This is Shana,
the CEO and founder of Fuel talent.
One of the things I have loved most in my 25 year recruiting career has always been the stories that people tell stories of leadership,
company ideas and team building.
My inspiration for starting the wet fuels you podcast came from being curious about people's lives and wanting to help share their stories.
What path brought them to this place?
What decisions did they make that led to failures and successes,
who influenced those decisions and what lessons were learned along the way?
I hope you enjoy the what fuels your podcast today on the Wet Fuels you podcast.
I'm here with my friend Jonathan Sposato.
He's a serial entrepreneur,
investor and CEO.
Jonathan changed paths in his early twenties and soon after became the first person in history to sell two companies to Google.
A few years ago, Jonathan made headlines by announcing he would only invest in female founded companies and took it a step further when he wrote the incredibly inspiring book Better Together. He is currently the chairman of Pick Monkey and Geek Wire. He's a husband, a father a fashion icon and a friend to so many of us were lucky to have you here today. Welcome, Jonathan.
Thank you so much showing. And I have to say that first of all, very, very warm intro. I appreciate it. But you have the most lovely podcast voice.
I d'oh! Yeah, You know, my dad has this, like, crazy radio voice. He could probably be doing that. And I think he just has to figure out how. But
thank you. Yeah, It's a different deal when you can hear your friend's voice through headphones.
So think it's soothing. Don't fall asleep. We're gonna start with rapid fire to keep you awake. Okay, Ready? Favorite podcast.
The what feels you podcast.
That's what. You haven't heard it yet? Did you Better make it get? That's right. Favorite European city Barcelona favorite designer.
Close one between Marge, Ella and Oh, there's so many. Yeah, um, you know what?
Um you look pretty cute in your mind. Clarity that I have
to say. Thank you, but but, uh, ambush.
Oh, I don't know. And Yeah, check
it out. Mary. Also sick. I I'm in the sky
lately. Favorite movie director.
Toss up between any Americo knee and Ridley Scott. Interesting to different genres.
Very interesting. Of course. You're like the cool guy. Okay, So what are you currently reading?
Oh, I'm currently unfinished in an unfinished state across several books. I'm revisiting, revisiting Evelyn Woes Brideshead Revisited because I think it's a beautiful book. Similar. But more American is the Great
Gatsby. Oh, the Great Gatsby bringing him back.
Oh, yeah, that's right. So it's kind of fun to read those in
parallel. Yeah, well, you're cool office. I feel like has some good books. And I felt you can learn a lot about somebody. And I'm not surprised that yours is a wide range. What fuels you helping others? And then
that's That's the top one I have found. It took me a while to figure that out. But But if you can genuinely help people and and people, whether it's people you know where people you don't know it all total strangers. I think that that's what fuels
me. Yeah, I'm not surprised by that answer. That's awesome. Okay, So, um, as we were walking in, I mentioned to you that you are kind of an open book. You're a person who is very comfortable being vulnerable, comfortable being open and kind of owning who you are. Were you always like that? Or is that Jonathan at age 51? Um, just really
comfortable. You know what? I've never been asked that question. Oh, I think the seeds of that person were probably there when I was young. I always felt like I didn't fit in. And quite frankly, the reason, you know, reference Evelyn Wo and and also F. Scott Fitzgerald Because we talked about those books. I've always felt like the outsider So any any any sort of fiction or story where the central protagonist is an outsider? I'm more of a Nick Carraway than a Jay Gatsby.
Interesting. And still feel that way. Absolutely. I D'oh! Oh, absolutely. You are the center. No, not at all. There
are places I go where I'm still scratching my head like
and I shot in. Yeah,
I didn't know this happened every year or on a regular basis with these people. Uh, you
know, and and I always think of you as like, you know, when you read those magazines like, who would you want at the dinner table? Like you're that person. Both. That's that's
very what that means. A lot coming from you, Sean. Because I think
of you that way. Heather. Heather is your, like, takes it up another whole level. Um, so we've talked a lot about your childhood that I know that you've been open about your childhood. Um, you were born in London to a single Chinese mother, and your dad was not in the picture. No, it was not. So you
never met him till about
18 months ago. I am just curious. Like, how did your parents meet and why did they not stay together?
So, as it turns out, back in 1967 if one person's Korean and the other person's Chinese, those two cultures now, that's
a big no. No. Well, there's lots of cultures that fit
that exactly. So So maybe this is kind of a very relatable American story, but, um, but they were not allowed to get married, and it was like this very shameful thing
that they were dating. Was it a love story? That was like, Yeah, I think so. I think
so. And I think it was There's a There's ah story. There of unrequited love and and heart break and heartache. And and so, um Ah, so So So So So I lived with my mom. A zoo, you know, she was a single mom, and I remember sometimes opening a door and there'd be a strange man, you know, with a suit on and a bouquet
of flowers and
heart her yet. And I would slam the door on him. Yeah. Say something.
I'm in. And that
a three year old shouldn't say. And so, uh, And it wasn't until you know, almost two years ago that I met him. I was, like, 49 or 50
and met him for
the first time. I am, actually, as it turns out, your number one consideration there. Two considerations. When you don't know you're one of your birth parents and you meet him for the first time as an adult. The number one consideration is am I gonna like this person or is this person going to enter my life and be a complete drag or be a bad person?
