Please, don't show us your Exit slide.
A few months ago Blackbird moved into its new offices in Surry Hills which came pre-furnished with awesome retro furniture, trendy plants (giant cactai and succulents, of course) and some cool decorative pieces. Among the items we inherited was an old green exit sign LED light box. After moving in, we turned it upside down, but last week we went one step further, graffitiing it with our own special touch. “No Exits”, it now reads.
We know that one of the first things most investors ask about is the exit strategy and many founders are advised that this is a key slide in their deck. So it may come as a surprise that at Blackbird we don’t even want you to have an exit strategy let alone a slide on it.
We want to invest in founders who don’t have an exit strategy because they are doing their life’s work. We want to invest in these founders because:
1) Building a truly great business takes time, typically at least 7-8 years and frequently longer. Atlassian’s recent IPO was 13 years in the making. There are many challenges to overcome on a journey of that length, and we believe that only entrepreneurs who are truly passionate about the problem they’re solving will be able to go the distance;
2) If you build a truly great business, there will always be people who want to participate in the value you’ve created, whether that be competitors who want to buy you out, the public stock markets or later stage investors who buy-out the shares from employee and early investors; and
3) Building a truly big business, the kind that is a global leader in its market, means the founder needs to say no to lots of exit offers – at $10 million, at $50 million, at $500 million. Exits of this kind create more wealth for the founder than most people would dream of, but for the investor, these are more often sub-optimal returns. We’ve come to realise that if we’re going to have a company in our portfolio that is worth $1 billion or more, we NEED to find founders who say no.
I joined Blackbird in September 2015 as their first employee. I am a recovering corporate lawyer (6 years sober!), was an early employee at SurfStitch.com and founded my own startups which went through the Startmate accelerator. I'm always open for a chat on twitter @holasammy or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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