CNBC: Andrew Zaleski, special to—”Utah has a long history of tech innovation across software, networking and internet infrastructure, but it’s probably in the last decade when all this started to take shape.” —Nick Efstratis, managing director, Epic Ventures.

Josh James remembers it like yesterday. At a business event in Silicon Valley a decade ago, he struck up a conversation with a venture capitalist about Omniture, the web analytics company James co-founded in 1996. Today, Omniture is the quintessential start-up success story: After going public in 2006, the company was acquired by Adobe three years later for $1.8 billion. But a decade ago Omniture was just another tech company in Utah, evidently the least likely state a venture capitalist expected a public company to be.

“He said he wanted to come visit me and the team and asked, ‘Where are you guys at?’ When I answered Utah, he immediately turned around and walked away without saying another word,” James recalled.

An investor would be crazy to ignore Utah today, where the Silicon Slopes — a stretch of cities along the Rocky Mountains, from Ogden in the north to Provo in the south and Salt Lake City in between — has emerged this decade as a hotbed of tech entrepreneurship, plucky start-ups and impressive software companies worth at least $1 billion on paper.

Low taxes; cheap real estate; a pool of young engineering talent from the University of Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young; and a business-friendly environment have all converged to make Utah the top location for tech start-ups, right up there with founding teams in Boston and New York in the East or Seattle and Silicon Valley in the West.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently ranked Utah No.1 in innovation and entrepreneurship, No. 2 in high-tech performance and No. 3 in economic performance in a study of all 50 states. The state also topped CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business list this year.

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