Ryan Smith is an American entrepreneur known as the CEO and co-founder of Qualtrics, one of the leading platforms that helps gather and analyze data from customers and employees to use for market research. He is also a philanthropist – co-founder and board member of 5 for the Fight. He also made it to the list as America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40 in 2016.

By Balthazar Malevolent


Ryan Smith was born in the summer of 1977 in Eugene, Oregon. One of the five children of academic and entrepreneurial parents– his mother, who has a Ph. D. in information systems later started a paper-craft company and sold it to a private equity firm. While his father, Scott Smith who would later become a co-founder of Qualtrics, has a Ph. D. on Marketing.

One of the early experiences that Ryan Smith had was when he moved to South Korea at the age of 17. He was promised a full-time job as an English teacher and that he would be provided a house to live in, however, it wasn’t an easy job for foreign teachers. Ryan Smith decided to distribute flyers in thousands of apartments in South Korea and provide private English teaching services that led him to earn about $84,000 per year.

Ryan Smith enrolled at Brigham Young University to study an undergraduate degree in business. While doing an internship in 2001 at Hewlett-Packard, Scott Smith was diagnosed with throat cancer, and Ryan returned home to be with his father for the treatments. During this, his father who was a longtime professor of marketing at Brigham Young University, had a concept to make it easier and faster to do market research on the web through a software that conducts surveys.

With the growth of Qualtrics, Ryan Smith decided to drop out of college during his junior year and focus on the business instead. He would eventually, finish up his degree in Management at Brigham Young University in 2016.


In 2002, Ryan Smith started Qualtrics with his BYU friend, Stuart Orgill, his father, Scott Smith and persuaded his oldest brother, Jared Smith to help with the technical side of things and code for Qualtrics. The basement of their Provo, Utah home became Qualtrics’ office for the next couple of years.

During the early days of Qualtrics, it was consistently being turned down by corporations and started to target schools that could use the software to conduct academic research and continued to grow as business school students recommend Qualtrics to companies.

The company moved to their first office in Provo, Utah in 2006 and reached it’s first $1.3 million with only 15 employees. And by 2007, Qualtrics extended its function not just to the academe but also to businesses. As the business expands its audience, more capitalists showed interest to invest in the business. For years, Qualtrics has been adamant to venture capitalists and even turned down an offer of $500 million. Finally, in 2012, after years of being adamant resolute to venture capitalists, Qualtrics accepted an equity capital from Accel Partners and Sequoia of $70 million and by the end of 2012the year, they already generated at least $50 million in revenue.

By 2013, Ryan Smith was became part included on the list off America’s Most Promising CEOs Under 35 as while Qualtrics continue to grow with 5,000 customers and $70 million in funding.

Qualtrics would then secure an additional $150 million in Series B funding and including Insight Venture Partners on the company’s board in 2014, with the company valued at $1 billion.

In 2016, 5 for Fight was launched by Qualtrics. It is a global campaign to gather funds for cancer research by donating $5. 5 for Fight served as the biggest contribution made by Qualtrics to society. During the same year, Ryan Smith was honored to be part of Fortune’s 40 Under 40.

SAP, a cloud company that leads the market in enterprise application software announced the news of acquiring Qualtrics for $8 billion in the last quarter of 2018. By January 2019, the acquisition was completed.

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