Who were you concerned about liking you?
To be honest, I wasn't it. Maybe that sounds hopefully that doesn't sound arrogant or something, but I felt like I think that risk was off the table because he had indicated in a letter to me that he'd been following me of all things on
Instagram a few years. So he's got to see Palm Spring.
He's got to see,
it all kinds of stuff in it.
And then and then I think that there was like,
This is an interesting tech geek thing.
But there was like an interesting bug in a way to Google was indexing public posts of instagram so that if you if you googled someone for a few years e one of the top search results and it didn't matter if you were getting written up in the press or something,
but what top search results would be,
whatever instagram posts you're.
So he found me that way and,
um and then So I think that was off the table.
Whether he might could see indicated that he would love to meet up with me and all of that good stuff.
So and then I think the second consideration,
at least for me.
And this is clearly a testament to the fact that I'm probably a little self absorbed here on this issue is if you've defined your whole life a certain way,
like if you believe Hey,
I'm kind of the way I am good or bad And I'm certainly.
And by the way, I've been more lucky than good in life, right? But if if you've, in fact, to find yourself against sort of this more of a Nick Carraway versus a Jay Gatsby, you're the outsider, your whole life and you're looking in and kind of observing If your whole life has been like that, then your birth father showing up back into your life and and and and having that it's almost like the universe takes a little bit of something away from you.
If that makes so that can't be your story anymore. Like I
belong somewhere now. Oh, and this guy is a totally respectable person and a pillar of community and interesting is a doctor and has had this family
like, I guess how that story
anymore know exactly, and which is totally fine. But but But then you you start to be It was actually sort of I had gotten used to. Obviously you have to whether It's a defense mechanism or a or whatever. Um ah, you get used to the fact that its life is a mystery, like I don't have like this other. I don't have like a fog birth father who's genetically related to me to go like, as I was growing up, like, Hey, I wonder if I'm gonna be tall, short for most people, they go, Oh, look, I look at my dad. He's talking,
so I think I'll probably hand. So tell me about the middle. Have them. He would carry the same.
We were very different. It did solve some mysteries. I I do. There is a physical resemblance. I'm He's tall and my mother's short. And most of the folks in her family are a shorter than I am. And he was tall, and, um, his mannerisms were different. He's much more formal than I, and but he's a really nice guy, just friendly and warm, and that was
a relief. And do you think if they had met today that they would find each other? I
think so, and I don't I want to speak to out of turn, but my mom's already asking me for like Oh, so
let's see it.
Like, are you guys texting? So, like, can you give me his number? Like, Mama? I'm gonna have to ask him.
Are they married? Either one of them?
I don't know. My mom is single, and, um and he's actually going
through a divorce, right? Oh, perfect timing. Would that be the craziest story? That's gonna be your second?
I've already Yes. People have already approached me to say, like, and we have hammers there when they meet. Ah, for the first time again, after 50 plus years.
Wait, you have to I need to keep, like, on the front
line on this. Okay, It's down. Two planes, trains and automobiles at this point is down the logistics and
text misters. Yeah, and so I know, like fast forward through the childhood part. I know that she also got married and then a dad that you consider your dad who? That's right.
So first. So he legally adopted me. So that's why I'm an Asian guy with an Italian American last name. He's and he's a great guy. Don Sposato is a great guy. Uh, I, uh, really respected that. He spent the time raising me as if I was his own. And Andi, I really respect that. I and what? I see that out in the world when I see you know, these compound families or nuclear families. The word is blended families. That's right. I I I think that's really
cool. Um, I think you're a person who stands for things you know versus just kind of lives life, and so is that you're doing on your own. Or are there things that you can look back on and say I got this for my mom or my dad or my grandparent's All the people who influenced two along the way,
Um, it's a great question. I I'm not sure exactly where it comes from, because the fact is that lately I've been thinking a lot about how, um, sometimes philanthropy amongst safe folks of our generation or younger. Oftentimes, that's instilled at an early age, and you see the prior generation doing it, and that's certainly has a huge influence. There are a lot of really wonderful people in town who are great philanthropists precisely because they date date grown
up around its value
in that yeah, it's a value.
Our home and our religion.
Exactly. I mean, I actually remember, you know, working at Microsoft back in a day early days when Bill gi Bill Gates was still CEO. That, uh, Pete the people in the in the know in the community Really, we're talking about like, someday he's gonna be the next rock this way. Well, years before the Gates Foundation, where they talked about how he's gonna outdo everyone, he's gonna outdo Rockefeller.
You know where the bellman to get Bill's
affordability? Melinda before he had even met Melinda and they were saying that precisely because they knew that he came from a family who was already activated on philanthropy. So that being said within that framework, I would say in some formal capacity. No, I did not. Aah! Get that from my parents. But, um but I will absolutely credit them with paying attention. They paid attention to others around them and they did volunteer work. They they tended to do jobs that were nurturing. My mother was a nurse. Nurse anesthetists, to be exact, always wants me to clarify
not just a nurse nurse unless it is it is different. Two more years of school. It's
different right. So that's my mom. Yeah, and and then my dad was a hospital administrator and his focus was in the mental health area. So? So I think that's that's That's probably where some
of that comes from, right? Was education value?
