news, made into a movie, and has been settled in a courtroom.

But you might not have heard about Friendster. A social networking made back in 2002.

Friendster sprang up before MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn. Arguably, they were the first website with the idea of connecting friends and letting them share content. It simply was the first of social networking, including things like uploading and sharing.

So what should you do when your company can not grow because of another company’s intellectual property? You buy all their patents! Which is exactly what Facebook did.

Twitter - Rip Off and Design


Originally Twitter was a system that would send messages to mobile phones to keep specific groups up to date on specific things. Smartphones were super rare when Twitter (or twttr as it was known) first started, but the idea spread like wildfire.

But it wasn’t original. Another company, called TechRadium, did it first.

TechRadium was a mass notification system. The idea was that an author could send a note out to subscribers via text, email or voicemail. It wasn’t exactly the same but Twitter definitely ripped off and designed.

Hulu - Rip Off and Design


We all have heard of Hulu. But what about Joost?

Joost was founded by the guys who created Skype, got millions of dollars in cash from big corporations, and signed on Viacom and CBS as partners. But there was a big problem: downloading.

Joost required users to download a software and then users had to download the shows before you could watch them, and back in the day it took a while! That was a deal breaker.

Seeing the problem, Hulu burst onto the scene by basically copying Joost but tweaking it to allow users to watch shows instantly. Lets just say that was pretty much the end of Joost.

PayPal - Rip Off and Design


Before PayPal existed, Billpoint was a fast and easy way to pay for auctions on eBay. At first eBay endorseed the crap out of Billpoint. But it only brought mixed results among bidders and sellers. Eventually, eBay bought PayPal and phased out acceptance of Billpoint.

Billpoint lost in that battle.

It boils down to two simple scenarios: 1) That some brilliant ideas are simply too ahead of their time. And 2) Others companies are too slow and just fall behind while competitors improve and spread like wildfire. Then smart entrepreneurs resurrect the idea, tweak it, and make millions.

If you’ve abandoned one of your ideas because you were hammered by someone else, dust it off and take another whack at it. Or you can simply R&D. That is what this country has done since it’s birth. Thats what America is all about. You might find a way to improve on an idea, or you might just be able to execute it better. Who knows, you might be the next Mark Zuckerburg.



Are you a student? Yup. Want to start a business? No. Well ya should!

With in this last year, 3 other crazy fools and I decided it would be a smart idea to start a business. Although it scared me, more than the Blair Witch circa 1999, I decided to quit my hourly job and go for it. It was something that was inevitable because like many people say it is in my blood. From my ADD background I always led myself to believe that my blood contains 100% Red Bull.

This has been my first business. So no I’m not a business startup expert (that’s directed to you twitter business snobs. You know who you are). But I have had some good things happen and some bad things. I researched the ish out of business startups and it only made me more of a mental patient on the topic. I scoured the Internet for advice, and with all the information I’ve come to find out that you can really never be too prepared for a startup. I just had to give it a shot, get out the building and start making things happen with mistakes and all.

For that reason this post is about why college years are a perfect time to start your own business. Since starting a business people always have asked, “dude how did you start it? I don’t know how to get it rolling.” I always tell them, “do it now! Just start dealing and doing!”

So here are my 5 reasons why college is the best time to start a business.

You learn awesome magician like management skills at a youthful age

Where else can you find customer relationships, branding, marketing, competitor analysis, financial analysis and managing expense skills all wrapped up into one? No where, that’s where! A startup forces you to learn these skills. Because if you don’t your business is a sinking ship and you’re going down with it captain.

Don’t wet yourself if your business fails. That’s what it is all about: starting, probably failing, and repeating. So even if your “insert-sweet-idea” business fails, every other company in the world values these skills.

The risk to reward ratio is highly in the rewards favor

I know multiple students and friends who have co-founded companies while they were studying at Universities and BAM, 5 years later, they have annual revenue of more than $100 million, millions of users, 800 employees, or even five offices across the country. What did they risk and put on the line for that success? Very little compared to a 40 year old dad of 3 wound up kids and a wife who controls his every move.

I promise when you are in your college years, you have nothing to lose because you have nothing. You can literally live off no money because you have no family to take care of, you haven’t entered a career, you are single or just barely married, and your only responsibilities are school and your 8-dollar-an-hour job at Wendy’s! Your risk to reward ratio is shooting out of the roof and it is begging you to take advantage of it.

When you make mistakes in the real world, it’s true, you lose real money. But if you have no money or job to lose then what are you risking? Being in college takes you away from the structured safe environment that most people have during the majority of their life. It is the time to take risks and fall flat on your face a few times.

As a student people will just straight up like you more

A lot of success in my business has come from the sheer fact that I am a student. I have yet to figure out why, but there is something in the phrase “I am going to blank blank university” that makes people listen and like you. They think you are this smart and amazing person for getting into school and actually staying there. Plain and simple society will just flat out like you more.

For example, when starting my business there were companies, management personnel, and successful businessmen that I identified as people in my particular space that I wanted to talk to. They were all very busy people but when I dropped the “I am going to blank blank university” line, they all treated me like a homeless dog and took me right in. It was some magical wonder.

Universities have secret resources for only students

Being a student really helped me in launching my business by having resources that I would not have access to outside of school. There are student deals you can get that the average person doesn’t have access to. Such as web hosting, PayPal credits, office rent, and access to research databases. Go ask around your university’s business school and you would be surprised at all the free crap they offer.

