Other publications, including Forbes, have ranked the state even higher for its business-friendly climate for start-ups.
The Nebraska researchers compared data like business growth and number of patents. Craig Bott, who heads the group Grow Utah Ventures, points out that funding sources in Utah are growing, and they're not traditional banks.
"We have many more organized 'angel groups,' private individuals who are investing their own dollars in companies of their choice. We've got some seed funds that have been established through the public sector, and through some universities, that have been making a difference."
Bott's nonprofit group holds competitions for entrepreneurs called "Concept to Company," and says they often get 150 applicants or more for a chance at mentoring and start-up capital. He says the process has helped launch 85 companies so far.
Grow Utah Ventures is seeing proposals for mobile apps, medical devices, outdoor recreation and energy companies, to name a few. Bott thinks its quality of life makes Utah attractive to new businesses, citing the higher education opportunities, leisure activities and sports.
"There's so many options now for a young entrepreneur to service a global market from just about anywhere in the country, so if you take that as part of the formula, then it's, 'Okay, where do you want to live and where do you enjoy living?' And Utah ranks high on that."
He says most would-be entrepreneurs assume money is what they need most. Bott tells them that it's more important to have a good mentor who can help the new business avoid some of the mistakes.
The top five states in the University of Nebraska survey are Massachusetts, North Dakota, California, New York and Minnesota.