Absolutely. You can't escape a Chinese mom, Italian or Jewish. Same exact thing. I mean, it is a big deal. I could not go
see a Tiger Mom in that way. That way
she was not not in the traditional sort of Chinese American sense like, but it was not allowed to come home with anything that was less than an A minus. A B plus was it was very Byner
and I knew you were capable. So it's like if you're not getting an A, it's because you're not applying yourself because you're a smart guy. May be I mean, that's what I said in my kids, like if you're getting a B, it's because you didn't try hard enough. Not about you know anything
else. Yeah, I think that now that I'm a parent of a nine year old, I think to some extent ah, I'll say it this way. What? I think there's a lot of ego
involved in your little
mini me. It's your little mini me. And you're like, What do you mean you're gonna not to basketball or What do you mean? You're not great at math or whatever
it is? No, I totally get that. Well, that's was gonna kind of link to my next question as it relates to kind of parenting. Because if you didn't feel like you had the modeling early on, how do you know how to be a dad?
I think that's a great question, I for So there's an assumption there that I'm a decent parent, which I'm not, and I'm already getting that every now and then. Apparently, I am. I socked.
It seems pretty creative. I mean, I have not very. He seems creative, and he seems interested in tech and science. And
and he's hilarious, which is what I really enjoy out of the whole parent. He experienced, to be honest, it's with the funny things when he knows he's trying to be funny, and he's kind of almost designing a punch line. Yeah, he lands it, and it's like
that he now that hilarious
s Oh, so that's what I enjoy But But I think, ah, what it is is that you always want t strive for the things that you didn't have. And I think precisely because I didn't really grow up, you know, from the age of time that I was born toe the time that I was nine, which is how old he is now. I didn't have a father that that that you I I really try to lean in and spend as much time with him as possible. Ah, which, by the way, it's helpful. If you're a later like a like a no older parent, I guess Older parent in quotes. Because you do. You can just sort of have a little bit more malleability on the work career
and you look really young. So I mean the fact that you're saying 51 51 it's almost It's like, weird to me. It's weird to me. Success is 51 but your looks match more like
35. Thank you. I'm incredibly flattered.
You'd say that sunscreen sleep. So you grew up in Edmonds, you know, said that you were like the only Asian kid That can't be the case anymore. Did you go to your 25 year and 30 year of the union.
I was having such a blast by the time I was in junior high and high school. It shouldn't really be allowed, so I have no sour grapes. I wasn't I was in high school. I was not the guy that got made fun of or whatever. And I did everything possible to sort of build bridges across the clicks. I was kind of that
guy. Friends. Everyone doesn't surprise
me. Yeah, right, right, right. You know,
uh, student body
president, student body president, varsity lettered. And I think every sport that you could football and
everything you have the quintessential American high school
eso no sour grapes about that thing. The So having said that, I also understood the journey that I went on, which was that in elementary school? It was tough, man. I think that I had not grown, uh, sort of tall. I was always smaller than everyone. And being the only Asian kid back in the seventies was man, it was tough. Man got beat up. Uh,
how did you What was the transition between elementary school and middle school? Was it just timing Or did you make a decision?
It was It was It was a joy. Enormous pivot and rebranding exercise trauma.
It was coming back Your summer.
You don't you figure out pretty quickly how it all works with kids. You figure out pretty quickly. Well,
you know, insecure too. They're all insecure,
too. And it's like all of a sudden it's like, OK, so I got it. Okay, if I'm good at sports, if I'm lucky and I hit a couple of growth spurts, Um and if I'm a little bit funny or if I'm friendly and so I get popular whatever. Whatever All the multiple factors
play. Any instruments? Guitar, guitar. Did you get ahold? My husband plays the guitar and Mike Max to my son, and I better learn that. Or drums. It helps. Something pretty hot about. Exactly. Exactly. Still play. No. You could have a jam
session. No, but but you know what I am. I'm the biggest geek. Like on instagram. I followed John Mayer, and anytime he's kind of jamming and all that stuff. Yeah, I always fantasize about,
So Okay, so then you went toe Whitman for college. Did you choose Whitman? Oh, You know, it's a great school. And you're on the board.
Yeah, right. It was a great will.
Where else did you look? I don't yet
know. I looked all over. I'm blunt. I could be very frank about this. Be blank. Yeah. Yeah. There's this whole thing right now where a lot of Asian Americans are suing the Ivy Leagues because of the reverse discrimination. Reverse discrimination. Which, by the way, we can bookmark that conversation. But I'm not on board with that because I think that there strange bedfellows right now with the people that want to dismantle affirmative action. And I'm not I'm not down with that s So here's the thing that I have to say. As it turns out, if you don't get into Harvard or m i t Life is okay. Yeah. Your life.
