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Check back here often for the latest news on our new product releases, awards, recognitions, and other exciting achievements.

Press & Awards

Check back here often for the latest news on our new product releases, awards, recognitions, and other exciting achievements.

Home Automation Unplugged Episode #245: An Industry Q&A with Shawnon Parkinson

Automation Unplugged #245 features Shawnon Parkinson, President of Zettacomm. Join us for an exciting show that dives deep into Zettacomm's feature article in the Wall Street Journal, local market trends in Silicon Valley, and more.

This week's episode of Automation Unplugged features our host Ron Callis interviewing Shawnon Parkinson. Recorded live on Monday, June 19th, 2023, at 12:30 pm EST.

About Shawnon Parkinson

Shawnon founded Zettacomm, his Silicon Valley based firm in 2008. He leveraged his extensive Commercial and Residential project experience to create this new & innovative integration company.

After a few years of refinement, Zettacomm made it into the National Media with a feature in the Wall Street Journal for an award-winning project. Since then, they have been recognized in many publications such as Interiors Magazine, CEPro, Residential Systems and more with their unique project portfolio. They are sought out for their minimalistic style, precision in design, and functional systems that ensure a smooth build process for all involved.

Interview Recap

  • Shawnon’s experience deploying technology into 100+ Apple Stores across the country earlier in his career
  • Getting featured in the Wall Street Journal for one of their biggest projects back in 2018
  • The local market trends in Silicon Valley

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #244 An Industry Q&A with Ryan Davis


Ron::Welcome to the automation unplugged podcast. The podcast for technology professionals featuring leading industry personalities. I'm your host, Ron Callis. Today's show features guest Shawnon Parkinson, President of Zettacomm. Shawnon founded Zettacomm, in Silicon Valley-based firm in 2008. He leveraged his extensive commercial and residential project experience to create this new and innovative integration company. After a few years of refinement, Zettacomm made it into the national media with a feature in The Wall Street Journal for an award-winning project. Since then, they've been recognized in many publications, such as Interior Magazine, CE Pro, residential systems, and more with their unique project portfolio. They are sought out for their minimalistic style, precision and design, and functional systems that ensure a smooth build process for all involved. We live stream today's interview on social media on Monday, June 19th, 2023, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. During our time together, we discussed Shannon's experience deploying technology into 100-plus Apple stores across the country earlier in his career. Getting featured in The Wall Street Journal for one of their biggest projects back in 2018, and local market trends in Silicon Valley. I really enjoyed this conversation and I hope you do as well. Let's tune into this interview with Shawnon Parkinson. Shawnon, how are you, sir?

Shawnon: : Doing pretty good. How about yourself?

Ron::You know, it's good, man. I got home. Whenever you travel, I don't know if you experienced this, but I never sleep quite as well as I do when I'm in my own bed with my own pillow. And so last night was nicely at home with my own pillows. It was pretty fantastic. I'm doing great now.

Shawnon: : Awesome.

Ron::Where are you coming from Shawnon and just for our audience? They kind of know where you guys wear your base.

Shawnon: : Well, first off, I'm just glad to be on the show finally. I've been following it for quite some time, and I'm excited to be here.

Ron::Excited that you said yes and you joined us.

Shawnon: : Yes, sir. I mean, I'm coming from San Carlos, California. And this is my home.

Ron::For those that are listening, that aren't that great at geography, maybe like myself. What part of California is that? In the South?

Shawnon: : Well, it's kind of right in the center close to the water. So it's in the northern end of Silicon Valley. There's a famous bridge that goes across the kind of center of the bay of the San Mateo bridge, there's like the Bay Bridge, and then there's the San Mateo bridge and Dunbarton.

Shawnon: : So San Carlos is just a little bit south of the San Mateo bridge.

Ron::Okay. Are you from that part of the world?

Shawnon: : I was born in Lodi. California. Wine country. Raised in the Central Valley of California. We came out here about 21 yeah. I was 21 when I moved out here. So a few years ago.

Ron::We're using this software here, Shawnon and every now and then technology will not behave, and I just had a message drop up or pop up here on my screen. And it says StreamYard has lost access to your LinkedIn account. Don't worry, we've got you covered. I'm going to click this button. I don't even know what's going to happen when I click this button. But let's go for it. I'm going to click this button.

Shawnon: : All right.

Ron::And it is asking me to log in all right. Folks, we are we always live by the edge of our seats here. And it's asking me for a password. So I'm going to attempt to do this. I have no idea if technology will, in fact, behave, but I'm going to give it the password that it is asking for. And I'll see if this does it, if not, then I'm just going to move on. Let's see here. Okay, I'm going to say yes, hello. All right. It says it's happy now. So we'll see, Shawnon. You never have technology go sideways, do you?

Shawnon: : You know, sometimes.

Ron::Every now and again. It takes a lot of patience, right?

Shawnon: : We try to engineer systems so that they don't do that, but you still got those outliers.

Ron::Tell us about the business. Just a high level. What type of pride are you doing? Resi, doing commercial, where geographically are you generally doing these projects?

Shawnon: : We primarily focus on residential at this time. What about 80 20? We do have some large commercial accounts. But we primarily focus on home automation and high-end resi.

Ron::Okay. And as I say, if you're doing a resi job, what's a typical project? And if you're doing a commercial project, what's a typical project?

Shawnon: : As in size, or?