Plus you have the ability to mingle with other students and professors who have started a company or are currently starting one. It’s like a business brotherhood.

Students have way more free time during school than they think

Like I said above, starting a business while in college is less of a career risk since students don’t have a career. I always hear students complain, “uhhhh…I have so much to do and no time to do it”. Honestly if school takes 20 hours of your day, you need to pick up some Wyoming brochures and get the heck out! Students have so much time compared to people working a full time job. Sure maybe you are taking 16 credits and have to study, but realistically if you stopped playing modern warfare, got off pinterest and facebook, and spent less time impressing the opposite sex you would have enough time to do anything. Don’t lie to yourself; your life is just as lamely awesome as mine.

Start a business in college because you don’t have to leave another job in order to do it; instead, you can just work on your business on the side while still in school. That will give you time to figure out whether it is really a viable career option by the time you graduate.

Although college courses are important for student training, starting and running a business can teach skills you won’t get sitting in a lecture hall and performing a great rendition of the sleep nod. (you know how I feel about school from this post)


T.Rich’s Alternate Path to Success

When chilling on my computer during class today, I knew exactly what I wanted to blog about today: About how much I think school is pointless. I’m not talking about the basics of elementary or high school, I’m talking about the higher over-excessive education.


*Disclaimer* I’m mainly talking about school from a business world perspective. This post isn’t for everyone. If you are studying to be a doctor or lawyer or what not, you better know what the crap you are doing before you shove a scapula into my living flesh or protecting me against some serial rapist in court!

You also should know that I have the opposite brain of Albert Einstein. I think he was blessed with some genius mind cells, yet he was always saying, “I’m really not that smart.” I on the other hand am always lying to myself saying, “I am so super smart” when in reality I am not.

MY BRAIN has a comparable disease to an eating disorder that girls have. Except my disease is the complete opposite. You know the one where they look in the mirror and see a big fatty but really they are like skeletor? The opposite would be a girl thinking they are so gorgeous that they should be on people magazine’s front cover. Yeah, now imagine that for my brain. I’m like sitting in class and I’m like, “Daaang t-rich, you are so smart. You don’t have to study and read books”. And then I pretend like I’m getting A+’s on everything I do.


You can literally learn whatever you want, when you want!

Schools think for some reason that they are the only ones that have any information in this world. I hate to break it to schools but this isn’t 1979 when the best technology was the Sony Walkman, which was a $200 purchase. Back in 1979, this would be a different blog post. In 1979 I’d say that schools DID have a lot of the information.

Don’t know if you guys have heard of, but it is made of the gold at the end of a rainbow. Ask my wife, on a road trip one time I wikipedia-surfed for 6 consecutive hours. Don’t tell my professors but any report I do in school is stolen from there anyway, so why not just learn straight from the source.

Ask anyone how much he or she actually remember of his or her university studies and see what responses you get. I promise a lot of their answers will be a butt-load of “uhhhh”. There’s a simple reason that a lot of people don’t remember and that’s because they chose subjects that they weren’t passionate about and did not continue studying after they left. They think: ‘I did what I needed to pass and now I can leave it behind.’ We all just go to school to get a degree.

I don’t need a piece of worthless paper telling me that I’m qualified to do a job. Yet, for some reason, I’m still trying to get that piece of paper.

On top of it all university admissions have been consistently going up. Upon completing university students are now, on average, about $45,000 in debt. Trust me, I googled it. The post-school portion of students’ lives will begin with a huge financial burden. If you ask me I’d rather have invested that $45,000 into starting a company and maybe of paid Lindsey Lohan to do an awesome celebrity commercial! Ew…joke.

A degree is also not worth what it once used to be. People all over the business industry without degrees are as successful as those with a degree.

My mind-blowing list of examples: Bill Gates, Ralph Lauren, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, and a bunch of freaking rich Indians!

So you’ve studied for 3 years and what have you actually achieved? You sure are not as well off as those homies.

The truth is that you memorized a lot of information but applying that information was not part of the learning process. The business world is about experience. Everybody wants to hire someone with experience. Everyone wants to hire someone who has done the job before and succeed. For example if you apply for Lady Gaga’s new stylist she’ll say “So what freaky awful clothes have you dressed someone up in before?”. She wants your answer to be “I dressed Marilyn Manson back in the day”. So unless you have that baller experience Lady Gaga will want nothing to do with you.

So how do I land the Lady Gaga job and get to the point to where someone wants to hire and work with me? I need experience! We all need to just get out of the building and start making mistakes and gaining experience.

The world from my point of view is about faking it til you make it. In high school I used to be the BEST faker maker. I mean, I didn’t even think about it. It was just second nature. I’d walk around faking it all the time and making things happen. As my junior year math teacher. She basically told my parents that “ is an idiot, but he will be someone someday”. From the little I’ve seen in the business world, it is the same. We need to sell ourselves. Not in the sleezy way, but the smart man way because sometime in the business world people get that confused (winky face)

Point of this is just to say that there are many different ways to be successful. Don’t just be another clone and assume that once you have your degree that you’ve made it. I’ve heard too many horror stories.

Like tupac says “dats just the way it is”.

This is basically just me ranting. Bad day at school I guess.

Oh and I really don’t want that Lady Gaga job. Just to clear the air.


read more posts