Ryan Smith CEO of Qualtrics and Co-Founder of 5 for the Fight speak at the press conference to announce the renewal of the Five for the Fight Qualtrics Jersey Patch through the 2022-2023 season on October 21, 2019 at Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Melissa Majchrzak | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
On Wednesday night, Ryan Smith, the new owner of the Utah Jazz, celebrated his team’s 10th straight victory, which catapulted the team into first place over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA’s Western Conference.
Then he woke up and rung the virtual bell of the Nasdaq.
Smith, 42, took his software company Qualtrics public on Thursday, spinning it out of SAP. It was a long-awaited moment for Smith, who was just about to lead Qualtrics through an IPO in late 2018, when SAP swooped in at the last moment with an $8 billion offer. Now the company is worth over $27 billion.
The deal marks a windfall for Smith. He invested $120 million in the offering, buying 6 million shares for $20 apiece, which ended up being a 33% discount to the offer price. That stake is now valued at over $273 million. Qualtrics jumped 52% to $45.50 in its first day of trading.
It’s been quite a start to 2021 for Smith. A lifelong Jazz fan, Smith found himself with the unlikely opportunity to purchase the team last year for $1.6 billion from the Miller family, which had owned the franchise for 36 years. He’d been sitting courtside for years and has been intimately involved with the team, sponsoring the uniform patch with his Five for the Fight Campaign to fund cancer research.
Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz reacts after dunking during the third quarter of the game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on March 06, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Omar Rawlings | Getty Images
The Jazz got off to a mediocre start when the season kicked off last month, but the team is now 14-4 after beating the Dallas Mavericks by 12 points on Wednesday night, even with top-scorer Donovan Mitchell sidelined. Smith was in attendance along with a smattering of fans, who have to remained socially-distanced because of Covid-19 restrictions. TV viewers saw the Qualtrics logo splashed across parts of the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City.
After the game, Smith awarded head coach Quin Snyder the game ball for coaching his 500th regular-season game.
“That’s my night job,” Smith told CNBC in an interview on Thursday, before Qualtrics began trading. He acknowledged that between basketball and business, “we’ve had a good run.”
Smith is still the chairman of Qualtrics, but handed over the CEO title to Zig Serafin, who joined the company in 2016. Smith’s family owned 40% of Qualtrics when SAP bought it, making him a billionaire. Now he’s in for a second run. (SAP still owns more than 80% of its shares after the spinout.)
Qualtrics develops cloud-based software that helps companies stay in touch with their customers, monitor how they use their products and make improvements on the fly based on data and analysis. The company has increased its customer base to about 13,000 from 9,000 two years ago. Revenue climbed over 30% in the first three-quarters of 2020 to $550 million, from $413.4 million the same period last year.
One notable customer is the NBA — and that relationship predates Smith’s ownership of the Jazz. According to Qualtrics’ prospectus, the NBA uses the technology to help design its digital tools in ways that are engaging for fans and to “gain insights into the emotions and sentiments of fans and the experience of NBA League Pass subscribers.”
Starting last year, with the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent shutdown of the league, Qualtrics worked with the NBA to turn its Orlando bubble into an enjoyable experience for viewers as well as to track players, employees and staff to ensure safety and health.
“We’re using Qualtrics a ton to help with Covid testing and tracing,” Smith said.
— CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report