It's not gonna suck. Turned
out great. Yeah, And so I'll be really. But I I applied to Harvard. I applied thio m i t. I applied to Stanford. I applied to Berkeley. I applied to Whitman. I applied to you, Doug and schools. I remember like it was I don't forget these things. Here's what happened. I got the What I've learned as as as a college trustee is there is that there's a there's a blunt reject the short letter. Then there's the longer form. Soft reject like you know what
It's me. It's not you. It's me. If you want to take a gap year, if you want to come back and reapply and you know you should do that. So I got that from Harvard. Got a very blunt just a short one from M I. T. I believe, Um, I was wait listed at Stanford and had I known that you can like a certain percentage could go through. But like I said, my life is not. I don't think it's different,
but there are those things where you look in the rear view mirror and you're like, How would my life be
different, right? I
mean, I want people to be out there area also, how people perceive you. That's why you walking our Jonathan Sposato Harvard. It's like grow. Yeah, right,
So exactly So again,
more Nick Care Wade and Jay Gatsby.
So So then,
then then then then Whitman.
Here's an interesting thing.
If anybody out there who's an admissions officer or who's on the board board of a college?
Not only did they admit me,
but they rolled out the red carpet.
They wanted they Yeah,
and then there were all kinds of sweet nurse.
I think there was some financial sweeteners and and some some part of it is a supply and demand thing.
I think that there were still seeing some trending away from small liberal arts schools.
So the liberal arts schools like Whitman,
the really good ones have to work really hard to attract.
Ah, great students. And so, uh, you know, and I was that four point. Oh, I mean, I think technically, it was like a three point.
You have that. That the resume? The station? Yeah. And so who were you in college? I know in high school, he said, were that guy that's like on every team. And, um, it was a nice service president. And so in college, now you come just kids from all
over. Yes, all over. Um, and I again, I kind of felt like a stranger in a strange land because a lot of the kids were way smarted and I at Whitman. They were way Maur sort of certainly way more hip.
And they had a certain self deprecating No, I mean I mean, I didn't get it. It was like there
were There were these guys that would show up in class,
and they were so cool in there.
And they looked like they hadn't showered in a week.
And then you're like wearing flannel and that,
I didn't even know what.
I didn't own a flannel shirt.
This was like when the grunge thing was still happening And then,
their genes were crappy.
all always be surrounded by all the second Layla.
So they were just just in the women and the gals were like that that they were just so hip. So here I I drop in there. I'm like, Mr Eighties Man, unlike Spandau ballet style. You know, like Duran Duran. I was that I had a hearing in my left ear. Was vary in the new wave music. And so again, stranger and some of these kids were from really smart families. Parents were doctors, lawyers, uh, and and and and or sometimes like grandparent's name was on the building.
And when you went there, What did you study in school?
I studied, um, political
science and fine art. Interesting. And did you have a sense of what you wanted to do Because you're a serial entrepreneur?
Kind of. Sort of. I don't know if this is this is out there in the world anywhere. I think it is somewhere. But I was like, 12 or 13 when I started writing games on the Apple, too. And And you have to really remember that this was back in a time when the entire quote unquote tech industry didn't really exist. Certainly not in a way that it is now. But you didn't Nobody took it seriously like a career.
Yeah, of course, there's nothing around here is
messing around and so and endure like these little game companies, like they were synergistic software and Renton and there was serious software. And I think they were in Northern California and their companies in Oregon, like Broderbund or something like that, that it was electronic arts. And anyway, I was working for synergistic in Renton as a teenager writing games and number one I was closeted about that like that certainly wasn't cool. That's like
it can't be like Mr NuWave cool, edgy fashion guy and
attack and be hanging out with guys that were playing D N d Dungeons Dragons.
So but But I was that I was I kind of took I had friends from all over.
I was retrospect,
very proud of that.
I think it was very fulfilling to have friends from different walks of life and in different interests,
And so So uh,
so I would say that the while I was tracking to be pre law and Whitman had this still does.
I think this wonderful 33 program a Columbia law school,
Colombia at the time was the top,
the number one law school in the country.
And I was tracking to that.
I had a really great academic advisor and Whitman,
who was my who is the shared the political science department who said Graham Otten was his name really interesting?
polarizing figure on campus.
And he said to me during a one on one session goes, Sean, if you don't yeah, you could be a lawyer, but it's not what you really want to do. I'm thinking. And I think that. And so that really gave me pause. My dad sort of, uh, set me up with some lawyer friends of his that I talked with and the at the time They are very fulfilling career for a lot of people.
Don't get me wrong, but I can't tell you how many people I've talked to even just on the podcast. So we're gonna go lot going to love it. Yeah, the pivot. Really
happy. Exactly. But all these lawyer friends of my dad's that I talked with a either wanted to retire or they wanted to buy a bar. And so I'm like, something's going on here where it's not really what they want to do. Yeah, and And
so So I think that expensive like, if you don't want to go that in so many years. Yeah.
And studying. Right. And my parents got divorced, right as I during my senior year. So I'm like, you know, I let me figure stuff out before I go in, Go commit myself to three more years of school in student debt. Not last up. So So, uh, I think that was the first proof point, right? They're showing it at the that I that I am chronically unemployable.
