TechBuzz News has created a series of Wave Charts documenting the growth of Utah's tech sector over time—in five time periods that we call "waves." TechBuzz Wave Charts are detailed infographics showing white on black company logos and approximate locations of Utah tech companies at the time of their founding. They also show unicorns (companies with $1 billion valuation or higher, a term coined by Aileen Lee in 2013), as denoted by a gold hexagon next to company logos. TechBuzz News applies the term unicorn to eligible companies in waves that predate the 2013 origin of the useful and widely used term.

TechBuzz Wave Charts also show investor activity (quantity and names of Utah-based investment funds/firms active during each wave) and WIN100 awardees, a crowd participation program of the Wasatch Innovation Network in 2022-23 honoring the top entrepreneurs in the state as nominated by the public and voted on by other entrepreneurs. WIN awardees are denoted by a blue Utah map. Certain companies may have multiple WIN100 awardees.

TechBuzz has defined the timeframes of each wave based on that period's investment activity, startup creation dates, and founder and investor insights from numerous interviews over the past few years. Periods of the Wave Charts break out as follows:

Wave I—1975-1996

Wave II—1997-2009

Wave III—2010-2017

Wave IV—2018-2021

Wave V—2022 to present

TechBuzz Wave Charts graphically illustrate the growth of Utah's tech sector from Wave I, a barren period of little to no institutional investment in the tech sector between the 1970s through the 1990s, until around 1997. During this "capital desert" a handful of Wave I tech companies enjoyed considerable success, notably Novell, WordPerfect and Iomega. These companies were largely self-funded.

During Utah's tech sector infancy certain organizations stepped up and assisted tech startups in small but important ways: CEDO assisted startups through incubation activities and office space. UTFC issued small grants and investments to startups. And two funds, Utah Ventures and Wasatch Ventures, managed funds and placed investments in several tech companies, but the amounts were relatively small and the outcomes limited.

Investment activity began to pick up around 1997, marking the beginning of Wave II. Ten VC funds and three investment groups emerged on the scene and began in earnest to create Utah's tech and investment ecosystem. Nearly 50 tech startups emerged in Wave II. Twelve of them became unicorns.

Around 2009-10 Wave III begins. It is a period of sharply increased investment and entrepreneurial activity. 18 VC firms were now operating in the Beehive state. 83 new tech startups emerged. 17 tech companies achieved unicorn status. Utah's tech and investment ecosystem appeared healthy and strong. A solid foundation was providing solid footing for dozens of new tech startups.

Wave IV, starting in 2018, witnessed a continuation of this upward trend in startup creation. 118 new tech companies were founded in this period. VC funds, now at 29, steadily increased in number and size of investment.

Download pdf of TechBuzz Wave Charts here.

Contact with comments or suggestions about Utah tech companies that we have missed. We update the charts a few times a year and welcome your feedback. We will introduce Wave V in 2024.