PROVO — It’s been a juggernaut year of expansion news for Utah-born customer experience innovator Qualtrics, but Thursday’s unveiling of plans to double the size of its Utah County headquarters comes with a remarkable appendix — a brand-new 40,000-square-foot day care facility that will focus on arming its young wards with early exposure to the skills of tomorrow.
And while these plans, which include adding 1,000-plus new employees, have been in place for quite a while, the timeline for the Provo projects and a host of additional domestic and international expansion efforts have been expedited thanks to a still-blossoming relationship with a German tech colossus.
Just over a year ago Qualtrics was a mere four days away from its own blockbuster initial public stock offering when something even more seismic went down — the company was acquired in an $8 billion cash deal by the titan of European software, SAP.
Since then, Qualtrics has been expanding at an extraordinary rate, with announcements of new facilities and operational outposts — along with commensurate staff additions — happening on a seemingly monthly basis.
Qualtrics co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith said the decision to join SAP’s family of technology enterprises was all about staying focused on the goals he and his team had set for the company, but being able to hit those marks much faster and at exponentially bigger proportions.
“We created a new category of technology that we intended to power the customer and employee experiences of the world,” Smith said. “We were getting ready to go public and one of those reasons we made that decision was to achieve that goal, to take Qualtrics to the world.
“And then we had the opportunity to work with SAP, with the vision that, with them, we could go much faster and much broader. If you look at where we are now, these are definitely expansions that would have been difficult on our own if we’d entered the public markets.”
Now, in what appears to be a sort of culmination of 2019 growth, Qualtrics is set to more than double the space at its longtime Provo offices to 355,000 square feet in a project that will also include two new parking structures and a three-story outdoor terrace equipped with conference areas, meeting spaces, and views of the 6-acre gardens. Cloud Village, the company’s new on-site child care facility, will accommodate 250 kids and feature “a tech-infused curriculum offering age-appropriate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.”
Smith said Qualtrics is relocating some 200 new employees a year to Utah and one of the first questions the company typically gets from the newbies is, “How are the schools and what is the environment for families?” That employee feedback, his own experiences as a father of four, and a built-in urge to disrupt and improve old ways of doing things led Smith inexorably toward Cloud Village.
“We own the building right across from our HQ and it has about 40,000 square feet of space,” Smith said. “We had this idea of ‘What if we turned it into the ultimate day care for working parents at Qualtrics?’ We thought that this could really change their lives and change the lives of their children if we do it right.
“We had a chance to design the space, pick the provider and design the curriculum. We were thinking, if you could build the MIT of day care, what would it look like?”
The Cloud Village facility will include three floors of learning centers for children ages 3 months to 5 years with a focus on leveraging an emerging technology curriculum to transform the way teachers develop learning paths for each child. That technology will include age-appropriate coding camps for the 5 year olds, interactive smartboards where teachers can help children learn basic computing skills with hands-on participation, digital creation tools that unlock creative and critical thinking skills, virtual storytelling to teach kids about cultures from around the world, and many others.
Qualtrics has hired Ann Whittaker to head the new facility, which is on track for a 2021 opening. Whitaker founded the award-winning preschool Kids Village almost 20 years ago and, according to the company, is one of Utah’s most decorated child care professionals, with awards including best preschool, best private school and best in education overall.
“At Cloud Village we will be focused on developing both the minds and character of children attending the day care,” Whittaker said in a statement. “Our goal is for the children to look forward to coming to our facility every day to foster their love of learning and exploration. With the help of innovative technology, teachers will be able to deliver superior care and children will be able to enjoy the learning process.”
The forward-thinking day care facility dovetails with the public commitment Smith has made to furthering STEM education efforts not just in his company’s hometown, but across the state.
Last year, he joined four of his tech founder colleagues in each pledging $1 million in matching funds to support efforts to make computer science education courses available in all of the state’s K-12 public schools. The gauntlet thrown down by Smith, along with Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard, former InsideSales CEO Dave Elkington, DOMO CEO Josh James and Vivint Smart Home CEO Todd Pedersen bore its first fruit in August when the state unveiled the Utah Computer Science Master Plan. The plan outlines a path by which computer science classes can be made available to every Utah K-12 public school students by 2022.
Smith — who also launched a fundraising effort in 2017 focused on cancer research called “5 for The Fight” that has, so far, raised some $24 million — said he likes taking on daunting tasks.
“We like to do big things,” Smith said. “We’re pretty big into education and creating experience and like to take on things people think we can’t do here in Utah. The idea to privately fund getting computer science into every school by 2022 wasn’t an easy one and we had to put our money where our mouths were.
“And, with the Cloud Village, we’re working on showing how there is a whole new way of how things can work in corporations. We like going for it.”
Going for it is probably an apt way to describe Qualtrics’ recent stint of what Smith calls “hypergrowth,” with accelerated expansion of both company infrastructure as well as its client list.
This past year has seen Qualtrics announcing a series of new offices and expansions around the world. In September, the company unveiled the Qualtrics Tower co-headquarters project in Seattle which spans 275,000 square feet and will become the eventual home for more than 2,000 employees. In October, Qualtrics announced a new office building in Dublin where the company will create 350 additional jobs, doubling the number of employees in that region to more than 700. And in November, the company announced a new 25,000-square-foot office in Chicago that will house 200 employees along the city’s riverfront.
The company currently has 25 offices around the world with over 3,000 employees and plans to grow to more than 8,000 employees by 2023. Qualtrics serves more than 11,000 organizations in over 100 countries.