SALT LAKE CITY — Just a year after bringing former President Barack Obama to town for a user summit at which he introduced himself as, “Michelle’s husband,” Utah tech firm Qualtrics just announced it will host the former first lady herself at the 2020 edition of the annual event.
The Utah-born customer experience innovation company has turned booking heavyweight speakers into a running modus operandi for its user conference, which last year drew some 11,000 attendees.
While Qualtrics’ complete agenda for the four-day event is still being solidified, Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres are confirmed as headline speakers at the Salt Palace Convention Center in early March.
In 2018, Qualtrics featured Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, composer, lyricist, and creator and star of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, along with Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, as well as NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and skateboarding icon Tony Hawk. Last year, Oprah, Ashton Kutcher and Richard Branson all joined the former president as featured speakers.
Last month the company announced plans to take over 13 floors, some 275,000 square feet, of the 38-story 2+U project set to be completed in summer 2020. The new Qualtrics Tower — a co-headquarters along with its flagship facility in Provo — will allow the current 500 Seattle-area staffers to grow to 2,000 on a path that will see worldwide employee counts jump from 2,000 to 8,000 in the next four years.
Qualtrics co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith said expansion plans were already in the works before the company was acquired by European enterprise software behemoth SAP last November for $8 billion. While some companies might slip into cruise control following a big acquisition and let its new parent do the driving, Smith said Qualtrics is still operating like a hungry startup.
“It’s super exciting,” Smith said. “We worked a long time on some really hard tech problems and we’re starting to see the momentum of what this could be. We’ve been working to create a $30 billion to $50 billion company either by ourselves or with partners.
“We’re going to continue to play offense and have the attitude of, ‘Where do we want to be? Let’s go build it out.’”
That attitude has been driving a stellar growth arc since the company was founded in 2002 by Ryan and Jared Smith based on technology first developed by Ryan Smith and his father, BYU researcher and professor Scott Smith, amid the elder Smith’s fight (it was successful) against throat cancer.
Initially conceived of as a tool for academics, the company and its platform has since evolved into a tech juggernaut that leverages survey input and a business analytics engine to let its clients — now numbering over 10,000 — know exactly how well, or not, their companies are performing as viewed by customers and/or employees.
For additional details on the Qualtrics X4 2020 user summit, which takes place March 10-13, visit qualtrics.com/x4summit.