And so I started by asking you about kind of your interest in business,
because this whole next part of our conversation is gonna be like,
you have this company,
you did so many companies in a row yet Microsoft in there,
and it's unbelievable.
that whole period of time in your twenties was Ah,
I don't even know where to begin on that,
because when I started,
picnic. I mean, it's endless. And so how did you know what you were doing? Where did you learn?
I think it's amazing what you can do when you're completely naive and stupid. When no one tells you that you're not supposed to do something seriously. Like I think if you don't, I think
it's a prisoner. In his blessed
ignorance is bliss. I think when you don't have guide posts now, I've since learned that there is in fact, a limit, especially having become a
Nelson investor and an investor, and you're not going to invest in the person. That's like, uh
So So So I do think that these days I've learned some lessons the hard way that you cannot do it all.
but I I do.
I think it's a combination like all great entrepreneurs do.
And you're a great business owner,
You do have a certain amount of ambition to doom or to seize opportunities.
You actually experience foam.
if you I feel like the train is leaving and you're like,
so geek wires a great example.
Like there was this feeling that hey,
and again with eight years ago,
we started it eight years ago.
The tech industry here in Seattle was very different. But But there was this feeling, like, I bet you the community needs to come together and be codified and be given a voice and coalesce. But in a way that's different. There's a different voice. There's an edgier, more interesting way that we can celebrate geekdom and the tech industry and have it also be more inclusive. That was always be part of the plan, diversity and inclusion. Although we didn't have that formal term, it was getting having two amazing business partners like John Cook and Todd Bishop. Um, you know, in a way, we went, so
Yeah, well, I love I love all of you guys, and I feel connected to geek wire. Love you guys. So but break it down from the very beginning. So when you graduated from Whitman, did you know what you wanted to Dio? Did you know where you were going?
I knew that I I'll be blunt.
I knew that I was motivated by getting a very,
very high r a y on my efforts.
when when my parents got divorced and I decided not opted out of going to law school,
um ah decided that that I would go into as a career,
which was really again,
not something that people thought about the time in the games industry.
So I did start the games.
company with three other business partners or four of us.
And we grew very quickly to about 41 people in a couple of years time.
And we did games for a Nintendo.
the both the eight bit any s and a 16 bit,
um uh, S n E s and the Sega Genesis and the PC and Mac and all that stuff, and we had a ton of We got work really fast. And that was really actually my first startup. Yeah, and I learned about payroll and managing teams and
keeping people fed. So here's the question for you. So you've got these three other co founders? How did you was it a chicken and egg thing where you found the co founders and then came up with the idea you had the idea and then went and found the co founders or top? I want to know.
Yeah, Jax. It's hard to remember. I think there was always I think there was always a belief that there was an opportunity Thio create a Games development company that at the time when we were so kind of naive and also somewhat arrogant that we thought that the way to do it right was toe have really effective project management and to be really organized and be really upfront with with our customers like Nintendo and Sega, about how much it would cost and would be upfront with them about what our profit margins were, and because at the time it was really ah, crazy wild frontier So I think that there was always an idea to do something and then almost simultaneous that the idea? What did these conversations were happening with? The people who would then become my business partners. And so and so Ah, that time was was really I kinda joke that it was my MBA. Sure. Yeah, yeah. You're learning about how to run a business. And frankly, you're learning to soft stuff, which is, like, how to get along with business partners where
people follow you. Yeah. Yeah. So did you have clearly defined roles?
We did have clearly defined rules.
I was the creative director and managed Ah,
anybody that was not writing code.
At the time we had,
it was kind of Parson,
there was people who are like background.
It was almost like in animation movie days where people who only did background paintings and matte paintings versus the people that did the character design.
It was similar there was one person Ivan who did a lot of the business development and had two relationships with companies.
Although I did some of that too.
There was my business partner,
who managed anyone that wrote code.
He was sort of a c t o R managed engineering andan. There was Carol who? Uh, uh, headed up, sort of. Ah, the anything that was written writing the copy. Um Ah. Specs. Things like that.
If I was hiring you today and which role what I put you in because to me, from where? I said you're kind of good at everything. You're definitely front facing. You're definitely somebody I would say should be in front of customers and, um, should be the kind of voice of the company. But you've got a ton of skills. Where would you be? As far as a in the C suite? Yeah. What would your job be?
I think functionally well, other than being president, president of the Shona Swirl
in and Club. That's a job, really? That you could put you don't have a donut. Okay. You've been a good boy.
So, uh, but functionally, I'm really a product guy. Product brought a product brand and, yes, business development. Um, look, I'm probably less I can do operations, but a lot of times I feel like that it's a company. Scales you get, you know, 8500 people. I think you Ah, you're smart to bring in. All right? Really? Said, what would you offer?
You're doing? Like, if I give you a task, you're sick. Please know, I suck at this, and I don't like doing it.
That's a great question. Um, I just I think I'm not always the best person at it, which is, um, um, uh, every sort of the analysis on the financials. Uh, and you don't There are some people who are really good at, Like for when you're prepping for a board meeting. They can have some really insightful, thought provoking insights about the financials for the quarter on dhe trending differences. Very subtle nuances trending differences between retention rate and renewal rate and and or or yeah, and I find that so, frankly, very fascinating.
