Park City tech company founder earns recognition from women’s business awards
Linda Klug knows she is not alone as a female leader in tech, but she often feels that way. Gathering with other female entrepreneurs and business leaders reminds her that others feel the same way, and that they are all part of a budding community.
Klug was looking forward to that reminder during the second annual Sego Awards, an awards ceremony for female founders and CEOs, which was scheduled to take place on Friday night at Sundance Mountain Resort. Klug, a Park City business owner, was one of several Utah women nominated for the awards.
Klug is the founder of Airin, a company that creates artificial intelligence technology for businesses to create personalized AI. She started the company two years ago with her co-founder Elisha Davidson. She has worked in the enterprise technology industry for more than 20 years, holding leadership positions in several companies.
She said she was honored to be nominated for the awards, and even more so when she was named as one of five finalists for the innovation in technology category. She said she was surprised because her company is young.
Klug said the gala is a good opportunity for women to get the spotlight for an evening. Plus, it is a way for female founders and CEOs to meet each other and hear about other businesses that are excelling.
“There are so many amazing women in Utah in business that I think a lot of people don’t even realize how many of us there are,” she said. “It’s just a great honor to even be recognized with women in Utah related to business. We were thrilled.”
She said all founders share common challenges, and she enjoys being able to talk about those challenges with people who understand. When the founders are women, the obstacles are even more relatable. She was glad the awards would facilitate a way for her to connect to other women.
She said calling attention to female business leaders is also important because it provides role models for young women to look up to. Role models are especially needed in the technology industry, Klug said.
Trent Mano, co-founder of the Sego Awards, said he began the awards last year as a way to showcase women leaders to their peers and to Utah female youth.
“We want to give people a place to look to to see what role models look like and inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurs,” he said.
He launched the Sego Awards with three other co-founders. He said he came up with the idea for a women-specific award show when he realized Utah women were building successful companies yet did not seem to be getting the same recognition as their male counterparts.
After a conversation in early 2018 about the issue with Amy Stellhorn, a business owner herself and eventual co-founder of Sego Awards, Mano decided it was time to launch an awards ceremony.
Over the following three months, the team hastily organized the awards and invited people to nominate women. They held the gala in May and received 200 nominations for female founders and CEOs in Utah. This year, there were 550 nominations.
The four co-founders and other business owners judged the nominations and selected two winners in eight different categories, including highest overall revenue and fastest growing under five years.
Stellhorn said she is honored to have the chance to recognize women who are working hard. She said she enjoys giving shout-outs to business owners who “do really amazing things.”
Mano is glad to see the awards ceremony growing, and he hopes is continues to expand each year. He said there are 84,000 women-led businesses in Utah, and they generate $14 billion in revenue.
“It’s not just tokenism. It’s not that they wouldn’t qualify for awards in other places. It’s that they would qualify for awards in other places, but they just aren’t being noticed,” he said.
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A study pegged the number of Sundance Film Festival attendees at 122,313, with the event generating an economic impact of $182.5 million. Both numbers represent a slight decrease from the 2018 festival.