In 2019, you might have seen us put the call out for a General Counsel, a Chief of Staff, a People Lead, a Portfolio Analyst, a Financial Accountant and a Business Operator.
It’s with great pleasure that we can introduce you to the seven new Blackbirds that have joined us for 2020 and beyond.
Justine Nangle is joining us to oversee all of the legal and compliance aspects of running Blackbird. With more than 50 Blackbird companies, more than 100 Startmate companies, and multiple funds, Blackbird is becoming an increasingly complex organisation. At any one time between new investments, follow-on investments and new funds, we might be working with lawyers on 10-20 transactions simultaneously, in multiple jurisdictions. Having Justine take the lead for us here is going to be a major upgrade to our team (and collective sanity).
Previously, Justine was Head of Legal & Compliance at CHAMP Private Equity in Sydney and Head of Legal at Pantheon Ventures in London. Justine studied Japanese in addition to law (Blackbird Tokyo, here we come!), barracks for the Parramatta Eels, and is Mum to two boys, 7 and 4.
Sophie Taylor is joining us as Chief of Staff. Her first big job is going to be acting as patrol captain for the fundraising process for Blackbird’s fourth fund. Which is handy, because on weekends, she’s a patrol captain at Tamarama Beach. As well as that, Sophie is going to be focussed on scaling Blackbird the company, ensuring the trains run on time for the Blackbird board, the management company, and the day-to-day of investing and operating Blackbird Ventures.
Previously, Sophie was Strategy Manager at Koala and an IP lawyer at K&L Gates. We were lucky enough to invest in Sophie’s brother Scott’s startup Perx through Startmate in 2018 so we’re already big fans of the Taylor clan.
Dani Pinkus is joining us as People Lead, and we’ve ambitiously set her the task of helping fill a quarter of the 500+ current job openings in the Blackbird portfolio (no pressure!). Blackbird is increasingly a magnet for Australia’s brightest minds in high school (First Robotics), university (we have a number of targeted sponsorships with STEM focussed university clubs), and the corporate sector the (Startmate Fellowship), and Dani is going to amplify our efforts in all these areas. If you want to work in startups, we think Dani’s going to soon be the most helpful person you could connect with. (Email her right now [email protected] if you want to make the jump).
Previously, Dani was Brand, Partnerships and Content Director at Future Women, and a journalist and editor at the Nine Network and Bauer Magazines. If you saw our most recent newsletter, you’ll see her skills in this area shining through already. As well as becoming the most popular person in the Australian startup ecosystem, 2020 is going to see Dani get her driver’s licence, and get married!
We met Clark as part of our Chief of Staff hiring process and liked him so much, we created an entirely new role for him. Clark is our Head of Productivity, which means he’s responsible for upgrading all our systems and processes, to ensure we’re all working to our maximum productivity. In Clark’s words, “I automate the shit out of everything.” Clark is joining us from Atlassian where he automated the shit out of Mike Cannon-Brookes’ day-to-day work life.
Clark lives in Hobart with his young family, is studying Physics on the side at the University of Tasmania, and spent much of the last decade as an adventurer. And we don’t use that term lightly. He once carved his own canoe out of a tree in Papua New Guinea and then paddled for 6 weeks to his destination with only two weeks of food. The photo above is proof.
Dan is joining us in a Business Operations role. With a dedicated Ops team of just 3 people, in the second half of 2019, Blackbird returned $100M to investors as part of a GP-led secondary transaction, raised a new fund in New Zealand, and began preparations for raising its fourth fund. Dan, who joined us in August last year, was instrumental in upgrading our operational excellence for all three initiatives. Previously, Dan founded a social media platform for global football fans that hit 90k users within 12 months and was most recently a Strategy Analyst at Accenture. Like Mason in Melbourne, he’s a HUGE Liverpool fan and lover of all sports so you can direct all your sporting banter his way.
Hartini is joining us as an Analyst. Now that Tip has been promoted to Principal, and moved to NZ to launch our NZ Fund with Samantha, Hartini is taking Tip’s place in the Sydney office. After Rick did his reference calls on Hartini, Rick said it was the most positive reference call he’d ever done - sample quote: “she is the person I have enjoyed working with the most ever… she brings an energy to the office which makes people around her happier and enthusiastic.” High praise indeed!
Hartini grew up in Singapore, Indonesia, and the US of A, hasn’t owned a TV in seven years, and speaks fluent Chinese, Indonesian, and Teochews (making Justine’s Japanese and Dan’s Hebrew seem quite pedestrian in comparison!).
Lucia is joining us part-time as a Financial Accountant. Justina Yap, Blackbird’s Financial Controller has been heroically leading our accounting efforts, and we are so glad to be calling in some reinforcements for her.
Lucia grew up in sunny Bali and Singapore, and speaks fluent Indonesian and Mandarin. She is a Mum to 2 boys (7 and 1 year old). Previously, Lucia was at Palms Australia, and GE and we are thrilled to have her join us.
Back in September 2017, the SMH opened an article titled 'Blackbird tries out a new tune for hiring' with this lede:
The ratio of male-to-female partners at Australian venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures: 4:1.
"It's embarrassing", admits the Surry-Hills based company's co-founder Niki Scevak but he also says there's change on the way.
With this latest flock of new Blackbirds joining, we’ll be 20 people across Blackbird and Startmate, and we’ll have equal number of men and women in the team. With a Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland office, and two of the team remote in Hobart, and Orange, we’ll also be a fully distributed workforce; which is why we’ve embraced flexibility for our team in where and how we work.
Improving our culture to be more inclusive has been an important commitment from our whole team. Internally, we’ve improved parental leave policies, blinded all of our hiring processes by using Applied, and improved data tracking on our investment dealflow. Externally, we created a Code of Conduct and the Women in VC internship program. Although we still have a long way to go, we are proud that incredible people from a variety of backgrounds are joining us to do the best work of their lives!
To the new Blackbirds, we say welcome!