But I don't know, Wick l it as a story. I like it if somebody consume, arise where businesses and tell it in story form. Yeah, but not when I'm just looking at P and Alan trying to understand. I don't want to do
I love hearing about. I love consuming that information and having someone tell me like, Hey, we did an ABC test. And as it turns out, if we change pricing toe look like this versus that. Uh, you you may think you get hiring conversion at the admit funnel, but but they don't renew a year later,
like I find
that's the fascinating, but I'm not. I can't look at a, uh, an analytics dashboard and see it very quickly.
Yeah. Where was Microsoft? Microsoft is after the games company. That's what I thought. Is that where you met Heather? That waas? That's right, because I think she told me that. Yes. Um and how long were you there and what was that? Culturally,
I was there from 92 I think. The end of 92 amid to end of 92 to 2004. So I was there for 12 years and I saw it go through quite an interesting arc. And I would say that in the beginning days, the culture was amazing.
And here's the thing. People were
there when you join. It felt like in Redmond just the people that were doing product. It was the company was larger because it had product support and marketing and manufacturing on all that stuff in different offices. But in Redmond, it felt like that. It was like 1000 maybe 1200 people. You knew everyone. And certainly if you look at the number of people in product development like the people that actually wrote code that wrote specs were program managers, engineers, designers, they it was a much
smaller number. All knew each other. And we all knew how would you define the moster?
I would define it as a meritocracy.
I would define it as,
a great deal of fun.
I would say that it was rigorous.
It was intellectually challenging.
It was the best company in the best job.
I have to always bite my tongue when I hear someone from Facebook or or if you go back another 10 years,
someone from Google or something.
Someone from Amazon.
I always have to bite my tongue when you talk about Oh,
this is the company.
I think this company is great.
If we move fast,
We break things.
It's like, Yeah, The Matrix has rebooted like about four times now, and I'm sure back at Microsoft there are probably people at IBM saying Oh, you kids think you're cute, but this has happened before, but But I think any high growth, successful tech company you're going tohave that culture. I think it's successful precisely because you had a culture of moving fast, being agile, not bureaucratic, disruptive, innovative, rewarding anyone, regardless of title and level of the company for doing
great work. I love it, and the people who work there in those days seem to have a whole another level of energy around talking about it. Yeah, really feels different. I'm slightly Jaws because I left Seattle in 94 on a lot of friends went there. Some are still there, have just been there, and I don't know if I would have gone, but it seems like a really you. You would have been right there.
You would have been great there. You wouldn't they you would have loved it and they would have loved you. And now
here's the again. Today it's a little bit more political like you have to kind of learn your way around and it
got political. I would say back in around 97 is when it started to feel like, Oh, now
my back. We have to expend energy on that other stuff. And I'm I'm gonna be blind about that. And I'm sorry if people feel otherwise. They're certainly people who are there have been very successful. And I tell them, Hey, you figured it
out. Yeah, just stay there. Yeah, Just
don't don't don't don't retire and do a startup just just round the horn, man. You figured it out. You survived you There's some sort of what I can't remember what the term is in natural selection. You know, like like if you if you exhibit the traits that make you successful for 25
years. And I am curious how you find talent because you do surround yourself with really incredible people. Is there a consistent like I like this type of trade
I like Yes,
I like people who are sort of Renaissance people who are not afraid to color outside the lines and that they have other things going on in your lives besides just their functional area.
And here's why.
That's really important.
I actually think that for businesses to break out and have a competitive advantage,
you need to create a certain kind of alchemy.
You need to always ask the question.
what happens if instead of looking this as a typical consumer Internet sass,
a subscription business?
What happens if I look at it as almost like a game?
Like an experience?
What happens if I look at it if I apply some things that I'm noticing in in the arts?
what happens if I apply what I know about playing the guitar to how I designed this?
You I right?
And so I think, and that, frankly, that's a very Whitman college liberal arts Answer with. This is the very value of liberal arts, which is what happens when you stand synthesize. And you're not just computer science only, or you're not just law or you're not just anyone thing. And so so I I tend to be really attracted to. People intend to hire folks who are very ah, not just well rounded but can go can exhibit talent across different disciplines. I think it's highly interesting. You're like that, Shauna. Some of our mutual friends air like that where you find out like Wait, you're like a national level ballet dancer, right? Or and you do and you're really awesome. It this
right? Passionate people are engaged people hurt like awoke living. That's right. Really living. So, um, tell me about your other startups and how you came up with the ideas and how you raised funds and what that experience was like. Because now you're an investor. Yeah, right. So you have a lot of empathy with people going through this, presenting their ideas. Yeah. Some investors have no operating experience. No, I don't have that. I'm sure makes you better partner as an investor, I hope so. I think it
does when I do invest, but it might make me a little more. Might make me more precious and and sort of hard core. That's why I'm not. You know, I'm not someone who's invested in, like, 40 different cos it's more like 15. Right. So, um, to answer your question,
I think I think e tend
to look for favor ideas or startups where it's it's not just, um I'll say this where the where the problem you're solving is really crystal clear. And there's an elegance to both the problem's scope that the size of a problem you're not trying to boil the ocean, in other words, and I like that. Yeah, and the solution fits just right. Um and it doesn't because I think sometimes we get a little too. Entrepreneurs get a little too precious ending. And they should be very ambitious, of course. But But they sometimes we self define as, like, one order for me to tackle this problem. Maybe it's not that sexy. It's not that glamour. So I'm gonna make it into a big thing.
