An Introduction to Silicon Slopes

Image credit: Jaxon Lott, @cactuskace

Utah is home to some of the world’s best ski resorts, national parks and over the past 10 years, one of the fastest-growing technology scenes in the country. As a recent transplant to Salt Lake City, it’s been incredible to witness the region’s growth first hand. As I get familiar with my new home, the following is a look into the region’s biggest companies, its growth trajectory and the companies to watch.

Silicon Slopes by the Numbers

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From the end of the great recession in 2009, Utah has emerged as one of the best states in the nation for capital investment with venture capital in Utah companies growing by 450 percent, double the national growth rate. The number of deals per year has also more than doubled in that same time period. The past five years, for example, have resulted in a total deal flow of over $700 million each year on average, with 2014 and 2015 both hitting highs of over a billion. Today Utah has 50 venture capital firms, a number of which have supported some of the state’s (and tech industries) biggest deals including SAP’s acquisition of Qualtrics for $8 Billion at the end of 2018, and a number of public offerings including Pluralsight in March of 2018 and Health Catalyst’s recent July initial public offering

Examining the past few years of deal trends, 2019 looks to be no different following investments like business management software company Divvy picking up a $200 million Series C at the end of April, emerging biotechnology Recursion Pharmaceuticals securing a $121 million Series C in July and Weave, a developer of patient communications software, whose $70 million Series D round in October make it Utah’s next Unicorn.


It’s All About the People
As the tech ecosystem scales, fueled by the states business culture and by investments in B2B enterprise SaaS applications, fintech and healthcare IT, I can only imagine the opportunities that will arise for Silicon Slope startups especially with established brands like Adobe and companies to watch like Divvy and Qualtrics expanding their local footprints with massive new buildings. 

So what is drawing all this talent to the region and creating opportunities for companies to watch like Lucid Software, Bamboo HR, and Divvy? While some will surely point to Utah’s outdoor lifestyle, tech talent pool and supportive business environment with unlimited real estate, I think it’s the supportive community that is a big driver.  For example, Qualtrics announced a new massive office space, that will include a 40,000 square foot MIT of daycare facilities as a way to support its employees with families.

Looking towards the future, in this new state, surrounded by the values that so resemble Highwire’s sense of collaboration, balance and passion, I’m confident that I’ll fit right in and I’m excited to see where opportunities take me. 

Silicon Slopes, Highwire PR is here and open for business. Come meet me and principal Emily Borders at next year’s Silicon Slopes Tech Summit or drop us a line at hi@highwirepr.com

‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ Has Arrived for Cybersecurity Holiday Readiness Campaigns

The online retail market is flush with cash – just last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, U.S. consumers spent a record $850 billion and sales are expected to exceed $1.1. trillion this year. This stat not only makes a consumer say “wow”, it’s the perfect “pitch ammo” for a PR pro to use to hook a journalist when conducting a holiday readiness campaign. 

We all want to land on the “nice list” for our clients and reporters, so here are 3 tips you can use to get in the holiday spirit when executing your media strategy this year and developing a plan for next season. 

  • Don’t fa-la-la behind (start outreach early!)

Lots of PR pros want to wait until peak holiday season to get outreach underway to reporters, but it’s likely too late. The trick is to get ahead of the game and start pitching your ideal storylines in early October and continue to spin new angles and follow up with reporters into the new year. This is also prime time to capitalize on your clients’ vertical business units or marketing objectives. Reason being? Think of the various “milestones” cybercriminals capitalize on throughout the core holiday months — Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday exchanges/returns, etc. They all tie to a vertical industry in some way (retail, financial services, etc.). Toss your stale security pitches and think outside the box — “leverage the knowns” as a client once told me. These are the newshooks reporters write about every year so it’s up to us to think of fresh ways to tell the story.

  • ….But, yule be sorry if you pitch something “just to pitch”

Poll a handful of reporters with different beats and they will all agree on one thing — don’t force feed a story. That doesn’t mean you can’t get creative in how you approach your pitch or angle (this is encouraged — especially with verticals!), but bear in mind that there has to be some tie to the holiday season that a reporter and their audience can bite on beyond just security. Maybe it’s a new cyber attack method that’s ramping up during the holidays that retailers don’t know about (looking at you, credential stuffing) or a best practices approach for authorizing holiday contractors in financial services. The key here is to push boundaries and be creative, but also be ready to admit if it’s likely too big of a stretch. Being vulnerable (and opening with honesty) to a reporter puts you in a better position to build an authentic relationship and could potentially be the deciding factor on whether or not they would go for the story. Remember, don’t be a Scrooge!

  • Sleigh the campaign by leveraging timely research

The holidays present a great opportunity for your client to tap their research team for new threat insights that may hit one of their verticals particularly hard during the holidays. Retail always comes to mind, but I challenge you to think of others. For example, cybercriminals treat tax season (which begins in January) as open season for phishing campaigns. Suddenly your retail angle becomes financial services and research insights tied to phishing could be the golden ticket to your “holiday” feature.

Now, only ~10 months until we get to do it again and tackle 2021 holiday readiness! 

Giving Thanks the Highwire Way

At Highwire, we’re known for more than creating an impact with our client work. From donation matching to organized service events, Highwire Walkers have the opportunity to give back to our communities, organizations and causes that we’re passionate about. 

Earlier this year our “Social Impact” committee rebranded to “Highwire Helping Hands” to better reflect the hands-on volunteer work our team is passionate about doing. This year alone, our offices have organized more than five events with another five left in December.

On Halloween, the NYC office and I participated in our third annual afternoon of service volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House — a charity that provides free housing and meals to patients and families receiving critical treatments at hospitals far from home. We got our hands dirty and made spaghetti and homemade meatballs to the largest turn out to date, with hungry guests dressed up as animals, superheroes, and my personal favorite, the cast of Harry Potter. It’s always a rewarding highlight of the year.

Highwire also recently announced that we’re incorporating our dedication to service into our traditional PR work. We’ve teamed up with our global partners in the Brands2Life Global Network to drive awareness of our latest pro-bono client, Tree-Nation. The organization has more than 70 reforestation projects across the globe where they’ve planted more than 5 million trees. In a time that supporting our planet has never been more critical, I’m excited at this opportunity to bring to light the alarming impact that global warming has on our world’s natural ecosystem. 

But the work our team does goes beyond organized events as Highwire Walkers volunteer in their off time as well. Panama-based Alejandra D’Croz has made it her mission to help Adopta Panamá, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding good homes for dogs and cats, mostly stray and abandoned ones. She’s engaged in the entire organization from fundraising, adopting animals out and even regularly fostering puppies.

Nida Ilahi, senior talent strategist, also engages at her son’s school. From fundraising, field trips to finding ways to show appreciation to their amazing teachers, Ilahi believes small gestures can have a big impact on bringing value to the community.

While I have a lot to be thankful for in 2019, I’m forever grateful to work alongside colleagues and a company that supports and shares my passions. Share what you’re passionate about in the comments or tweet @HighwirePR and share what you’re thankful for.