Just over a year ago, we welcomed seven new Blackbirds. Since then, our team has continued to grow, spreading across Australia and New Zealand as we hired for fifteen roles across the company in 2020.
One of those roles was a Principal, to help us find and invest in Australia and New Zealand’s most ambitious founders, right at the beginning.
We had many incredible people apply. Two in particular stood out, and today we’re thrilled to announce Tom Humphrey and Michael Tolo have joined the Blackbird investment team as Principals, alongside Tip Piumsomboon. The team will be spread across ANZ, with Tip based in Auckland, Tom in Sydney and Michael in Melbourne.
Tom has been a friend of Blackbird for a long time. Many of us have crossed paths with Tom over the years, from the soccer field to the UNSW law tower to cafes in San Francisco and Denver. Tom has significant global experience in both operations leadership and investment roles. He was formerly the COO at two startups - Kanopy, an educational video streaming company, and OurDeal, an ecommerce website in Australia and New Zealand - and for the last two years, has been a Partner with Access Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Denver and Boulder Colorado.
After being based in the USA for the past nine years, we feel lucky to have lured Tom back to Sydney to become a Blackbird. “It is amazing to see how strong and ambitious the ANZ startup ecosystem has become this past decade” says Tom. “I am excited to jump in and roll up my sleeves with the next generation of local founders with global aspirations.”
We’ve also known Michael for a number of years; first through his work at Future Fund, who were an early supporter of our mission at Blackbird. At Future Fund, Michael developed a passion for supercharging ambitious founders through his work leading late-state investments alongside Bessemer, Lightspeed and New Enterprise Associates.
He followed this passion to the USA to join Playground as a Principal, based in San Francisco. Investing in early stage founders in life sciences, robotics, transportation infrastructure and next generation computing, Michael worked alongside industry legends Bruce Leak, Peter Barrett, Laurie Yoler, Jory Bell and Matt Hershenson - a team that literally helped to shape the Bay Area innovation economy!
When we asked Michael what type of founders he most loves working with, he said; "I love to work with unreasonably ambitious founders who are looking to solve the most complex and consequential problems. No idea is too early, no risk is too great and no plan is too improbable.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Building Blackbird as a world-class investment firm requires a world-class investment team. Tip, Michael and Tom are the next generation of Blackbirds that will help us realise this vision. From finding and supporting companies as we invest our fourth fund after closing at $650M in the final days of 2020 to spearheading new rivers of inquiry, we cannot wait to see what these three wild hearts do.
Tip, Tom and Michael are just three of our now 30-plus team at Blackbird. Keep an eye out as we share more our new team members in the coming weeks!