And so But what about your company's? Yeah, quick wit problem Re originally solving it. Was that the problem that you were solving when
you sold them, right? Yes. So fat bits was 100% about something Not that glamorous, but you could. We kind of put it, got more, more sexy spin
on it. Which is that
the name is called.
the name is cool,
It's it's it's There was this kind of in person gray area between the desktop and traditional downloadable execute herbal APS office.
And there's a gap between that stuff the desktop and the cloud on the Internet.
So So I felt like that fat butts was really filling that gap that these were these quick,
very easily created XML widgets that could live on your desktop but also communicate to the web.
And And we created this platform where people could create these little XML widgets in a really delightful way.
And it would be cute and fun and make you smile.
that was our tagline.
Did your desktop make you smile today and so are make you happy today,
um s O that filled a niche picnic was,
ah 100% about photo editing. Wow, It cost $700 at the time to buy a copy of photo shop. And man, that thing is hard to use and sits on your shelf because you don't use it on and it takes 45 minutes to just do Ah, crop and and some effect on DSO. And then the other one was that we did it did picnic in a browser. This is the first time that you could have a really rich, um, client like application that's highly interactive with photo effects in a browser. So what would a total change that instead of having a by photo shop tow edit your photos? You just open up your browser. Go dub dub dub picnic dot com and edit your photos right away instantly. And so So So. Those are examples of where you're just like it wasn't like I'm
trying to show your entire life with. We
were competing with Adobe, which which, if I had a nickel for every time someone said you cannot go into the space, you know, it's like, I'm gonna create this word processor and compete with word. Well, as it turns out, in technology, when there is a paradigm shift in platform, you can get away with that. Yeah. Now, Adobe still, obviously, they're a successful company with all kinds of different things. Different lines of revenue. Photo shop still exists and different in Stan. She ations. Although the most successful ones now look a lot like they're very web based.
Yeah. So yeah. And are you into photography? I am. Yeah. So do you feel that in order to get behind a company either as entrepreneur or the investor that you have to be into what it is are Jesse
and I'm No, no, no, not necessarily. I think you have. I would say it this way. I think you have to be a student of it, but you don't have to be great at it. Like, for example, I would invest in a on online fashion. In fact, I have that. But But even even if the founder himself or herself was not fashionable per se, But if that person was really paying attention and tryingto understand that the customer behavior that
counts yeah, it does count. And so we have so many things to talk about because you're fascinating. You might have to be on twice like Jonathan. Really? Okay, so we have the business part. But I actually want to dive deeper into kind of what drove you as an investor two years ago to only invest in female co founded are founded. And this is huge. Yeah, and your involvement in the Riveter. I mean, it's all so a lot of
I think a lot of people are now saying the same things I am saying on which is great.
There's there's a lot more ah,
female entrepreneurs who are saying,
kind of repeating the same data points that I was saying a couple of years ago,
which so the things that lead me were that?
like less than three per.
It's 2.7% of all venture capital funding is allocated to female founded startups.
There are clear differences,
and we have to acknowledge it.
Equality doesn't mean that men and women are the same.
It means that they have the same opportunity.
So So the thing that we have to acknowledge is that Harvard thing,
where if you're the same identical pitch deck,
the same business,
same startup company.
If a man is pitching it versus a woman to man a 68% more likely to get funded than a woman, right? And it has to do with Carol Gilligan in a different voice stuff. All that research that goes back 25 years about how boys and girls we buy for Kate at an early age in terms of how we communicate and somehow in society, we buy us towards a more mail. Communication as being more authoritative is being more leader, like as being more trustworthy. So that's why there are no major national level female news anchors writes. Always, you know Tom Brokaw are Buster Halter. You know, you get it. So so it's that stuff that I was trying to highlight and to also solve, for I wasn't trying to be some
Some mean things said about me since, and that's fine. I'm thick skin. It's it's fine haters gonna hate, you know, And and in fact, it's not just from men, by the way, there during your women, who also sort of question my motives. And
I have a saying, Actually, I better understand I defended you because I was like, Just because you're
I get it exactly it's not. I didn't say I was going to invest in every single female founder company. I said I would from now on myself. Of the ones that I invested, they're all gonna be female.
And you're also saying this is a problem. And also there's a direct correlation between success and having a woman either on the board or at the helm.
Yes, a lot of fat. Yeah, they're just Just adding three women to your board of directors increases your profitability by 26%
of those numbers alone. I mean, you're not doing this for from a social work perspective, you know, because you're an investor.
