Here at Blackbird, 2020 has been a big year. It’s certainly been “unprecedented”, but it’s also been so much more than that. It’s been a milestone year for our team, our founders and our community.
One of the biggest milestones for us was the announcement of our fourth and largest fund in August, where we also made the returns of all our previous funds public, signalling our intention to build our management company with the same ambition as the startups we invest in. We also had Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes join our board of directors as Chair of the Blackbird management company, and Sam, and Nick equal partners with Niki, and Rick.
We were also able to publicly share some previously under-wraps additions to the Blackbird portfolio, with Hon and Andy from Cortical Labs, Jason, Franki and Menkes of HIVERY and Luke and Alex from XY Sense sharing their ambitions with the world. We invested in XY Sense back in 2017 and HIVERY and Cortical Labs in 2019, so being able to share their stories with our community has been a wonderful experience.
Sam and Tip led our first investments in New Zealand, with Dan, Ilya and Jeremy of Ao Air becoming our first NZ Blackbird founders. They were quickly joined by Lauren of Multitudes and Levi, Mark, Nathan and Evan of Partly - with more New Zealand investments to be announced very soon.
Joining us in New Zealand was Startmate, who ran their inaugural NZ cohort fully remotely. This year,Startmate received more applications than ever, with 41% of applications coming from women-co-founded teams.
Startmate also launched its first two climate cohorts, with 5B, Beyond Ag, Bygen and SwitcH2 joining the SYD20 accelerator program and Gridcognition, Digital Agriculture Services and Cass Materials joining the MEL/NZ20 program.
2020 also marked the year that Startmate officially became profitable.
We were also able to continue to support the journeys of many of our best and brightest existing founders across the Blackbird portfolio this year. We invested in See-Mode’s $9M Series A, Morse Micro’s $17M round and SunDrive’s $8M raise.
Process Street raised $12M Series A from Accel, Atlassian and Salesforce Ventures. Canva closed a $US60M round at a valuation of $US6B, Propeller raised their Series B and SafetyCulture raised $60.5M on a $1.35B pre-money valuation, making it one of Australia’s newest unicorns.
We doubled down on creating ways for founders to help founders in a COVID world, launching virtual conference Giants to more than 7000 registrations and leading to an ongoing talks series, Giants Weekly. We also launched our first podcast, Wild Hearts, with Blackbird Portfolio Intelligence Analyst Mason Yates on hosting duties.
We partnered with Startmate to launch Liminal*, an immersive week-long series with leading women startup operators and coaches, designed to fast track women’s careers into startups.
We launched the Blackbird Foundation with the mission to unleash creativity in young people. Creativity is central to every human achievement and we want to fund organisation and people who are working to unlock magic in young Australian's and Kiwis.
From 150 pitches we're funding our first 2 organisations, to be announced in 2021.
Startmate led 24 women through its first fully-virtual Winter Fellowship cohort, with alumni joining the likes of Atlassian, Forage, Eucalyptus, Baraja and Tempus Partners. In Spring, they upped the ante,with the fourth Fellowship cohort comprising 100 women. While this cohort only recently closed, 38 of those women have already landed their dream job at a startup.
Startmate also looked to provide opportunities to founders all around Australia and New Zealand, hosting 2119 founders across two bumper editions of Office Hours in May and November and launching its inaugural First Believers cohort to help spearhead a more diverse investor ecosystem.
More recently, Giants continued to evolve with Giants in Residence, our first year-round, self-serve mentoring program designed to help those at the very beginning of their founder journey with the advice, relationships and education to succeed. Sign up to get involved.
At the beginning of 2020, Blackbird was 12 people. Today, there’s more than 30 of us, spread across Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Hobart, Orange, Newcastle and Noosa.
In H1, we welcomed many new Blackbirds with Sophie Taylor joining as Chief of Staff, Dani Pinkus as People Lead (and soon after, Head of Community), Clark Carter as Head of Productivity, Lucia Salim as Financial Accountant, Dan Danilov as Business Operations, Justine Nangle as General Counsel and two new Portfolio Intelligence Analysts, Hart Lestari and Ellisa Bennett. Nick wrote some nice words about them here.
Over at Startmate, Sophia Witherington joined as Head of Fellowship and Lauren Capelin as Principal. They’re going to triple in size next year, so if you want to get involved, check out their open roles here!
As the year continued so too did our hiring efforts, with Catt Vongpraseuth joining as Business Operations Analyst, Alissa Lucas joining as Legal Operations Analyst, Sophie Stevenson joining as EA to Rick and Niki and Melia Rayner joining as Community + Communications Manager. Most recently, we’ve welcomed People Lead Nell Hardie, Accounts Payable Josh Golde and EA to Sam, Nick and Alex Temara Chapman. That still leaves a couple of new Blackbirds to be revealed… so watch this space as we’ll have more to share in the new year!
In 2018, we said we were just getting started. So much has changed in the past two years, but we still feel like we’re just at the beginning. As Rick said in his Giants Weekly talk earlier this week, our focus for the next ten years hasn’t changed. It’s to find more great companies, and help them succeed. We can’t wait to meet even more ambitious founders and incredible companies in 2021. Is that you? Get in touch.