/ Kōrerorero blog / 28 Feb 2021 / Katie Hickmer
01 March 2021
Blackbird is a venture capital fund based in Australia and NZ - they invest in wild hearts with the wildest of ideas, right at the beginning.
Samantha Wong is a Partner at Blackbird Ventures and is spearheading their first Kiwi fund which was established in August 2019, and invested in to via our Elevate fund in September 2020.
Blackbird's mission is to back the most ambitious founders in Aotearoa right from the beginning. While we typically deploy 1-3M+ cheques, there is no such thing as too early for Blackbird.
We invest in technology businesses that are global from the outset - able to sell all around the world from the very beginning. We have invested in software (SaaS, marketplaces, D2C e-commerce, dev tools, AI) and hardware (consumer electronics, alternative protein, space technologies, robotics, autonomous vehicles, synthetic biology, clean tech). We aren't a life sciences investor, but other than that we are open-minded to the idea that we must keep riding new waves of technology.
The full list of questions we ask ourselves before making an investment are HERE
It depends on the company. If it is literally just an idea, then you are mainly focussed on the founders and their unique ability to solve this particular problem in this particular market. On the legal side it's about making sure that the company is validly set up, the shareholders and cap table is what you expect, all IP generated by key people is or will be owned by the company.
Further along, commercial due diligence becomes more involved. We try to focus our diligence on validating that what we love about the business is true rather than going on a fishing expedition for weaknesses. Nothing is ever perfect in start-ups so you will always find something that appears a bit broken or less than ideal!
For each company it will be different but the main headings are:
Access to capital is always the biggest challenge for under-represented groups. Especially at the earliest stages where investors are investing in the founder/s. A lot of this comes down to your personal reputation within a network or community. If your network or community doesn't include a lot of people with money or managers of money, this is obviously a major disadvantage.
We have a lot of initiatives at Blackbird and our accelerator, Startmate, that are trying to address that disadvantage. You never need a warm intro to reach us. We are always out in the community and encourage you to come and speak to us. We run office hours events, the Startmate Fellowship to get more women into start-ups and are always looking for ways to level the playing field of access.
The first things I'm looking for are:
Then once I'm satisfied the company is broadly within our fund mandate, I ask myself:
I am so privileged that it is my job to spend my days meeting people who see problems in the world and want to fix them. So many people sit on the side-lines of life, seeing problems, complaining about them and doing nothing more.
Then every once in awhile you meet a founder who has identified the problem and whose life experiences uniquely equip to solve it. As a VC, I get to be a small but important part of helping them get going and hopefully give them a greater chance of success. People never forget your belief in them - it's so much more valuable than money.
Don't be scared about people stealing your idea. Even if other people think your idea is great, 99.9% of people will not be bothered to do anything about it. For the 0.01% who do, if they did not originate the idea, they probably don't have the life experience to actually execute it well.
The biggest risk in start-ups is not that someone will copy you, but that no one cares what you're building. You can't learn about whether you are building the right thing, who wants to buy it, how to sell it, who to hire, who might invest if you don't share your idea. Sharing your ideas will magnetise luck to the company, and you do need a lot of luck in start-ups!
This is our 2nd Kōrerorero of the series.
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