Vicki Saunders looked out over a group of nearly 300 people gathered to hear her speak and she saw not only an audience but an opportunity — for everyone there.

The founder and chief executive officer of Zazengo, an online platform for tracking individuals' and groups' social action and impact, said the crowd represented a cluster or network or people ready to help. And those networks exist in various settings.

"There's a cluster all around you," she told the crowd gathered for the first-ever Women Tech Awards, presented by the Women Tech Council and MountainWest Capital Network.

"There are 300 people here. All the VCs that you'll need to meet, the talent that you need, the other entrepreneurs that you need to learn from are all here," she said. "So it's really important to realize that the network isn't somewhere else."

Another credo Saunders has followed is to constantly build networks by asking, "Who are the five people like you that you have yet to meet?"

Another tip for entrepreneurs is for them to focus on their strengths but hire others to handle areas of weakness.

"There are very few of us who are great at everything," she said. "And I think as a CEO, I get this pressure all the time ... to know everything, and it's just not who I am. I choose a shared-leadership approach."

Winners of the Women Tech Award were:

• Leadership Excellence Award: Deborah Eppstein, president and CEO of Q Therapeutics.

• Technology Innovator Award: Sanchaita Datta, co-founder, chief technology officer and vice president of engineering at Fatpipe Networks.

• Community Builder Award: Tamara Goetz, state science adviser.

• Rising Star Award: Michelle Gunter, vice president and general manager of the HP program at MarketStar.

• Professional Excellence Award: Sally Brown, patent counsel at Autoliv.


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com