How a Big Bet Paid Off for Adobe and Salt Lake City

In hindsight, Adobe's weird move doesn't seem so weird
A big bet paid off for both Adobe and Salt Lake City.

Every decision a company makes has a ripple effect — not only for that business, but also for an entire region or industry. Tech hubs certainly don’t happen overnight, but they usually kick into gear with the first big decision.

A decade ago, Adobe acquired Omniture, a web analytics business. It was a move that puzzled many: Business Insider called it “weird,” and The Wall Street Journal asked, “What were they thinking?

The reason for the confusion? It was too early for many to see the challenge that brands were going to face: the intersection of digital disruption with the explosion of data. But Adobe took a calculated risk, and it paid off. Adobe Analytics Cloud isn’t just surviving a battle with analytics powerhouses like Google; it’s thriving.  

How Adobe’s Bet Paid Off Internally and Externally

Google has built a strong, easy-to-use analytics tool for the masses; it’s no surprise that it’s encountered the success it has. Adobe Analytics has taken a different tack, evolving past metrics to leverage machine learning, AI, and other modern data analysis to help the enterprise sector, in particular, achieve the analytics and tracking needed.

Between 2014 and now, the number of Analytics Cloud customers has more than doubled. Fifty-eight percent of the Fortune 100 use Adobe Analytics Cloud for customer intelligence. That includes the top 10 media and entertainment brands, the top 10 retailers, nine of the top 10 financial services institutions, and nine of the top 10 high-tech companies.

When Omniture sold for $1.8 billion, it did just as much for Salt Lake City as it did for Adobe. It triggered a movement of other large companies following Adobe’s lead in creating a presence in the area; Salt Lake’s list now includes Snap, Mavenlink, Salesforce, Oracle, and Microsoft.

But more importantly, Adobe’s big bet helped Silicon Slopes become a legitimate name and issued a rallying cry for the area. One key acquisition or success story can set the stage for an entire region. Adobe took its economic strength in the area a step further, keeping all staff, building a new office in Lehi, and currently constructing a second office.

The Silicon Slopes Get Steeper

The Silicon Slopes’ tech success, of course, doesn’t begin and end with Adobe. One giant business in an area makes people take notice, but startups going public and continuing to grow in an area — that’s what creates an identity. Qualtrics, Pluralsight, and Domo have all become multibillion-dollar unicorns from Salt Lake City. Domo, in fact, was founded by Josh James, Omniture’s founder.

And while other regions may compare themselves to Silicon Valley in one way or another — or more likely, point to their contrasts — Silicon Slopes feels like an appropriate name. Companies are getting funded, and two major universities — the University of Utah and Brigham Young University — are located within an hour of the city, providing talent. The entire community, from higher education to real estate, feeds off of the shared success of these businesses. After all, every tech employee needs places to sleep, play, and eat.

The wide-ranging infrastructure of the Silicon Slopes ecosystem even enables a boomerang effect. Because there are enough high-tech opportunities to keep active minds engaged, the area empowers people to jump from company to company and find their way back to their original spot. The Slopes will never achieve the scale of the Valley, and it doesn’t need to: It has an identity, a reason for companies to want to be there.

How Adobe Will Navigate New Slopes

Ten years ago, Adobe made two key decisions: to acquire Omniture and to set up shop in Salt Lake City. Today, that team — now with the backing and support of Adobe — is still looking to innovate. By keeping the same teams and culture in place, it’s been able to shift faster and stay in tune with the changing tech landscape.

Currently, the team is working on Journey IQ, powered by Adobe Sensei, which shows brands missed opportunities. It also delves into how engagement levels have evolved over time, as well as how customers behave, both pre- and post-event for any type of action, such as a purchase. For example, a retailer can get insight into a customer who was looking at a toy on his mobile device, but ultimately decided not to purchase it.

The team is also integrating with another recent Adobe acquisition from Denver: Marketo. In an industry-first integration, Adobe Analytics’ rules-based attribution models in Analysis Workspace are combined with Bizible by Marketo. This enables modern intelligence teams to understand engagement on a deeper level, resulting in more targeted marketing initiatives.

The next time the media labels a move as weird or questions what a company may be thinking, remember that a major acquisition can ripple throughout an entire community. That $1.8 billion price tag seems small in retrospect — simply look at the business it’s created for Adobe and the presence it’s created in Salt Lake City.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.