Letter from the Qualtrics Founders
November 1, 2018 // 15min read
Our mission is to help organizations leverage experience management to turn their customers into fanatics, employees into ambassadors, brands into religions, and products into obsessions.
We have always known that uncommon results require uncommon sense. That is why we have always done things a little differently. From our earliest days, we knew that if we were going to do something special we had to write our own playbook, not follow someone else’s. We bucked convention and chose to bootstrap our company for a decade without raising any outside funding. Through three distinct economic environments, Qualtrics has steadily grown and been free cash flow positive in each and every one of our 16 years. All primary capital raised remains unspent and still on the balance sheet. We intend to continue our thoughtful stewardship of capital as we go forward and to treat your investment with the same care and respect we have treated the capital that we and our private investors have contributed. We are excited to share our story and invite investors to join us in powering the experience economy.
How We Work
We are two operating co-founders. We are also brothers and the perfect marriage of complete opposites. One of us comes from a background in economics, product, and engineering. The other is built for growth, go-to-market, sales, and marketing. We are both operationally minded and creators in our own way. We push each other to reach our full potential and never settle for anything less. We are driven to build an enduring business, always think long-term, and encourage our team to do the same, even when not settling is the more difficult path.
We believe in and compete on the strength of our amazing team, which is more than 1,900 strong in 20 offices across the world. They range from eminent data scientists to brilliant engineers to award-winning customer support representatives. In addition, we have an incredible board of directors. We have deep respect for each member of our board of directors and have benefited from their guidance and governance over many years. All of us at Qualtrics – from the board of directors and C-suite to the newest intern – are immersed in our core values. We call these “TACOS:”
- All in
- Customer obsessed
- One team
We are relentless in our determination to live up to these values every single day.
What We Believe
We started Qualtrics 16 years ago in our parents’ basement in Provo, Utah. While a lot has changed since then, the core beliefs that guided us from the beginning haven’t. Those beliefs are the key to our accomplishments in the past and to our continued success in the future. They are what make Qualtrics one-of-a-kind to its customers, employees, partners, and investors.
- We believe experiences matter. We have pioneered a new category called Experience Management, or XM. The Qualtrics XM™ Platform brings together the four key technology solutions for managing overall experience on a single platform: customer experience, employee experience, brand experience, and product experience. For too long, experiences were measured in silos. Qualtrics breaks down these silos and allows organizations to manage these four core experiences in one place for the first time ever.
- We believe in X-data™. Too many companies are managed from the inside out. This is how you get blindsided. Every organization in the world—large or small, new or mature, private or public—needs to look outward to close the massive gaps between the experiences organizations think they are delivering and what is really happening. That requires a new kind of data: experience data, or X-data™. For too long, companies have relied on internal or operational data, or O-data, to try to close experience gaps. But experience gaps can only be closed using external or X-data™. Qualtrics is the single system to collect, house, and take action on all X-data™ across customers, employees, brands, and products. Not having a unified system for all X-data™ and the ability to take action across the entire organization ensures failure.
- We believe we only win if our customers win. We obsess over the success of our customers. While there are many ways to buy and sell software, two of our primary differentiators are the flexibility and scalability we offer our customers. This means our platform can be leveraged by every organization from the smallest, most immature programs to the largest, most sophisticated enterprises in a way that is unique to it and provides the greatest competitive advantage. We can make adjustments in real time to adapt to fast-paced, changing circumstances, and we can grow with an organization over time as it scales programs across departments, geographies, and functions. Markets are cruel and competition produces a shifting battlefield. Qualtrics is the solution that evolves as experience gaps do.
- We believe in iteration, innovation, and creation. To be ordinary is to be irrelevant. To be complacent is to be dead. We have developed a culture of constant innovation, meaning we continuously iterate to make good things better. We have refined the skill of designing new and better ways to achieve what has been done in the past. Most importantly, we are always creating new things. Sometimes that means we are creating new products or platforms, new go-to-market strategies, or completely new industries, like experience management. We are not afraid to tear down what we have built if that means creating something better.
- We believe there are no shortcuts. We have succeeded because we were willing to make hard choices and do the hard work. We were willing bet on the academic market when no one else would. We are willing to make the 90,000 cold calls, to code the technically “impossible” features, and to be disciplined in our spending. This will not change. It is what got us here and it is how we will get to the next level and the next one after that and the next one after that. Time is the ultimate equalizer and there are no shortcuts.
- We believe in acting for the long-term. We have always been focused on creating a company that will outlast any individual, thrive in any market condition, and help customers overcome any challenge. That is why we have always made decisions with the long-term in mind. We will continue to run the company for the gain of our long-term stockholders, not short-term speculators. We have designed a corporate voting structure that will allow us to continue to focus on the long-term vision of Qualtrics. This has served our stockholders well over the last 16 years, and we believe this will allow Qualtrics to thrive in an environment that is increasingly focused on short-term quarterly achievements rather than long-term sustainable growth. Our voting structure ensures that all stockholders, including investors in this offering, will have a voice and the ability to make that voice heard publicly. It also ensures that as founders, we will ultimately have the final say on the most critical choices along our journey to building long-term value for all of our stockholders. Investors should understand that this means we may make choices that sacrifice some short term “pop” as we continue to invest and plan for long-term sustainable growth. Consistent with our core values, we want to be fully transparent in saying that investors interested only in short-term quarterly gain and stock speculation should look elsewhere, as we are committed to powering the experience economy for the long-term.
- We believe in our responsibility as founders. Qualtrics will be a force for good. We will lead where governments lag and be vocal when others are quiet. We are determined to create positive experiences in everything we do. With strong views on diversity and inclusion, immigration, wage equality, and the universality of human rights—without regard to race, color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation—we will not be quiet but will amplify these views on behalf of our employees and organization. We know and embrace our responsibility to use business as a source for good.
- We believe research changes the world. We power many of the world’s leading academics and have seen firsthand the power of research to change the world. We are proud of the research done with Qualtrics and the impact it is having—whether that’s transforming our understanding of human productivity, revolutionizing the way people make decisions, or powering the research behind New York Times best-selling books. Research has the power to close some of the world’s biggest gaps, because many of our most pressing problems occur from a lack of understanding, and that’s a problem we can solve.
- We believe in giving back. Beginning with our days as a basement startup, we intentionally instilled a culture of giving back. Our focus has always been on defeating cancer. We are all in on eradicating the disease and know the best way to do that is to support groundbreaking cancer research. We started a campaign to crowdfund cancer research called 5 For The Fight™, inviting everyone to give $5 for the fight against cancer. We believe in a future without cancer and we believe we can all play a part in bringing that day closer.
Every day is a new experience with new opportunities and challenges. We have been working alongside our customers and employees for 16 years to create breakthrough experiences that directly impact people’s lives. Whether a customer has been with us from the beginning or just joined us, we are excited to be on this journey with every one of them. We know that the XM™ category will revolutionize the future of business, because experience is the future of business. Just like we are committed to doing everything we can to deliver the best experiences to our customers and employees, we will work hard and smart to deliver the best experience to our investors as well. We hope you will join us on this journey as we continue to apply our beliefs and implement our mission to shape the future of the experience economy.
Ryan Smith and Jared Smith
March 19, 2020