Park City’s High Tech Connection
Ryan Summerlin April 30, 2013
Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series of profiles of key players in the fast-paced high-tech industry and their connection to Park City and Utah.
Rick Farnell says he isn’t going anywhere, as he describes living and raising his family in Park City despite his company’s Silicon Valley roots and headquarters.
"As a strategic part of our business model, we decided to invest in a bigger presence here in the emerging Silicon Slopes of Utah," he asserts. And they’re off to an enviable start. As co-Founder and president of Think Big Analytics, Farnell oversees operations and development of one of the high-tech industry’s fastest growing companies in the explosive sector known as ‘Big Data.’
Described in various publications as the "hottest trend in technology," the expression refers to company that build analytic applications to crunch massive amounts of data, then automate responses to yield the most favorable business outcomes.
"We’re capturing machine data from devices to predict when they’ll have issues and replace parts before there are problems. We’re building applications that help companies embed functionality in workers’ calendars so if they have an upcoming meeting 15 miles away from their current GPS location and the driving route they normally take has an accident, the application alerts them that they need to leave now and take an alternate route to be on time," he said.
It’s been described as "a revolution on par with the Internet or perhaps even the printing press", said Farnell who agrees that Big Data will change the way we think about business, health, politics, education, and innovation.
"Everything in our world is creating and emitting data, our homes, cars and cellphones. User-generated data is important, but for us, it’s the device data analytics and open-source technology invented in the last three years that allows for revolutionary big data applications to emerge."
Think Big Analytics works with an impressive list of clients such as Facebook, NASDAQ, Intel, eBay and many more to help them identify and develop their data application, according to Farnell.
His company is focused on helping companies in all industries that understand the power of Big Data. "We took practically no salary to get the company running," says Farnell. "We wanted to prove that we picked the right business model, with the right vision, at the right time. Fortunately we started landing pretty big clients right away, who were looking for companies like ours that are purpose built for Big Data."
"Once we established our presence over a two-year period, we reached out to a handful of angel investors knowing we already had tremendous value in the brand and our business model," he explained.
Some of the original investors read like a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ in the high tech industry: Andy Bechtolsheim, Co-founder of Sun and the very first investor in Google, worth an estimated $2.8 billion dollars; Dan Scheinman, former Cisco executive and part owner of the San Francisco Giants; and Jeramy Lund, a local angel investor based in Park City (to be profiled in an upcoming article). "When we reached out to our network they wanted to invest in us right away. It was validation that we were onto something big," he said.
Something big indeed. Forbes Magazine, predicting Big Data as a ‘$50 billion market by 2017’ recently broke down the sector’s revenue by vendor. When it came down to percentage of revenue that came solely from big data application development, Think Big Analytics came out on top of the list – in a group that includes IBM, Oracle, Dell and many more.
Growing over 200 percent year on year, Farnell’s company is only in its third year. The company employs over 50 people today in its Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Chicago and Utah locations, and they’re actively hiring talent from some of the best schools in the country like Stanford, MIT and BYU.
Farnell points to the "low stress living environment" of Park City and the benefit that Utah provides Think Big to attract talented, young professionals as two of the many reasons he chooses to live here and continue to build a global presence for the company.
"I’m on a plane for a living," he says, "typically in two major cities a week, so I get my fill of the urban vibe. There’s just something about Park City – there’s a whole other vibe in the air. You can walk through a food store and see people wide-eyed and positive whether they’re here on vacation or living here stress-free."
Farnell, his wife Alix, and their two children love the outdoors. "On our first trip to Park City in 1999, we found Jeremy Ranch," remembers Farnell. "We gave up house hunting in San Francisco and decided to move here and start a family."
He concludes, with conviction, "Technology is here to stay and is going to be a major piece of all of our lives going forward and likewise, my family is here to stay in Park City."
Peter Smaha is a writer who sold his advertising agency in Los Angeles to live and work in Park City. He can be reached at email@example.com