Ron::Size, scope, kind of what stuff, what type of technologies are you putting in? I mean, are you doing $5000 jobs? Are you doing $500,000 jobs? And what are some of the common technologies in those projects?

Shawnon: : Yeah, I think you know we, you know, depends on the client, right? We try not to take on brand-new clients for less than a certain amount. But I mean, if they're already a current client and they want something done, they just want something simple. We'll go in there and take care of them. No problem. But we hit a market that is for resi, typically like 50K and above. Up to about a mill. That's what we've seen. And then , on the commercial side, it's more up to depending on how big the commercial space is. Some of those spaces can get up into the mill as well. This depends on how big we're doing. We've done some like 30,000 ft² remodels for commercial and there's a lot of stuff going on in there.

Ron::That is a lot of stuff going on there.

Shawnon: : Yeah. A lot of lighting, some shading, networking, you know, a lot of AV install, so.

Ron::On the resi side, are you comfortable? And if you aren't, don't answer this. Are you comfortable naming some of the typical products, maybe some of the brands you commonly will be putting in your projects ? What type of control brands, lighting brands, and some audio brands? Like what're some of your normal or typical product mix?

Shawnon: : I think, you know, we focus primarily on the automation side, Savant is like our leader. And then for lighting, we primarily focus on Lutron.


Shawnon: : Yeah.

Ron::And what are some of the audio brand's audio brands? All over the place. It's a little bit all over the place. I mean, we kind of standardize on certain types of amps.

Shawnon: : But as far as the sources go, we're a little agnostic. We try to be a little agnostic and not lock people into something. In this area of Silicon Valley, it kind of, you know, people want to do a little bit of their own thing. A lot of these guys wrote the code.

Ron::I did.

Shawnon: : Yeah. They've written the codes for the wireless access points, the network switches, the Sonos units, you name it, right? So a lot of these guys that I'd say a lot of the clients that we deal with, they want a little bit more of an agnostic approach. And they want a little more hands-on sometimes. Some clients don't want any hands on. And we take care of that. Some clients do want a little hands-on . And then we help them with that too. And set them up so that they can kind of toy around if they want to.

Ron::I'm going to pull a thread on that idea. You are kind of the birthplace of so many technology companies. Right there in Silicon Valley. And I would imagine a lot of the senior level executives are probably technical in nature and when you're the integration guy, the integrator, are they like all up in your stuff when you're looking at how you're designing a system or how you're programming a system? Are they commonly asking to look under the hood and ask what you are programming or configuring it in? What is that like?

Shawnon: : Yeah, we've run into that. A number of times. When they ask for the software, then they just said, yeah, I can program it. I've programmed all kinds of things. And so they want the back end. They want the software that we have, that we can't give them. And so it's a little bit it's a hard conversation to have. With a client, because although they might be technically able to do it, we're actually held to a certain standard on our end that we just can't break that line. And sometimes people, especially right now, there are a few people that we've run across that kind of want to just not put in an automation system at all. It's just lighting, just shades, it's just some audio Sonos audio, that kind of stuff. We are seeing that the systems overall are kind of morphing a little bit. As far as what's going on, what's the control? A lot of people aren't wanting to be locked into a certain platform because of licensing because of that yearly software cost. And so we are seeing that a little bit right now.

Ron::That's interesting. And I don't have the exact up-to-the-minute details. It's June 2023. Are you referring to like the Savants or I don't even know some of the other brands that now have a licensing model for their control systems?

Shawnon: : Yes. Yeah.

Ron::Okay. Are there how many out there are doing that in place? Because I don't know the answer. If you don't know the answer, that's okay. I didn't know if you were.

Shawnon: : I don't know the answer to that. I know Savant is doing that. And they are charging for certain levels of access. Remote access and that kind of stuff.

Ron::Yeah. I was familiar that they were doing that at a high level. I haven't heard how well or not that's going. That's interesting. Take us back in time, Shawnon, and help us understand where did you come from? How did you end up here running the successful integration business? What's the backstory?

Shawnon: : Well, it was all grassroots. So everything that I made over the years, just kind of put it back into the company. And that's how it's gotten to where it is now. I guess starting back, I moved to the Bay Area just going to college and helped start a soccer camp for special needs kids called E soccer. And it was like one of the three original coaches on that camp.

Ron::And how did that work? How did that special need soccer thing work?

Shawnon: : It was good. So we had three soccer professionals, which I was I didn't go pro, but I played amateur at different levels of soccer my whole life. And so I was one of those three coaches. And then we had therapists as well. So physical therapists, speech therapists, and whatnot. And what we did is we took typical children and special needs kids, and we put them together. And then we allowed the special needs kid to actually be trained by the typical child, right? And so what that did is it kind of created a camaraderie in a bond between the two kids. And that would last for a long time after soccer camp, right?

Ron::Like a peer or a friend, a mentor.

Shawnon: : Totally. Yeah. And it worked and it worked. I heard stories of some of the kids, you know, going through high school. And one of the kids getting picked on and a kid that knew him. Because of the camp stuck up for him and kind of pulled him and pulled him aside and it was really good. I heard some really cool stories of just the success of that peer-to-peer relationship. But also, we did a lot of studying on what was the best sport to do. Why do we choose soccer?


Shawnon: : And soccer was the thing that I had foot coordination comes first. I had hand coordination comes after. And so teaching children to know that they have feet, and where to put those feet, helps them become better sports players in general, right? They become better basketball players, and better baseball players later on when they actually get the eye-to-hand coordination. And so that was one of the things. And another thing is due to a lot of special needs kids, they don't actually have muscular stature in their legs. That's really a problem, but building muscle because they don't move the same typical children.

