We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Zalle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
YellowBird has the power to make environmental, health, and safety services accessible to companies of all sizes and types. From mom and pop shops who just need a couple hours of work to get their safety plan in shape, to the largest corporations that need a safety manager for a year long project, we have Pros in all 50 states who can help employees get home safely to their families every night.
What should our readers know about your business?
YellowBird is a professional gig platform that quickly and easily connects vetted and certified Environmental, Health, Safety, and Risk Professionals to opportunities on-demand. YellowBird uses matching technology to connect the right people, in the right location, with the right experience for the job. My life purpose is focused on serving others and my ‘why’ is very much the feeling I get when my business helps the community. I truly have a passion for “doing well while doing good.”
Over a 25+ year tech career, which began in California in the mid-1990s, I’ve been responsible for creating, building, and launching new concepts and companies which has resulted in multiple successful exits. My career has been built through a unique balance of commercializing novel business models, operationalizing innovative technologies and platforms, rapidly scaling operations, and building market-shaping ecosystems.
The best part of being an entrepreneur is watching your idea come to life. It’s hard, REALLY hard. My experience has helped me become more level-headed about the fundamentals of business setbacks. Raising money, clearly defining success (incrementally), hiring with purpose, and learning from every punch in the gut.
My first year was very anxious as you aren’t sure what you’re really doing. There’s an idea that needs to take shape and as you fail, and you will, even if not catastrophic, what did you learn from that failure? By far the hardest part of the early-stage journey is capital raising. Even with our team, my past success, and great traction, raising money takes focus, resilience and the mantra ‘it only takes one.’
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d definitely spend a few hours on the golf course followed by a nice cold beer on the 19th hole. We’d walk around Old Town Scottsdale, maybe hop over to Fox Cigar and wrap up at a great restaurant like Steak 44 or Elements. I love being with my family so the second day would be spent by the pool at my house, in north Scottsdale, and sharing the day grilling and having a relaxing afternoon.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve been very blessed to have had great mentors throughout my life. When I was 19, I had an 80 year old neighbor who was my friend. I’d wake up early (before work) and John Hartunian would have coffee and berries waiting for me. It was a very special time. He was a retired CEO, who was an active stock trader, even in his retirement, and we’d talk about business, the markets, his tours in WWII and life. I helped him organize his stock trades in a spreadsheet (every morning) and he treated me like a son. When he passed away, it was a great loss but I think of him often as my first great mentor.
In my early tech start-up days, I took that relationship and found others to talk with. I didn’t ‘want’ anything, just to have smart people whom I could ask questions and get the straight ‘skinny.’
Today I have a fantastic Board, investors, advisors and people who I can call. My successes and failures are always with my team. With the people both internally at YellowBird and outside of my company, I’ve learned to make the moments sweeter or give me a perspective to grow from. Most of my dearest friends are also my life mentors and have been with me throughout the ups and downs.
As a person and CEO born physically different, I’ve learned that there are many ways to achieve a goal. Being part of organizations like StartUp AZ with other entrepreneurs and cohorts in Disability:IN I’ve seen that strength is built through facing challenges and ‘doubling down’ on effort to find a solution. This has particularly served me well in recruiting exceptional hiring leaders to embrace the vision and, of course, raising early-stage capital through sharing on the vision and opportunity.