Person 2 Person: Ryan Smith

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Person 2 Person: Ryan Smith (Photo courtesy Qualtrics)

(KUTV) Ryan Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Qualtrics, a tech company that started here in Utah.

It began as a "scrappy" business in a basement in Provo, Utah, But now, it's a so-called "unicorn" company.

Smith started the company with his father, then ran it for several years with a friend, Stuart Orgill.

Then, they recruited Smith's brother, Jared, out of Google.

"It wasn't that easy," Smith said. "I threw everything at him, but it was probably the hardest person I've ever had to recruit."

Surprisingly, it was his father's cancer that sparked Qualtrics.

Smith was a sophomore at Brigham Young University when his father, Scott, was diagnosed.

"I said, 'Hey look, I'm taking the semester off. I'm just going to hang out with you,'" Smith said.

While his father went through treatments, they would go into the garage and play around with technology, which his father loved to do.

"I just fell in love with it," Smith said.

But the two of them just viewed their ideas as a side project, and Smith's father told him to get a "real job."

So he moved to Denver to work at Ford Motor Company. But he would work on Qualtrics during his lunch breaks.

"I remember one lunch I closed an account," Smith recalled. "It was more money that I would have made the whole year. And I was like, 'Whoa, wait a minute. There's something here.'"

Smith would have never imagined as a kid that he would be in the tech industry.

"I was supposed to be in the NBA or play professional golf, and here I am in enterprise software," he said.

Smith says he didn't "work very hard" as a kid.

"I was always into sports and athletics. I was pretty creative," he said.

He was quick learner, but was never very interested in some subjects. But spending time with his dad during cancer treatments changed everything.

"I would have never thought that it would have been cancer for me that would have come in, and something that was so bad just literally grabbed me and thrown me to the point where I would sit in class at BYU in the business school--and I don't think I ever paid attention. I was just working on Qualtrics," he said.

And 16 years later, he still feels the same passion about the company.

And naturally, Smith is also very passionate about cancer research.

He launched the foundation 5 For the Fight, which encourages people to donate just five dollars to cancer research.

Smith had decided early on to donate to cancer research.

"With a lot of things in life, I think you've got to decide early on how you're going to be when you're in certain situations," he said.

It's no doubt that Smith has achieved success with his family by his side.

And that includes his wife, Ashley.

"She's definitely the driving force in our family," Smith said.

She runs a dance studio with 500 kids.

"I'm super proud of her for trying to do it all," he said.

Smith says his wife is the first to remind him that he's "not that cool" and his "identity isn't Qualtrics," but as a husband and father.

"It's pretty cool to have a supportive partner who's in there with me, but at the same time is reminding me that all of this stuff is important, but not that important," he said.

Web exclusives:

Ryan Smith tells the story of how 5 For the Fight came to be

Ryan Smith on how Qualtrics was able to find success

Ryan Smith is 'passionate' about Utah


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