Michael Yonker – Co-Founder of TangoTab

[quote style=”boxed”]For one day when I was a teenager, I worked at a car wash. It was my hell. It was so monotonous that I knew I should never settle and always fight for better.[/quote]

TangoTab is a great online/mobile app that turns free dining deals into food for someone in need. No purchases need to be made on the app. Basically, every time you redeem a featured deal (free appetizers, drinks, percent off, etc.), TangoTab feeds someone in need. Restaurants are able to garner more business, customers are able to get more out of their experience, and TangoTab helps alleviate the hunger problem within our own communities. One in six Americans go to bed hungry, and this amazing service is making a dent in that number. In a little over a yea,r they are nearing the 100,000 mark of people fed.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on expansion to our next market, Austin.

Where did the idea for TangoTab come from?

The idea came from the college exploits of my partner, Andre Angel, the company’s Founder/CEO. He was a student at the University of Toronto, working his way through school playing jazz piano. Like many young men, he wanted to take women out to eat but could not afford it. He noticed there were times when restaurants had empty tables, and he thought about a service to fill the most expensive table: the empty one.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up around 4:00 a.m. and start to work in my home office. My son’s cat joins me on top of my Wi-Fi access point, like a cat hot plate. I work for a few hours and go out to run on the Katy Trail. After breakfast with the family, I head to the office at 7:30 a.m. and do my correspondence from meetings the day before and quickly plan the day. The team meets around 9:00 a.m. most mornings in a quick scrum to go through progress, plans and issues, and then we work on those plans.

Most days are varied, helping the sales team talk to key clients, looking at marketing and social media opportunities, talking with partners, scoping out enhancements to our product and service to perfect the user experience, meeting with Andre and board members on strategy, planning events and campaigns with the team and just dealing with day-to-day issues. By 5:30 p.m., I head home for dinner and time with the family, and I get back online when everyone is asleep after 9:00 p.m.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We have a “parking lot” for ideas. We want everyone, including ourselves, to come up with any ideas and have a place to “park” them. Then, when we go through our weekly prioritization, we can scrub the best ideas, refine them, assign them and put them to action. Personally, I like to gauge the ideas multiple ways: what do I think of them, what would more normal humans like my mom or sister think of them (the “mom test”) and how does it fit on a user experience graph in the intersection of business goals, user goals and technology capabilities.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

How mobile has bridged the electronic world with the physical world. Mobile has a unique confluence of capabilities that is essential in hyper-local businesses like ours.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

For one day when I was a teenager, I worked at a car wash. It was my hell. It was so monotonous that I knew I should never settle and always fight for better.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Spend more time marketing more to people in every market, earlier, even before we deployed in their market.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Remember that “this too shall pass.” It’s important to have an even keel and not get too high on the successes or too low on the failures. We are always trying new things, and some will fail, but the important thing is to get the data and the lessons and refine and make a better try next time.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In a previous life, I was starting a new business in a large corporation through an internal incubator, and most of the resistance we received was from internal groups, as opposed to real competition. I fought back more than I tried to influence them to help. Even though we succeeded in building a billion-dollar business, I wasted my energy in non-positive, non-productive efforts. Later, I took the positive approach with the same people and teams and built a productive relationship instead of the barrier to progress that we had.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The Fry Guy. Small stands or tiny retail spots in malls that sell cones of french fries (like the vendors in many European towns) to people on the go. There could be different types of fries (baked or fried) and lots of international twists of flavors or sauces that could accompany the fries, depending on taste. Simple. Small overhead. Minimal, cheap ingredients. Comfort food.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Have everyone spend some time volunteering or walking in someone else’s shoes. I think it’s difficult to wag our fingers at people and tell them what they should do or not do and to learn from us. When people experience firsthand, they truly learn. In this case, I think people would be more understanding and compassionate about the situations of others and of people in need.

Tell us a secret.

The Habanero Margaritas at Komali are the shizzle.

What are your three favorite online tools or resourcesm and what do you love about them?

1.  I love the insights that Horace Dediu at Asymco provides on Apple and the mobile market. It’s a guilty nerd pleasure of mine. I use Google Analytics a lot. I’m no expert, but for something free, we can tie together analyses of our multiple digital channels so easily and keep up with it anywhere.

2.  I also love Twitter, but I still dig Facebook more personally because I work so hard and that’s where my friends and family are digitally, and I can get some snapshots during breaks in the day.

3.  I’ll get fired if I don’t mention TangoTab, because I love dining out so much, and it let’s me save money and be a philanthropist, just by dining out.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Myth of Excellence by Fred Crawford and Ryan Mathews. It’s an excellent business and marketing perspective on how the best companies excel by not trying to be excellent in everything but knowing where to focus their capital based on their brand promise to consumers.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

1.  @BorowitzReport – Because he always makes me laugh with his sharp, political humor.

2.  @Gizmodo – Because it’s got a great mix of nerd news and fun, cultural twists on technology.

3.  @Mariobatali – Because I love food, he’s fun, and he really engages with people on Twitter.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Last night, watching The Regular Show on Cartoon Network with my son, at some potty humor.

Who is your hero?

There are countless heroes I meet who work at the various food banks we support every week. In business, it’s Mark Cuban. He’s clearly someone who has succeeded as an entrepreneur and businessman. As a local sports fan, he’s transformed the fan experience of the Dallas Mavericks to world champions and winners. He gives back and vocally supports causes that are important to him, like the Fallen Patriot Fund. He’s just a really smart guy, thinks very well and analytically on his feet and is not afraid to speak his mind or what he believes to be true.

Why did you join TangoTab?

After building many profitable businesses, I saw the opportunity to join Andre and build a sustainable business that gives back to people in need in the communities that we live. This, in combination with some of my passion,s made it a slam dunk: building businesses, digital and mobile, and dining out.

If you had more personal time, what would you do?

Take my kids to school every day and take up guitar and music composition again, more seriously.


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