It I would say it's both. I think that I am getting both a what? I think long term will prove out a higher return on my investment because I think, Ah, first of all, I'm a bit of a contrarian investor anyway. And I think that's consistent with the way that I've talked about my life. That's more Nick Hera, Wait and Jay Gatsby. You do the thing that's kind of a little more unexpected or outside. So So I think that there's going to be some interesting results in a few years. I hope on
if there are 20 in the arena, your talent, you're in there as opposed to just on the sidelines, Talking about how we need to change that. We're actually doing something. Yeah, and I like it. You also your book has key takeaways of what you can d'oh even just the changing of the hours. Like sometimes I am trying to help my clients and I'll reference your book because I like I don't have all the answers. I know as a woman I love having other female executives was like a handful of us, right? Right, But you're giving key takeaways of its rays that companies can kind of help women lean in and help women continue to engage in wanting. Yeah, exactly.
And I appreciate that, Shauna, because because if I if I have one thing that I wanna so get off my chest recently is is I hate it when people speak in platitudes and everything's, you know, hunky dorey. It's it's because it's not right. Um, if I had one thing to get off my chest, it is this sense that look, I'm doing what I'm doing because I believe in it. I have. No. And if you're cynical about that, I'm sorry. You're saying move along. Nothing to see here. I'm not trying to be patronizing.
I've had I
have I've had some.
this isn't a very minor.
I'm thinking 1% or something,
but but smart,
educated white women tell me it's really patronising to see a man talk about these issues.
It just is patronizing.
There are days when when it,
it's funny how your subconscious works.
There are days when the phrase no good deed goes unpunished,
pops into my head.
And by the way,
I get it that it's optically. It looks like, Oh, if you don't read my book and if you don't know anything about my back story, it looks like it just appears like Here's a man who's maybe privileged and I've never defined myself that way as a non
white that there's an outside.
But here's a man who's privileged who somehow mansplaining to women what they can do better. That is not what I'm doing. I'm telling you, I'm talking to the men. I'm talking to the 97% of all CEOs who are male. I'm talking to 93% of all board board members in corporate America who are male to the 88% of all elected officials who are male. I'm talking to them about how they can make more room and do better.
Okay, so here's what I want to ask you. What? It's a very Oprah question. What would you tell the 22 year old Jonathan? What advice would you give? Relax. What advice would you get? Relax. Okay. It's okay. Yeah, I like that. And I also want to give you an opportunity to talk about your involvement with United Way Campaign Oh, thank you. I'm really excited that you guys are doing that and that you and Heather have stepped up in our community once again. Super grateful. Thank you. Tell us how we can help besides donate. Like,
how can we get up?
So donating is one way.
Volunteering is clearly another.
But I think the statement here is that I honestly can't find a more powerful and better platform for transforming our city than a united way of King County.
I'm gonna be really blunt If you don't trust a city to spend your money.
If you don't trust the state to spend your money if you don't agree with Ah,
a tent encampment on a sidewalk near your house or office there are so many ways that we can say no.
Here's what you can say Yes to You can say yesterday organization that gets it and that you can say yesterday organization that were 94 cents of every dollar that you give goes directly to someone in need.
You can say yes to an organization that's proven over the years.
Toe have these great programs that effectively work to divert people off the streets and in tow,
being sheltered that connects people that owe her poverty stricken.
They're young kids,
the education who helps people get jobs and remain financially stable.
I can go on and on about all of the good that the United Way of King County does. And they frankly just don't have Ah ah, lot of you know, they don't get ah, lot of press and frequent
press has now, Yeah, we've got you helping. That's right, that so what is
your goal? Yeah, Well, the goal this year is to raise, um, uh, money to support, to continue to support streets. The home program. There's the parent child home program, which is very effective. And there's also jobs connect, which is they're all very, very effective programs that are making big, big dents in a lot of the problems in our city in our backyard, and we can catch up more people and became homeless this year than last year. But the rate of growth has actually started to slow, and it's slowing precisely because these problems are working and we need to support these problems.
So, speaking of Heather, and we have to kind of wrap up, but I have a whole lot of questions around that, because she's incredible. Um, I'm just curious. I know you guys met at Microsoft, and you have Holden. What do you hope for
I hope that in 10 years when he is in college,
that issues like gender,
or the fact that women felt less Stan or that they worked in environments where they were not free of sexual harassment or gender discrimination.
I would hope that for him in 10 years,
those issues are not there.
Things of the past.
I also hope that we leave the earth,
better place that that that I I actually shed tears.
I actually welled up when I read the recent report,
we were wrong about climate change and a rate of change,
and that, in fact, things are going toe in. 10 year's gonna be warmer by one and 1/2 degrees, which is a big F thing. Deal. It's a big problem. Yeah, and and I worry a lot about that and that we're not doing enough there,
we need more Jonathan's.
I'm not doing anything near what you're doing,
and it's incredibly inspiring.
And I'm grateful.
And I'm so glad that I get to know you and that you got to spend time with.
I'm probably gonna make you come back because you about your layered like an onion,
like like in a good way.
This is very cool as a well,
a well, a sweet Yes. That's right. Very good. It was a pleasure. Thank you for listening to the wet fuels. You podcast. Be sure to subscribe. Rate and review on iTunes. Google podcasts are Spotify and follow us on social media To keep up with the latest news and episodes, you can also contact us at podcast at fuel talent dot com to provide feedback, ask questions and share topics or guests you would like us to cover in the future. We hope you feel inspired by our guests and that we have helped fuel your day.