My Story, Kindness, and a Bottle of Water: Another Lefty’s Life Lesson

05/13/21 by Michael Zalle, YellowBird CEO + Founder

Raising money is hard, really hard. Even with a successful track record, an experienced team, and a great model, you are guaranteed to get MANY more no’s than yes’s. I’ve gotten better at the ‘pitch’ thanks to the kindness of the Angels and VC’s who have given their honest feedback like, “Wait are you a staffing company, a temp agency or contract labor force?” Which means I had obviously failed at my gig economy platform message. One person though, who I can’t even remember their name said something that has stuck with me for over a year.

My Story, Kindness, and a Bottle of Water: Another Lefty's Life Lesson

The Comment

It wasn’t even about YellowBird as a business, the model, market size, defense-ability, growth hacks or possible exit strategy (the usual investor questions). He stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Wow, well, I guess we know how to impress you,” and laughed. He was right.

The Backstory

When I explain my YellowBird origin story, I talk about my chance encounter with an Uber Driver at 5:30 am. I try to paint a picture of this man: he was in his mid 60s, very fit, of Latin descent and popped out of the car with gusto and a huge smile. He shook my hand, which you could do back then (pre-Covid), handed me a cold bottle of water and grabbed my bags. He answers my usual ‘what got you to drive for Uber?’ question by explaining he was a couple of years retired and driving an Uber because he wanted to work and contribute. He was new to Phoenix and wanted to work occasionally. Turns out he retired as a high-ranking military officer.

Later in a diligence meeting, I was asked why I left a successful company 15 years into my last startup. I explained that the President of this company asked me to come ‘just talk.’ I took the meeting as a courtesy and within minutes I felt I needed to seriously consider working with this guy. As I exited the Dallas airport, I’d never seen him before. He pulled in a clean car, jumped right out, walked around the vehicle to greet me, he grabbed my bag and told me he brought me a cold bottle of water inside. He then asked if I was hungry or if I wanted to check-in at the hotel and rest before we met up to talk. I knew he was a gentleman who respected people, he demonstrated his respect by the personal touches to show kindness.

The Tell

So did you catch where I was stopped in my story by the investor? Yes, apparently if you pick me up with a smile, a bottle of water and grab my bag, I’ll do anything for you. But honestly, I am a sucker for kindness and old fashioned manners.

Today YellowBird has grown, raised 2 rounds of funding, and we are hiring. Still a start-up, now with a solid core team, I am less in the early stage interviews than I once was. I do take a YellowBird Coffee Walk with as many of the prospective team members as possible before an offer is presented. I find out non-resume stories, we chat and get to know each other, I tell them about who I am with hopes they feel comfortable doing the same. It’s the beginning of a journey with a new company, you should know who’s in the boat with you.

I hope we continue this as we grow. The YellowBird Coffee Walk continues to yield remarkable moments I hear about from our team members. Finding those small personal interactions, human to human is what is making YellowBird so great. I think this is true as a platform and as a company because after all we are a people company. Maybe eventually we can figure out an algorithm to do this technically, but I sure hope not.