Ron::They're not running and exercise.

Shawnon: : Yeah. Exactly.

Ron::The whole kid is, yeah, I can see that.

Shawnon: : So yeah, so we decided to go with soccer because of those factors. Yeah. And it was really successful. It really helped a ton of families. Families in the Bay Area, there are a lot of families that had special needs kids, and they didn't really know what to do with them, so they just left them at home, kept them in the house, and didn't really get them out and do stuff with them. So it was really an outlet for families who just didn't feel like they had any hope. We really became a center of hope for a lot of families and kids. So it was beautiful.

Ron::Brilliant. I had no idea. I've now known you for a bit, Shawnon, and I didn't even know that story.

Ron::That's why we do these podcasts. Learn these special nuggets.

Shawnon: : Yeah.

Ron::What happened with that business? I mean, that thing, and where'd you go next?

Shawnon: : I mean, that business is still I mean, I did that volunteer for ten years. And just every weekend. And that is still going on now. Part of the reason why I had to quit was because I got another job that was kind of I was traveling a lot, and I'll get into that in a little bit. But it wasn't fair to the kids that I was gone and you know every weekend, I'd come back one weekend a month, and it just wasn't it wasn't enough. The kids need that constant contact and then inconsistency. And I wasn't there enough, so I had to just step down.

Ron::Do you want to mention this to the kids? Okay, so anybody wants to check it out?

Shawnon: : Yeah, you can look it up. I think it's now.

Ron::Well, I have my team. They're tuned in here. Karla or Kim, they'll grab that and put that in the show notes.

Shawnon: : Yeah.

Ron::And down in the comment stream as well.

Shawnon: : Awesome. So while I was going to school you know, I obviously needed to make money out here in the Bay Area to live and to house myself and whatnot. So in college, a lot of different types of projects, a lot of different jobs, worked at REI, worked at PetSmart, and did all kinds of different stuff.

Ron::I love a good REI store. I could just go into that store and get lost for half a day.

Shawnon: : Oh, man.

Ron::I'm totally happy.

Shawnon: : Yeah, I worked in a sales and a camping department. And it was really fun. I think that was one of the only ones I think I was one of the only guys there. My boss pulled me one time I got a tip of like a hundred bucks.

Ron::At the store. Yeah. Wow.

Shawnon: : This guy and his wife were in there. And he wanted a bunch of camping equipment and whatnot. And I walked him through, and this helped him buy everything. And I just was really educational about everything. And he was so grateful. He just gave me a handshake with a hundred bucks in it. And I was like, awesome. I was a college kid, right?

Ron::And that's a good couple of weeks worth of beer right there.

Shawnon: : Totally. My boss, I went back into his office and we weren't supposed to accept tips. And kind of knew that. But I said, you know what? Hypothetically, Richard, if I got a tip, or if someone were to give someone a tip, could we accept it? And if it accidentally fell in my pocket, what should I do with that? Am I supposed to give it back? How does that work? He's like, well, we're not supposed to accept tips, but how much did you get?

Ron::With me. As I get more legit.

Shawnon: : I was like, I got a hundred bucks. He was like, I didn't hear that. He's like, keep it, but don't do it anymore. I was like, all right. That's kind of funny. But yeah, so after that.

Ron::It sounds like there was a lesson there though of educating people and helping people and you see this response. You elicited in that customer. I mean, was that an openr for you?

Shawnon: : You know what? I don't think I've ever connected those dots. But it's possible. It's highly possible. I've always been an entrepreneur since I was a kid you know, whether it's starting a lawn mowing business or growing up in the central valley, right? There's just not a lot going on. I've done a paper out when I was 11 years old. So I was 18, carried me all the way through high school. I was working at the grocery store, going to school, playing soccer, and doing paper out. So I was always super high activity and always on the move, right? So yeah, I think that that has always carried with me. So doing things that were either sales or something good for somebody and somebody was able to reimburse me with a monetary means, yeah, those part of the salesman in me, I guess.

Ron::Yeah. That makes sense.

Shawnon: : Going into the story a little bit more, from just going into college working at REI, and whatnot. I needed to try to figure out some kind of a career move. And so a buddy of mine who did IT for a lot of big firms in the city. He told me he's like, hey, you want to go help my friend? Pull cable and do all this kind of stuff. And I was like, sure. It sounds fun. So I went up and met him, and he happened to be a teacher in the IBW International Brotherhood of electrical workers in San Francisco Local 6. And he was a teacher at the junior training center. And that was pretty much the start of where everything kind of came from. I worked I got accepted and I started working for an electrical company in the low voltage side, which is the sound of calm division. And I did that for a number of years. We built a Jewish community center. We did the ferry building. We did all kinds of really fun stuff in San Francisco. A lot of high-rise builds. And we also did a lot of the pre-wiring for other firms. So I did a number of years doing that. Free wiring that we were on one time was for Apple computers stores, the retail side. And so we did a number of stores all over the Bay Area. And one time when we were over in Emeryville, which is just another store that they're building, we did all the wiring there. And this guy comes up to me and he said, I didn't know who he was at all. Kind o a bigger kind of burly guy. He worked for this other company. Which I found out later, was the AV company for Apple. That is contracted. It wasn't directly for Apple. But he said, hey, is this all your work? I said, yeah, it's my work. He's like, you want a job? And said, sure, what does it pay? What are the benefits? He's like, well, this is what we're going to do. Fly around with me and build all these stores everywhere. And I say, awesome. So I was still in the union. And doing this on the side, and then I did that so much that I ended up just like quitting the union. And I did that for a number of years. Flying around, building Apple stores, all over the United States. And that was a fun time.

