Joining Blackbird: A 7-Year Landing

I first connected with Niki in 2010, after sending him this tweet.

On my next trip back from the US, we got coffee at Latteria in Darlinghurst.

Startmate 2011 had just wrapped up. Few people realised the power of the seeds Niki was planting at that time. If you want to see how far we’ve come in Australian tech since 2010, read the coverage of Startmate’s launch.

Eager to be involved with Startmate, I invested the very next year in the vaunted 2012 batch (which includes Upguard, Flightfox, Vero, & Happy Co).

When Niki visited SF with the Startmate teams in 2013, we had lunch, and I told him the story of Sessions.

A few short weeks later, Blackbird wrote us a check, becoming our largest investor, and the 4th company they’d ever backed.

When things occasionally got thin for Sessions, Blackbird didn’t flinch. The worst moments for me involved playing out in my mind the scenario where I would have to break the news to them that I’d lost their money.

Gladly, that moment never came.

After the MyFitnessPal acquisition, Sessions became the first Blackbird company to return money to its LPs.

In late 2015, Niki asked me if I knew anyone who could help the Startmate’s 2016 teams with their time in the US. After unsuccessfully trying to recruit a few others to the role, I realised that I actually wanted to do it.

When the teams landed in the US, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed helping them.

I’d wake up at 3am, with sudden thoughts of how a team should change their pitch, or who they needed to meet the next day. Very organically, that Startmate coaching role engulfed me.

There is nothing like the early days of founding a company. The odds are so stacked against you. There are so many ways to get it all wrong. There’s so much new ground to cover. You inevitably find yourself lost and searching.

My admiration is highest for founders who, despite all that, take the jump. There is nothing in this world so powerful as a small group of people, working fanatically on their life’s work.

Spending entire days with those kinds of teams. Diving in over and over with founders who are obsessed with solving their problems.

That’s addicting.

What better way to spend your days than trying to supercharge the most ambitious Australian founders?

When we made the decision to move back to Australia, Blackbird was the only place I wanted to be.

After seven years away, I’m just starting to build my deal flow in Australia. But already, I’m blown away.

The output of our collective effort at Blackbird is investing in Australia’s most ambitious founders.

The input, the thing we can control, is trying to be helpful wherever we can.

In Blackbird’s office, our portfolio companies adorn the walls.

When you think about the founders behind those logos, it is impossible not to feel optimistic for the future.

There’s nothing I want to bet on more than the founders of our portfolio companies.

I could barely contain my pride when Under Armour became customers of Culture Amp and Bugcrowd. With every new announcement, every step forward our companies take, my pride swells.

The Blackbird team is just that: a team. Rick has been a wealth of support and education as I’ve come up to speed in the past few months.

Sam and my friendship dates to back to Startmate 2015, where I got to see first-hand her drive and intelligence as CEO and co-founder of Capacity HQ.

Joel and I both have our roots in music (he used to manage The Rubens!), and we both still make sense of the world together through that musical lens.

These are good people.

We live our mission and values.

As with our founders, we try and respond to success with re-raised ambition.

We make decisions with conviction, and without the need to wait for others to jump in.

We don’t pretend that our expertise stretches farther than it does. We’d rather find an answer for our founders by connecting them with someone in the network who we trust and who just solved the problem themselves.

We see ourselves as stewards of the Blackbird community, facilitating what Charlie Munger calls ‘a seamless web of deserved trust’:

“The highest form a civilization can reach is a seamless web of deserved trust. Not much procedure, just totally reliable people correctly trusting one another.”

We invest in the misunderstood.

We make decisions with decades, not days in mind.

We know it’s not about us. It’s about our founders. They will ultimately be why we win.

I’m proud to be joining the team.

I’m fired up.

I’m here to help.

I’m ready to go.

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