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Orem • A recession may seem the worst time to start a business, but Omniture's co-founder believes it's the best.

John Pestana, quoting social-network LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, told the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum on Thursday that, when the economy's down, "partnerships are easier, hiring's easier, and the competition starts later."

Pestana, who sold his online analytics company to Adobe for $1.8 billion in 2009 and has since started two new companies, was the keynote speaker at the forum's "25 under 5" awards ceremony.

The event honored 25 Utah businesses less than five years old that have made significant strides. Forum Chairman Cary Snowden said those companies created a total of 800 jobs and $189 million in revenue last year — despite a sluggish economy.

Pestana said it is easier to find talented people during a slow time. He noted he put out an ad for a designer and had 35 résumés within a half-hour.

The key, he said, is not clinging to old business habits, especially as markets and technologies change.

"Recessions put people into categories," Pestana said. "Those who are willing to change and move fast to adapt will succeed."

The CEO of the No. 1 company on this year's "25 and under 5" list agreed.

"There are a lot of companies that are pulling back, but this is the time to go forward," said Jay Bean, who founded OrangeSoda, an American Fork-based online marketing company, in 2006.

Bean said the deeper pool of qualified employees in a slumping economy positions companies better for when commerce rebounds.

Joel Rackham, sales director for Simply Mac, No. 2 on the list, said his company studied Apple's marketing, noticed it was ignoring small markets and filled the sales void.

In other news at Thursday's forum, Matt Bowman, of Hi-Tech High, announced that Utah students will be able to take free online technology classes under a new state law.

The online-course provider has joined with Provo School District, American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork and Gateway Preparatory Academy in Cedar City in the effort.

Classes include game design, Flash animation, digital arts and introduction to entrepreneurship.

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Source: Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum