Long before I joined Blue Sky, I knew of Blue Sky. I knew of it because Brisbane is essentially a big country town, and people talk, and the kind of things that I would hear people say about it were relatively…. shall we say skeptical, bordering on condescending. I think I heard the term ‘cowboys’ bandied about a fair bit.
Yesterday I met with a founder and entrepreneur, who was pitching a pretty interesting clean energy infrastructure company. She’s been chipping away for seven years through the really hard stages — research and development, then pilot plant manufacture and she’s now poised to get to the really pointy end where the Company will transition to revenue and asset management contracts. The business model is not new, its been validated many times over in more sophisticated energy markets and she was lamenting her frustration at investors who won’t believe her vision. I’ve been there, as a venture capitalist who also raised money I AM there. I get that.
Back when Blue Sky was branded a cowboy fund manager, it was early in its path. It was founded by a guy with an agriculture background, no funds management experience and it was headquartered in Brisbane — I mean who builds a business they would arrogantly claim it WILL be Australia’s largest alternative assets funds management business…..in Brisbane? It’s not surprising most doubted the vision. But the thing is slowly over time the conversation about Blue Sky morphed from being a cowboy fund manager, to being the underdog people would champion to now where it is listed and with a market cap that hovers between $500M -$600M and has institutional backing in each of its asset classes. And no doubt we will tip over at some point to be the tall poppy people want to tear down, as is Australia’s typical cultural want.
Now there are a whole bunch of factors that have contributed to that trajectory, but in my opinion THE most critical has been Blue Sky’s track record, and specifically founder Mark Sowerby’s track record in marshalling Blue Sky to deliver on what it/he said they would. Prior to listing and post listing — in fact I believe we have delivered on our guidance every half, since listing. Now that torch has passed to Rob Shand and he is doing an excellent job.
Now, I don’t paint this picture as some sort of humblebrag, there is a point. And that point is that it that the key to bringing people along on the path to a greater vision, is credibility. Credibility anchors are, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked and heavily underestimated arrows in an entrepreneurs quiver. I often see pitch decks or have conversations with entrepreneurs where the pitch is essentially ‘ the market is really big, this idea is really innovative, just trust me” without setting down credibility anchors of why an investor should trust you. The best way to demonstrate credibility is to do what you say you are going to do, but early in a startup journey without much of a track record that is more challenging. But pointing to examples of where you have delivered on what you say you will —in the business to date, in other businesses or adjacent industries — or citing examples of where and why this idea/concept has worked in other geographies or industries and plotting out, with real data, why it should and will also work here, or adding people who DO have credibility in your sector to your team as advisors or board members all help reinforce and establish credibility.
Its funny how when you do this enough times, people start to believe you. As Gandhi said:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Then, maybe they invest in you.