SALT LAKE CITY — In a booking that tracks with the meteoric rise of its signature event over the past couple of years, Utah tech advocacy group Silicon Slopes announced Thursday morning that it had confirmed Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as the headline speaker at its annual Tech Summit next week.
Clint Betts, Silicon Slopes co-founder and executive director, said it was the perfect time for Zuckerberg, who famously launched the world’s biggest social media company while a student at Harvard University, to make an appearance at the event.
“Mark is clearly recognized as one of the great entrepreneurs of our generation and we are thrilled to have his insights shared from our stage,” Betts said in a statement. “We look forward to hearing from Mark, especially at a time when Utah’s tech scene is booming and all eyes are on the growth and success we are experiencing.”
In spite of controversies over the handling of customer data and targeted political advertising, as well as recent troubles associated with the company’s announced plans to create its own cryptocurrency called Libra, Facebook remains one of the most valuable companies in the world. At the end of trading Wednesday, Facebook’s market capitalization was over $630 billion and the company trails only Apple, Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet, and Amazon as the most valuable U.S. tech companies.
As of late last year, Facebook reportedly had almost 2.5 billion users, with some 1.6 billion who log onto the platform daily.
Zuckerberg’s public engagements, outside the company’s annual user/developer conference, are rare. Over the past year, his most notable appearances included testifying before two U.S. congressional committees last spring over data handling issues and the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and a speech at Georgetown University last October that focused on free expression.
In 2018, Silicon Slopes drew about 15,000 to its summit, which ballooned to some 24,000 at the 20019 edition. The group combined forces with the Utah Technology Council last spring, and earlier this week announced a rebranding of the council as the Silicon Slopes Commons. The new alignment combines Silicon Slopes’ mission as an education, community-building and outreach organization with the tech-focused, public policy advocacy emphasis of the former technology council.
In addition to remaining at the top of the company he founded almost 16 years ago, Zuckerberg is also the co-founder and co-CEO of the philanthropic Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The effort is working to leverage technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges, from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Zuckerberg studied computer science at Harvard University before moving to Palo Alto, California, in 2004. Facebook’s headquarters is located in nearby Menlo Park.
A Facebook representative declined a Deseret News request for comment about Zuckerberg’s impending visit.
Other featured speakers at the 2020 summit will include: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, AOL founder and Revolution CEO Steve Case, Peek CEO Ruzwana Bashir, iHeartMedia Chief Marketing Officer Gayle Troberman, DocuSign Chief Technology Officer Kirsten Wolberg, JetBlue Airways Founder David Neeleman and others.
The summit, which takes place Jan. 30 and 31 at the Salt Palace, also plays host to the annual Startup Pitch Competition, which awards the winner $250,000, and, new in 2020, Slopes Arcade, a world-class esports tournament.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated that this would be Mark Zuckerberg’s first appearance at a Utah event. The Facebook CEO delivered a talk at BYU in 2011.