Ron::What was that like? What sort of technology was going in? What year would this have been approximately?

Shawnon: : A number of years, but it was like 2000 I want to say 2003 to 2008.


Shawnon: : Something like that.

Ron::Okay. Yeah. 2003. And so you were working on the Apple stores. What tech was going in the stores, what were you working with?

Shawnon: : AMX gear. AMX was the main thing that they were doing there. Any C displays, AMX gear, and I think we were doing Bose speakers at the time. And they'd put them up inside the ceilings, and they would stretch these fabrics. The George family would do they had the contract to do these crazy stretch fabrics. And the ceilings were transparent. Acoustically. And so the speakers would just be invisible. And that was the way that that's the way they did invisible speakers back then. Wow.

Ron::I didn't even think of that. When you go into an Apple store today, is that how they do it today?

Shawnon: : It is. Yeah, they still do that. You still have those stretch fabrics, and they put the speakers behind the stretch fabrics. Yeah.

Ron::Any sort of memorable Apple store stories or technology decisions you made along the way, working on all those projects?

Shawnon: : Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of stories, tons of stories. But I would say one of them was really cool. Because I lived here in Silicon Valley. I was close to corporate. And one of the things that they wanted to do is they had a secret store that they worked on. And that's what they would be building with no windows in this one area that they would literally build a store inside that was exactly a replica of what was going to be presented. To the public. And Steve would come in and Ron Johnson and Steve Jobs would come in and look at these stores and be like, this is what I want. This is not what I want. And I would say move this over and move that over, right? And so once that was finalized, then they would blueprint that and take that around the United States and develop that and build that. And one of the things that they were going for when I helped them do remodels from their different vintages or vintage A, vintage B, and jump from A to C sometimes and those construction projects were pretty extensive, right? And one of the things that when they were starting to go to from the Korean panels, do you remember those Korean panels? Are you familiar with Apple stores?

Ron::I would have been in those stores, but my memory doesn't I don't recall exactly what they look like. But I probably have been in every evolution. I imagine.

Shawnon: : Totally. Yeah. They had ones with wood floors with Cory and kind of kidney bean tables, and then they had ones with the Corian panels on the back walls where the displays were behind them. And then they had like the genius bars and the iPad bars and so that was a fun time because they you know went from the different vintages and then they got to the stainless where they're now. And one of the problems was when we put the stainless panel in, how do you get to the TVs? How do you move the TVs? How do you line them up? Because they were etched perfectly to the size of the display, and so how do you, how do you set that TV so perfectly with adjustments so that you can do it quickly and easily and one time? We got to the point where they were using peerless mounts and peerless mounts had a certain amount of sag at a certain length off the wall. And the display, any C displays were not light. So you'd lose half inch sometimes. And so you'd both distinct to the wall, you hang it, you hanging corian panel up there, and depending on the mount, depending on the amount of sag and how far that back wall was, you had to kind of calculate a lot of that into that kind of calculation. And so the.

Ron::Nightmare and this is Apple. So if it isn't, you got to go redo it, right?

Shawnon: : Well, yeah, to pull the dang thing off, and then go back there and lift the whole mount, pulls bolts out, lift them out, put it back on. And you had to have a whole team of guys to lift those core panels because, you know, takes 6 guys to move two TVs. And so it was a pain. And so one of the things I told him I said, you know, hey, just buy the top mounts on the market, get them all here, and I'll go ahead and just tell you what I think of them. And so I ended up looking at all of them and we ended up choosing a certain amount that they still use today on all of their stuff.

Ron::Do you want to give that manufacturer a shout-out ? Who was it?

Shawnon: : Chief.

Ron::Chief. Is it a particular model?

Shawnon: : The P and RUB, I believe, the crab arm.

Ron::And that was a long time ago. Some were impressed you were able to just shout that model number out.

Shawnon: : Yeah. It's still, I mean, it's still a good mount. We've used it still. It was made a long time ago, and it's a very good design.

Ron::The scissor, the double scissor, the double hinge version.

Shawnon: : It looks like a big crab arm. You know, it kind of comes out this way. Yeah, it's a real thick round kind of arm. But the really cool thing about that is the vertical adjustment. So after you install that, if you had to minutely move it up, a quarter of an inch, or even an 8th of an inch because the bezel was showing off the display when you push it up against, right? You can actually just go back and just adjust the mount to make it look right. You didn't have to pull things off.

Ron::I didn't throw adjustments on the mount so you could shift the vertical height of the TV and dial it in.

Shawnon: : That was very important.

Ron::Oh my gosh. That had to have exponentially simplified the installation in those stores.

Shawnon: : You have 100%. Yeah.

Ron::And they gave you a percentage of all those savings, right?

Shawnon: : Oh, yeah, for sure. I'm still checking.

Ron::I'm still cashing in.

Shawnon: : Yeah, right.

Ron::No, I believe that's not.

Shawnon: : That's not the case.

Ron::But that's cool. So how did that experience? Where did you go from that experience doing the Apple store stuff to ultimately starting Zettacomm?

Shawnon: : Well, I think at one point, I mean, I just got tired of traveling, right? It was really tons of travel. I kind of wanted to have a girlfriend and come back home and it was really challenging to have a girlfriend when you're on the road, you know, 30 days out of a month and take two weeks and then you're out there for 30 more days you know. Not a lot of women want to put up with that kind of lifestyle.

Ron::That's not the way you want to take home to Mom anyway. I empathize with that statement or that idea. I traveled for Lutron and Crestron for almost similar 2000 to O7. And I just found the lifestyle so hard on the road stuff. So I finally settled down even in my last job with Crestron, a job where I had to travel less. I had to drive, at least I wasn't on an airplane. And then ultimately with, you know, obviously this business, I found it in late O7. I'll go to shows, but beyond that, it's easier. And in my case, I actually got married in O3. So I ended up, you know, living through that lifestyle of travel. And that's very stressful in a relationship. And then ultimately, when I started the business, one of the big perks is I didn't have to travel anymore, and I could actually be home. And it was at that point that we actually, you know, had our child Max in 2008. So yeah, so shout out to my wife, this 2023, 2003, and this year is our 20-year anniversary.

Shawnon: : Congratulations.

Ron::Thank you. I appreciate it.

Shawnon: : That's amazing.

Ron::I don't think she listens to this podcast. So I don't think she'll actually know that I'm giving her a shout-out.

Shawnon: : Yeah, it's all good.

Ron::There you go. It's all good.

Shawnon: : Yeah.

Ron::So take me back to Zettacomm.

Shawnon: : So, you know, when I actually was out traveling, I would come back for a few weeks, you know, I was actually taking up some side work. Just because that was bored. Taken some little time off. You can only place so much golf and, you know, go out and do so much that you're just like, okay, I want to keep going. So I picked up a ton of side work. And so the company wanted me to move down to LA and they kind of had gotten to the point where I think because I was local, they kind of went a little bit more control on cost and what they can actually Bill for. And if I was down in LA, then every time that clients would actually want services, then it's plane flight, and other things that they could bill for, right? So they wanted me to move down to LA, and I just refused to move down to LA. And. So I said, you know what? That's fine. I'll just stop contracting. And I picked up a lot of side work. We just continued that side work. And one of my friends, we were talking and he's like, what are you going to do, man? You got a ton of work. He says you're not doing contracting for this other company anymore. What are you going to do? So we're sitting at his house. At the time, I think he owned four sprains, he now owns his name Jason North. He's the CEO of sumo scheduler, which is a great product. He was chatting with me and he was like, let's figure it out. What do you want to do? Do you want to start your own company or what? And I was like, yeah, I mean, that sounds like a great idea. Let's help me brainstorm that. And so he was really good with computers, really good with graphics and all that kind of stuff. And so he and I just brainstormed. And at the time, I was doing a lot of communication. And so that's where the calm came from. And we're kind of thinking of like, you know, well, in the lineage of, you know, information and the storage of information, which was bytes, right? You have Terra, exa, zeta. And so it's like, oh, I want to think on that, right? And so this was 2008 before Zetta became a name, said it wasn't really being used at all at that time. And it's like, zeta is ten to the 21st power. So it's one 6. Bytes.


Shawnon: : And which is funny now, because. I think Seagate is making zettabyte drives. And so back then, nobody was using that name. But I figured that, you know, eventually, you know, they're going to get there as far as that storage. I think at the time, terabytes were being used, right?


Shawnon: : But now Zetta is becoming more of a household name because people are talking about Zetta drives. And so now, that's kind of where the data came from.

Ron::That's fascinating. Were you thinking forward enough to get zeta dot com? That would have been fine.

Shawnon: : Yeah, no, I have a lot of URLs with Zetta and there's a lot of future that just the URLs in the future Z com. And where we're going, I own a bunch of URLs in that range. So I was forward enough thinking to purchase a lot of those.

Ron::You have Friends in Silicon Valley. So they were probably whispering in your ear. This is probably a good idea.

Shawnon: : Yeah. No. None of them were telling me that, really. It was just like a personal thing that I just wanted to do.

Ron::You figured it out.

Shawnon: : Yeah.

Ron::What is so in 2008 were you doing residential projects? Was that the type of work you were doing?

Shawnon: : So yeah, we did at the time, I was doing mostly commercial, and then I picked up some of the side work that I picked up in 2008 and was starting to get into the residential. I had a friend that was wanting to do some surveillance and I wanted to do a bunch of stuff. And he was building a house in Atherton, which massive home. French style, 10,000 ft² home. That was built out of all of the leftover marble from the Palazzo. I guess they had a project that went belly up. They purchased a bunch of marble and shipped it all in from Italy. And it was just sitting in a warehouse. And my client bought this whole warehouse on pennies and the dollar and just had it shipped out to Atherton. Places immaculate. I mean, it looks like it kind of looks like a casino in Vegas. You just go in there and you're just like, everything is just dialed, right? That's pretty much what his house looks like.

Ron::And that was your first project at Zettacomm?

Shawnon: : That was the first residential project, et cetera. Yeah.

Ron::Holy cow.

Shawnon: : Home theater control.

