Park Record owner says discrimination is the main challenge to Utah’s growth
The leaders of several prominent technology companies in Utah spoke about the state’s role in the industry at the Montage Deer Valley Monday.
The panel discussion was hosted by Fortune Magazine as part of its Brainstorm Tech conference, and was centered on the growing number of startups and tech companies moving to Utah.
According to stats compiled by Fortune, over 7% of Utah’s workforce is in the tech industry, which ranks ninth nationwide. The Beehive State is 12th overall in venture capital funding, which finances startups and other early-stage, emerging companies.
One of the speakers at Monday’s event was Matthew Prince, owner of the Park Record. Prince co-founded and is the current CEO of Cloudflare, a global cloud services provider.
Despite the company having thousands of workers, he said he’s the only employee living in Utah. Prince, who grew up in Utah, said the state has a lot of room to improve.
“I think Utah has some real challenges. It’s a place that I love. But also as a place that still has the highest LGBT teen suicide rate in the country. Has an incredible challenge around some still very misogynistic practices, can be a very exclusionary place.”
He said groups like Encircle have helped create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. But Prince said the lack of affordable child care further exacerbates gender equality, as mothers are typically the parents who stop working if daycare is unavailable.
Prince said the nonprofit Silicon Slopes does great work to promote Utah’s budding tech industry, but they aren’t contributing to diversity.
“It’s a really elitist, little club,” he said. “Everyone looks the same, and everyone thinks the same. And everyone comes from the same perspective. And if you’re not in that club… you feel a little excluded from this community.”
Aaron Skonnard is the co-founder and CEO of Pluralsight, an online education company based in Draper. He said the adoption of remote work since the pandemic has boosted diversity within their firm.
“Before COVID, we were about 25% remote across the company,” Skonnard said. “Today, we’re about 70% remote. Headquartered in Utah, but we’ve improved the diversity metrics across the company in every dimension because of that. So our attraction and hiring funnel has been completely opened up, and I think it’s sort of changing the nature of the conversations we’re having.”
Also speaking was Deborah Liu, president and CEO of Ancestry, the online genealogy company based in Lehi. She said Utah should welcome outsiders in order to further grow the local tech industry.
“I just spoke to our intern class this morning, it’s something like 80% diverse. We had 20,000 people apply for 26 slots. And people spend the summer in Utah, and they think ‘I want to live here… when people come here, they see the community, what quality of life could be.”
Liu also touted the Salt Lake Valley's affordability compared to Silicon Valley, where she worked for years at Facebook.
Monday’s panel kicked off a variety of discussions set to take place at the Montage through Wednesday. Notable speakers include Al Gore, Miami Mayor and Republican presidential candidate Francis Suarez, and WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann.