Folk Stories

Episodes about Management:

16: Friends, Family and Startups with Robert Sweeney

May 6th, 2019 (82 minutes)

Robert Sweeney is CEO of Facet, the premier platform for hiring senior contract software engineers.

Before becoming a founder, Robert was a senior software engineer himself at companies such as Netflix and Microsoft. Robert knew from an early age that he wanted to be an entrepreneur from working at his grandpa's grocery shop. Robert left Netflix with a friend to start a software development studio with an initial verbal contract from Western Digital.

In 2014, Robert founded Numetric, a SaaS based analytics startup. After working on the company for close to four years, hiring over 40 employees, and raising over $16 million in venture capital, Robert was fired from the very company that he founded.

Today, Robert is working full time on Facet and helping other engineers make the leap from full-time work to doing their own thing.

In today's episode, we talk about negotiating contracts, hiring and firing friends, and that time Robert's house almost burned down.


We had to make the decision that day… That didn't give us enough time to sign the contract. So we quit our jobs on a verbal yes.

– Robert Sweeney


  • inspiration
    • being fired from my startup - changed my perspective on startups and venture capital and also provide extra motivation
  • surprising
    • deal with anxiety
  • principal
    • complete transparency
  • anything else
    • successful entrepreneurs out there don't have anything that you don't have


  • working at grandpa's grocery store
  • early years at Microsoft and Netflix
  • first startup and quiting Netflix on a verbal agreement
  • working with western digital and communicating expectations
  • hiring and firing friends
  • that time when the house almost burned down
  • keeping a family together while doing a startup
  • Numetric, working with family, and getting fired from a company that you founded
  • facet, how it came to be and where its going

14: Focusing on the Message with John Lauer

April 8th, 2019 (44 minutes)

John Lauer is the CEO of Zipwhip, a Seattle based businesses that enables businesses to text message their customers through software and API solutions. Zipwhip is one of Seattle's fastest growing private companies and was the first business that made it possible for landlines and cellphones to communicate with each other.

Prior to Zipwhip, John was already neck deep in entrepreneurship. John started coming up with business ideas ever since he was thirteen. John started his first company, Rootlevel, at the age of 21 - Rootlevel was a web design firm based in Detroit and had included GM and Ford as their clients. John dropped out of college one semester from finishing his computer science degree because he made a commitment early on to never do something that would require a resume.

In today's episode, we talk about John's storied history and start in entrepreneurship, we talk about the makings of Zipwhip and the state of texting, and we talk about the focus and people that it takes to start a business.


If you contribute to humanity, humanity rewards you back, which gives you more ability to contribute. It sort of pancake layers on top of itself.

– John Lauer


  • how John got started with entrepreneurship
  • dropping out of college and commiting to startups
  • Zipwhip, how it got started and where it is today
  • importance of texting to businesses and consumers
  • closed vs open systems
  • predictions about communication platforms going forward
  • finding the right people to start a company with
  • staying focused and deciding what to focus on
  • ways of recharging


  • inspiration
    • week without at Zipwhip - two weeks without office food, raised $5000 to donate to Mary's place
  • surprising fact
    • walk around with smile on face but there's a great amount of simulation happening inside of what might happen at Zipwhip
  • principle
    • do the right thing
  • closing notes
    • Zipwhip will keep plugging forward and texting is adding huge value to peoples lifes, lots of new releases coming out later this year

8: Not Living on Automatic with HB Siegel

November 12th, 2018 (73 minutes)

H.B. Siegel is Prime Minister of Ideas at Amazon and also one of a very select group of people who have been at Amazon now for almost two decades. In that time, H.B. has been the Director of Media Technologies, the CTO of IMDB (an Amazon subsidiary), and helped launch the "search inside the book" feature for Kindle.

H.B. graduated with degrees in computer science and electrical engineering with a focus in computer graphics. Prior to Amazon, H.B. worked in a series of animation related companies including Wavefront, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and Pixar. At Wavefront, H.B. helped developed Maya, a premier 3D animation platform used to create animations for games and films that is still widely used today. At ILM, H.B. worked on the special effects for now iconic film series such as "Star Wars" and "Men In Black".

In today's conversation we'll talk about pranks and not living live on automatic, we'll discuss H.B's career and what he's learned, and we'll talk about investing in ideas versus people (and techniques for telling apart the good from the bad).


  • cocktail party introductions
  • star wars and industrial light and magic
  • pranks and not living life on automatic
  • the department of ideas
  • catalyst and the university of washington
  • investing in ideas and people
  • trends in film making and animation
  • early work at wavefront and developing Maya
  • experience from nearly two decades at amazon
  • peccy
  • removing inefficiencies
  • werewolves
  • unexpected productions and improv

5: Love, Math and Design with Janet Galore

October 8th, 2018 (78 minutes)

My guest today is Janet Galore, Creative Director of Amazon's Retail Experience Concept Lab. The Concept Lab is a department that looks 3-5 years ahead and explores potential retail experiences that could be possible in that time.

Janet is all about working at the intersection of emergent technologies and design and her past gigs include being an executive producer at Zombie VR Studios where they made the first VR exclusive computer game called Locus and as Speech Director of Microsoft's Advanced Strategies and Research where she worked on long term strategy for the company.

In 2015, Janet and her husband bought "The Grocery", a historic building in the Beacon Hill district of Seattle that started its life as a grocery store in 1929. They have turned the space into a creative space where they regularly host events, exhibits and performances (I first met Janet at one of these events).

Today, we talk about Janet's path into technology and design, we talk about the creative process and what it means to evaluate art and we talk about The Grocery and why staying small can be awesome.

Thanks for listening and if you want to leave feedback or nominate folks to the show, please send emails to feedback(at)


  • history and interest in mathematics
  • early work in tech
  • the life of a creative director at Amazon
  • showing your work in design
  • notes on managing creatives
  • learning from mistakes
  • evaluating art in context
  • the grocery: past, present and future
  • managing panic