Ron::You started that in O8, officially, I mean, that was, I feel for you, 'cause that's right when I started my business. And, you know, at least in my case, it was humbling and nicely challenging. It forged me into what I am today as an entrepreneur, but trying to survive through that Great Recession period. What was it like for you? I would imagine out of the gate, you had very minimal overhead. So maybe it was not as hard for you as it was for some of the bigger, more established businesses. Yeah, I think it was it that presented his own challenges, I would say. A lot of the bigger firms that were in the area were shutting their doors. They were closing up liquidating a lot of their assets, and getting rid of their trucks. And I've said this before, but I kind of felt like I was running around with a broom and a dustpan, you know, just kind of sweeping up what, you know, because there's so many clients that just wanted stuff done, right?

Shawnon: : People were trying to find somebody, they'd call up and that company closed, or that company is no longer surfacing in that area because they just shut down part of the company. So. There was an influx of work, but I had to go find it. I had no marketing. I had no anything. It was all word of mouth, which is still how we do a lot of our business, right? But back then, it was really just all word of mouth. And so I got a, it was funny, actually. I went on a date with a girl that was working for a VC in the area. And she was the executive assistant. And so she told me one time, she's like, hey, you know, do you do this kind of install or can you help my boss? And I was like, sure. He's like, yeah, I need some lights done. I need some things hung. I need some glass panels, all hung, and he had like 60 glass panels that were like two by two. And I lasered them all out and dial it in and he was so impressed with my installer. He's just like, I got some other work for you if you want it. And so he just started handing me around to a lot of his companies that they were investing in because he was part of an incubator for Silicon Valley. And so that was a little bit of a start of getting into a little bit more on the commercial side. And then what was funny about that is that commercial side that I was doing kind of led into a lot of the residents outside because those people who were running those businesses had me come in and do their house and then had me come and be their friend's houses. And so that kind of led me back into a lot more residential work. One of my really fun projects that we did over the years was hilarious and so much fun. It was a company called Teleport. Teleport was a company that was started by a guy named Josh McFarland who is still a really good friend. It was a small company that was focused primarily on big data. And so they did they had a little spot in Burlingame. And I pretty much just did everything for him. Whatever he needed, I did it. But hanging Christmas lights is doing whatever crazy thing that he needed to be done. And so I was just like just working hard, doing anything. We went from that space in Burlingame and then he moved a few years later down the street and we took over a garage. It was an automotive garage. Fairly big one. It was an 11,000 ft² garage. Had two really big roll-up doors. And I did everything in there. That project made TechCrunch magazine, and they did a video of it, and you could see the video, and you could see everything in there. The walls, the windows, the glass, the lighting, the emblems, everything in there. I had my hands on it.

Ron::That's amazing.

Shawnon: : Yeah, it was really cool. One of the things that he touches on in there was really cool too, is he had an oversight, they didn't have any closets. And so they didn't know where to put a lot of the mops and papers, different things, like just everything you need to have, right, that you just need a little stock on, right? And so he went and got a container, shipping container, and just brought it into the building and just set it in the corner. And so we just had this really cool-looking shipping container. But we wanted to do something with it. So he's like, Shawn, and he's like, do you have what can we do? Do you have any buddies that can maybe spray paint this on the side? And I was like, yeah, I got a friend that can do that. And one of my buddies, apex, does a lot of graffiti art. One of the best graffiti artists in the world. So I brought him in and he did this. He spray-painted this big data right on the side of it.

Ron::He probably had like a buddy that just so happens to be the best one of the best graffiti artists in the world, like just in your back pocket, ready to go.

Shawnon: : A lot of phone numbers on that phone.

Ron::Yeah, yeah. You've clearly picked up some interesting people along the way.

Shawnon: : Yeah.

Ron::That's amazing. I noticed it on your website, so I'm actually going to share the screen now.

Shawnon: : Sure.

Ron::I noticed, let me do this. I noticed on your website under let's see, where did I find this? I think yeah, recognition that's in the menu. So if anyone that wants to go to Shawn's website, it's, ZETTA, COMM dot COM . I noticed this Wall Street Journal video. So I'm actually going to play it without audio. And can you tell us what we're seeing?

Shawnon: : Sure.

Ron::Yeah, keeping in mind many of the viewers will be listening and not necessarily watching.

Shawnon: : Well, then they're going to have to go back and watch it.

Ron::They got to go back and watch it. But I watched this video. I mean, it looks like it's gorgeous. It's amazing.

Shawnon: : Yeah, this is an architect that we work with. She built this amazing home. For her family. And it is a 10,000 ft² home. It has a lot of really cool features inside of it. A lot of automated features, this, I think, was the first home that has an aircraft hangar door built into it. Which is a feat inside of itself. The engineering side of it, how it's anchored and counter-levered . It's pretty amazing. This has like a Star Trek theme, and so the center table is like this kind of vertical angled shaft coming out of the ground that has this round glass table that is to kind of emulate Star Trek enterprise. That's hovering over a 60-foot pool that has Michelangelo, God touching man in mosaics. On the bottom. And very beautiful. Just a gorgeous home. When you walk in there, you feel a little dwarfed because it's a very big open-air space, and it's very beautiful. We have a theater in there as well. We have a 227-inch seat theater driven with a Sony projector. Pretty awesome experience in there. We did all of the acoustics, all of the audio, and the video, and even helped with this piece here in automating this so that this glass even drops.

Ron::You've never seen this before. You kind of hide.

Shawnon: : Yeah. This was a design detail that Molecule actually came up with. And then this also rises up out of the ground. And as a pop filler built into it.

Ron::This is one of the more automated, I mean, this is like a real Jetsons house. A lot of automation going on in the house.

Shawnon: : Yeah. Even the elevator is pneumatic, so you get into it and you stand in it and it either sucks the air out and pulls you up or it pushes air and it pushes you down. So it's really cool.

