Why did Ryan Smith buy Utah Jazz? A look at what brought the CEO of Qualtrics to the NBA

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SALT LAKE CITY – Ryan Smith, CEO and co-founder of Qualtrics and future owner of Utah Jazz, was candid in his initial remarks after announcing his intention to take over the team.“There is no secret about my interest in the NBA. And there really is no secret about my interest in Jazz, ”said Smith.

No secret because Smith’s link with the Jazz and the league has been very visible.

Qualtrics is a sponsor of the NBA jersey patch (the company donated the patch to its charitable arm, 5 For The Fight) and the company has deals with the NBA and Jazz. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has appeared at Qualtrics conferences, and Smith has been in commercials alongside Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Oh, and if that’s not enough to prove his love of basketball, there’s also a court both at his home and at Qualtrics’ Provo office.

He once dreamed of playing for the team; now he can run it.

Qualtrics was founded in Provo in 2002 by brothers Ryan and Jared Smith. It was initially conceived as a tool to put online surveys and questionnaires so that everyone can conduct market research. It has since evolved into a tech giant. Qualtrics has become an analytics platform (which some Jazz fans will love to hear) that helps companies measure performance with customers and employees – and it’s being used by companies around the world.

This type of growth did not happen overnight. Smith and Qualtrics started their path to success and didn’t raise any outside capital until 2012. In January, Smith credited the Utah tech community for helping him raise it.

“Everything I got came from Utah. … It is this ecosystem that has helped our organizations succeed, ”said Smith.

And it’s hard to find someone as successful as Smith. In 2018, he struck a deal that turned heads in the financial world: he sold Qualtrics for an incredible $ 8 billion to German software multinational SAP – with a significant chunk of that price going to the Smith family – and remained CEO.

So, yes, Smith has the funds to compete with other NBA owners. But he didn’t want to own any team; he had his heart on one in particular. In October 2019, in the media room at the Zions Bank basketball campus, Smith was invited to radio if he had any interest in owning a sports franchise.

“I mean, there are a lot of people out there who just like to go buy a team anywhere and do that. You know, I have friends who have done this. And then they live four time zones away from their team. And that’s just not very interesting to me, ”Smith said. “I love Utah and something here. But the time must be right. ”

Now is the time for 42-year-old Smith. He built a business he started in his parents’ basement into a company with 25 offices around the world and more than 3,000 employees. And with the intention to go public, announced in July, plans are in place to add 5,000 more employees by 2023.

Now he has the chance to build the Utah Jazz, the team he grew up watching and wanting to play for, into a champion.

“Ryan Smith always says when there is a problem, when there is a problem, we have to put the best and the brightest minds on it,” said Lori Kun, head of social impact at Qualtrics , at KSL.com in May.

He’s done it in the tech world, constantly adapting his business to continue to be successful (no, Qualtrics isn’t just a polling company). And he did it with 5 For The Fight – not just raising money, but funding scholarships to try and find a cure for cancer.

It has helped small businesses – by buying 50 meals a day at local restaurants to help them cope with the coronavirus – and offered a free work-from-home program to businesses (9,000 businesses have used it). And Qualtrics has developed a tool to help distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

Smith has already created a legacy of his own in Utah. Now he can add another one.

“I was sitting there this week with my kids in a junior jazz program that you started, with hundreds of kids running around; the legacy you have created is untouchable, ”said Smith on Wednesday, current jazz owner Gail Miller,“ and we are all incredibly grateful for that. Jazz is a gift for this whole community – and that’s how we see it, that’s 100% how we see it. ”

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