Bootstrapped Unicorn: Qualtrics Founders Walk Away With $7 Billion

This week, Qualtrics International ditched its IPO plans and agreed to an $8 billion acquisition by SAP. Qualtrics was bootstrapped for ten years before it raised venture funding. With this acquisition, the founders and other major shareholders stand to make a cool $7 billion.

Photo Credit: Web Summit/

Qualtrics’ Journey

Provo, Utah-based Qualtrics was founded in 2002 by Scott Smith and his sons Ryan and Jared Smith. The idea behind Qualtrics came to Scott when he, a professor of marketing at Brigham Young University, realized the need to accelerate market research using the Web. He decided to work with college students to build an online survey software solution.

Initially, Qualtrics focused on an offering for graduate schools. It increased the sophistication of its surveys to address the needs of discerning doctoral researchers. Qualtrics used the tools developed for schools to gradually expand to the corporate marketing world. Soon Qualtrics became a software-as-a-service company and developed an insight platform. It simplifies and accelerates the process of capturing customer, employee, and market insights, and helps clients make informed business decisions.

Qualtrics’ flagship product is its customer experience management platform called XM Platform and Research on Demand solution. The XM platform is focused on measuring and analyzing customer, employee, brand, and product experience. Its Research on Demand solution is an automated, software-led approach that allows customers to gain market intelligence by procuring a curated group of respondents and returning tangible results while conforming to best-practice design and methodology.

As of September 30, 2018, Qualtrics had over 9,000 customers, including over 75% of the Fortune 100 and 30% of the 2018 Global 2000. Its customers include businesses of all sizes, academic institutions, and government organizations. As of June 30, 2018, its net retention rate was 122%.

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