Ron::What year did you do this project?

Shawnon: : 2018. That she's talking about it now.

Ron::And this woman that's talking in the video. She's the owner of the house.

Shawnon: : She is, yes.

Ron::Okay. And I'm assuming that if people go and watch this video, they'll know who she is, but is she a Silicon Valley executive of some type?

Shawnon: : No, she actually owns an architecture firm.

Ron::She does.

Shawnon: : It's one of our partner architects.

Ron::Wow. This home is spectacular. I'm assuming that you got to do most of your integration solutions in the house. Audio video control lighting. You name it. It's here?

Shawnon: : Yep.

Ron::How did the home ultimately end up getting shot and covered by The Wall Street Journal, the PR side of the equation? How did that happen?

Shawnon: : Well, at the time, we were trying to get some traction and we were actually working, I think, with nor tech, nor tech actually helped out with the home because they saw that it was a really awesome space. And so they wanted to kind of donate some gear, the only things. And then I think Griffin 360 got involved. And they also saw that it was just really amazing. And so they asked they said, hey, would you like if we can get somebody else? I think it was them. If I remember, they said you would like to see if we can get somebody else. Maybe The Wall Street Journal to cover this. And yeah, that happened. They reached out and they set it up with me. And they said, hey, we would have liked to do a video shoot and interview the architect. And I was like, great. So I just passed that through and so they were able to make that happen.

Ron::That's awesome. Do you find that you end up using this project or other projects that you have photographed? Do you use this in your resume when you're ultimately trying to win or solicit new business? Does this having this exist? Is this helpful in that regard?

Shawnon: : I would imagine. It's not necessarily something that I ask people about like, hey, have you seen my website? Have you seen our recognition tab? But that's something that I don't really talk about. I think, honestly, when it comes down to choosing an integrator, you obviously want somebody who's been there and done that. You don't want somebody that you're just picking off the Internet and you have no idea what they've done in the past, right? But it does come back down to a personal approach as well. You want to feel like that person or that company that you choosing is going to have your back, you know? That they're going to be in it thick and thin and if something goes down, they're going to help me fix it. They're not just going to walk away, right? Or they're not going to be like most integration companies that we've seen, you know, they build it, and then you know they're done. They walk out, we get calls all the time. Hey, this other integration company built this a few years back, like two years ago, and I tried to call the guy and nobody answers the phone. They don't have any maintenance, no nothing, right? So we pick up a lot of projects that somebody else built. And then we have to go back in and kind of retrofit our systems.So I think that's really important for people to see that we might not be the cheapest on the block, but we got your back. We're going to help you. We're going to monitor and maintain your home and your systems for you.

Ron::Shawnon, why do you think our industry has that reputation of I guess another way to say it? Sometimes abandoning their customer, finishing the job moving on and not working diligently to sort of service that client or maintain that relationship.

Shawnon: : To be honest, it's hard to scale. It really is. It's hard to scale and build around you a team that can take care of those clients. Because as a single integrator, you know, as you're just, as I did for many years, right? You get up to a point where you need to make money every day. You need to be able to produce and bring money in. And a lot of times, the maintenance and running back to fix something isn't as profitable, right? Because it's warranty work, or it's something else where they're just not making money. And I think integrators get burnt out. They get overwhelmed. They get burnt out. Just by not building carefully and not building good enough. I ran into I have a few integrators that are really good friends of mine around the area. And what I've seen is that when integrators build their company around them, and their skill set, they're going to fail. At some point, because they're the programmer, the designer, the installer, they hire some installers to help them, but they can only do so much and then 16-hour days, which I'm very accustomed to working. Those get really tiring really fast. And people just burn out. And so I think the key to that success and I think a lot of smaller firms don't really catch on to this.And they don't really know how to scale to that next level is you have to hire other skill sets. You have to be able to take hats off, right? And you have to build that way.

Ron::Learn to delegate.

Shawnon: : Learn to delegate, but also hire people that are better than you. And hire people that can take hats off of yourself. If you're programming, then hire some programming. If you need project management, hire some project management. But you have to hire people in those skill sets that can actually help take those burdens away from you. And I think that that's one of the key aspects of our growth and when we actually started to catapult forward, it was when I started not really building around me any longer.

Ron::I think that sound advice whether you're running an integration firm or you're running probably most small or medium-sized businesses is exactly what you said, couldn't say it better. The idea is that businesses are built around the owner founder and when you learn to grow beyond that and actually, in fact, have a business that's more than the owner of the founder. You have something that's truly scalable. And then that owner and founder might not have to work 16 hours a day. And they might even be allowed to take a vacation every now and again.

Shawnon: : Yeah.

Ron::And it's even better when you're on vacation and your customers are getting better service because of the company that you built.

Shawnon: : Exactly.

Ron::I think that's when the magic happens. At a high level and I've been asking all my guests this question, Shawnon, and you know, I think we're in a wonky economy right now. I don't think stating anything other than the obvious, how are things in your market, you know, the Silicon Valley space? I know just through some other observations that, you know, your marketplace like Silicon Valley bank was a big bank that collapsed, I think, in the fall. I think that was tied to some crypto or no, that was tied to interest rates and some, I don't know, I watched different versions of why that happened. And then we all, anyone paying attention heard about some of the layoffs at Facebook and Twitter. And things like that. What are you seeing locally in terms of business and how do you know, if you were to get your magic 8 ball and look into the forward next 6 to 18 months, what are you seeing in your local economy?

Shawnon: : Well. I think you know I think this is going to be a dip for sure. But I think it's going to recover. And in this area, specifically, I think there are certain clients that are pulling back and definitely being a lot more conservative in their builds and they have a house that's framed and needed to move to the next level. And I don't know if it's they're not able to get the loans or what the deal is. But some of them are pulling back and paring back 75%. Pretty harsh. And so they're investing more in just the pre-wire and network, which we advise. And then we can just kind of pick up the project after the fact, right? But we're designing it and going to be pre-wiring it for the future. And there are other clients that are not affected at all. Because they have funding, they have everything that they need, and they're building their house and they're not going to stop. So we see, I guess it's just depending on which side of the spectrum you're on. As far as if there's any kind of holding back or full throttle.

Ron::Any particular technologies that have you jazzed or that you find yourself talking to your clients, architects, or designers, what's kind of a fun topic that you're finding yourself talking about or designing into projects these days?

Shawnon: : You know what? I think the invisible speaker is an amazing invention. I do lean toward transducer technologies. Just because they have a little bit of pure sound. And they hit more audiophile quality. But it's great. You can put them behind things. You can put them behind wallpapers, wood paneling, all kinds of really fun stuff to just make these speakers disappear. And that's kind of fun.

Ron::So to go a little deeper, which transducer type do you want to name-drop ? Give a manufacturer shout-out . What sort of brands do you like?

Shawnon: : Yeah, I think Nikita Tone is a really good brand. They have a really good speaker. We have a demoed in our showroom and it's pretty awesome to just walk into a place where you can just hear everything and see nothing, right?

Ron::I assume that gets a lot of like, where is it coming from sort of responses from people that come in and listen.

Shawnon: : Well, yeah, because it's definitely the cool part about it is because it's just got a dispersion factor of 180°. So you don't necessarily have to be in its path. Like a traditional speaker. You can literally stand next to it, 175° off, and you can still hear clear vocals. So it's really really cool technology. And I think, honestly, that's where the future of speakers is going to be going.

Ron::That's cool. Are you able to install the transducer alone or do you have to round it out with a low end?

Shawnon: : You do have to round it out with a low end because they drop down to about 60 hertz. And so you have to have something to fill that 30 to 60 range.

Ron::Do you have a go-to there, a go-to solution for the bottom end?

Shawnon: : Yeah, we're experimenting a little bit right now with the invisible side. We don't really have we have a few brands that we use. But they're not invisible. Amina makes one. I mean, it makes one that has kind of a slot. And I think Nikita is also going to be producing a sub that's very similar to that style, as far as invisible, but there's going to have to have some kind of an air path for it. And then some of the other ones that we've used in this, just like in the ceiling, just not standard ceiling subs.

Ron::You've got to move some air to get that lower frequency, right?

Shawnon: : Yeah, you do. Yeah. But it's omnidirectional, so you don't have to you don't necessarily have to.

Ron::Tucked away somewhere.

Shawnon: : Yeah, you can just tuck it in. Put it on the ceiling or in the wall. Even on the floor.

Ron::Well, believe it or not, Shawnon and we're at that hour, man. It's been an hour. We've been sitting here chit-chatting . It's always fun when it goes by in a blink.

Shawnon: : That went by pretty quick.

Ron::That did, right?

Shawnon: : Totally did.

Ron::For those that are tuned in and want to get in touch with you directly, where would you send them?

Shawnon: : They can go to the website? Is or they can email sales at That would be key. They want to get directly in touch with me. You can just it's my first name. Shawnon had

Ron::Awesome. And we'll put all of those pieces of information in the comment section here on social media and we'll also put it in the show notes. For those of you that are listening or watching, remember, if you go to, you can actually see all of our podcast episodes back from day one back in April 2017. Everything's there on the website under the podcast section.

Ron::So Shawnon, I want to thank you so much, man, for joining me here for Show 245.

Shawnon: : Thanks, man. Thanks for the invite.

Ron::Thanks for tuning in to another episode of automation unplugged. For a full transcript of this show and all previous shows, head over to our website at one firefly dot com forward slash AU. There you'll find links to all transcripts, show notes, Facebook Live recordings, and resources mentioned during the show. If you enjoyed this episode and like to hear more, follow us on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you listen to your podcast. Please follow us on social media. We are at One Firefly LLC on all platforms. Don't forget to tune in next week for another episode of automation unplugged as we dive deeper into technology trends and the fascinating people that make up the custom integration industry. Bye for now.


Shawnon Parkinson got his start in 2001 in San Francisco as an IBEW Local 6 apprentice. He soon saw that the direction he wanted to take was Audio/Video and Automation. After his apprenticeship was finished, he was hired off of a Union job by a company contracted to build AV systems for Apple retail stores around the US which turned out to be years of work and full of memorable experiences.

Shawnon Parkinson founded Zettacomm in 2008 in Silicon Valley. He started with a good balance of Commercial/Residential projects until some of his commercial clients were acquired by larger companies. This drove him further into the residential space where he was forced to be innovative to succeed.

After a few years of refinement, Zettacomm made the Wall Street Journal for an award-winning project. Since then, they have been in other publications like Interiors Magazine, CEPro, Residential Systems and more with their incredible project portfolio. They are sought out for their minimalistic style, precision in design, and functional systems that ensure a smooth build process for all involved.

Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing in the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview: