If you’re looking for a quick answer, you’ve come to the right place. These are a list of questions we get asked a lot.
You've got questions,
we've got answers.
At what stage do you invest?
As early as we can! Usually we first invest in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then we regularly participate in series A, B and C rounds as a company proves its vision. In 2018, seven of our eleven first cheque investments were for $400,000 or less.
We want to believe in the business before anyone else. Nearly all of our first investments are pre-product and pre-revenue.
None of the Blackbird partners are allowed to use the excuse of “it’s too early for us”.
I’m raising a later round. Will you invest?
Our bread and butter for our first investment into a company is at the seed ($100k-$2M) or “Aussie A” round ($3-5M in total size).
Of course, always get in touch, but we rarely invest in later rounds if we haven’t participated in the earlier rounds. Mostly this is because we love to work with founders early on in their journey so we may get a front row seat to the growth of the company and the founder.
That being said, we did invest in RedBubble before their IPO, as they were approaching $100M in revenue. And we make investment decision mistakes on a daily basis that we hope to correct over time. So if we say no and are proven wrong, we hope to earn the right to say yes to you when it's proven our fears were misplaced.
What industries or areas will you invest in?
We pride ourselves on not being rigid investors. When we first started Blackbird, we thought we would only invest in software and never in hardware. Then along came Zoox and we learned that these days, it’s possible for hardware companies to built and test products with customers on software-like timelines and budgets.
The very definition of novel is "not like anything before". We get excited when something doesn't easily fit a category or seems strange.
There was a time when we said we wouldn't invest in any healthcare due to very long and rigorous regulatory approvals. But one of the great talents of machine learning is assisting in the accurate diagnosis of many types of medical conditions.
In the past we have made many investments in clean meat, robotics, space and SaaS. We love bottoms-up sales strategies.
We will meet anyone working in any industry if they are learn-it-all founders, doing their life’s work, with the ambition to build a company that leads its category in a huge global market.
Do you invest in companies located outside of Australia or New Zealand?
We invest in founders that have a connection to Australia or New Zealand. Maybe you’re based here? Perhaps you lived in Australia for a certain time? Maybe one of your co-founders is Australian?
Whether you are geographically placed in Australia or New Zealand is far less important to us.
We invest in Australians and New Zealanders because everything we have done at Blackbird has been about building a community of founders here that give us a chance to meet tomorrow’s great founders. Unfortunately, we have little competitive advantage in markets outside of Australia or New Zealand when it comes to identifying ambitious founders at the beginning of their journey.
I am pre-product and pre-revenue. Will you invest?
We love to invest pre-product and pre-revenue and most of our first cheque investments fit this bill. Of course, it is not a feature that you have no product or no revenue and it’s always better to have both.
Can you create something with nothing? Can you prove that even for a tiny group of people, their love of your product and what you believe in is true?
What do you look for in a founding team?
Sam said it best when we invested in Incodocs: learn-it-all founders doing their life’s work, with the ambition to build a company that leads its category in a huge global market. We agree in the generally-held assumptions on the most desirable set of founder attributes (grit, determination, huge ambition, etc) but we also believe in a set of additional qualities. Nick wrote about them here.
What is your process for making investments?
Each time is unique but we generally go through these stages: 1. You send us a pitch deck. 2. You have a coffee with a Blackbird partner. 3. Your partner discusses your startup at our weekly investment meeting. 4. You’ll pitch to the full investing team. 5. You get a YES or a NO. If if it’s yes we progress to issuing a term sheet.
How do things work in the partner pitch meeting?
There are four investment partners at Blackbird. You can learn more about Sam, Nick, Niki and Rick here.
Before a partner pitch meeting, your lead partner will write an internal investment paper that answers a key set of questions, with one to two paragraphs each. We have a checklist of questions we ask before we bring a founder in to pitch to us. Often partners will have very different answers to some of these questions, which is actually a good thing. The list of questions covers topics such as the team, product, market, sales model and traction.
What size investment will you make?
Every company is different, but on average we invest one half to two-thirds of a seed round or “Aussie A” round. We have invested as little as $100,000 in a seed and in some cases $5m in a Series A.
Do you have a set of standard terms?
Every deal is different, but we prefer to draw as much as possible from the Australian Investment Council Open Source Funding docs. We prefer clean industry standard terms.
How can I get in touch with Blackbird?
The best way to get in touch with Blackbird is through a warm introduction. We’ve carefully curated the Blackbird community over a number of years and have a lot of trust in our members. If we are introduced to you by someone we trust, then some of that trust is transferred to you.
However, if you're not able to find a warm introduction, jump on over to our contact page and tell us a bit about what you are building.
Do we add any value at Blackbird?
We are a community-driven VC. At the centre of everything we do is our community. This includes a network of over 100 founders at more than 60 companies. Our investor network is equally powerful and we work hard to make them work for you. Then there is Startmate - our mentor-driven accelerator that has over 200 founders and more than 150 mentors and cohorts running annually in Melbourne and Sydney. Each year you’ll see programs and initiatives that aim to draw all of these people together for learning, exploring and fun.
We survey our founders twice yearly. We also do an NPS survey of founders we say no to. You can view the results of these surveys over on our metrics page.
As a Blackbird founder, you’ll receive first invitations to a range of activities and community events, from educational workshops to casual drinks and to Sunrise Island, our annual 1200 capacity homage to founders. Our foundational belief is that founders can help other founders and our whole company is built around this simple philosophy.
To have a look at just some of the programs we run for founders and the startup ecosystem, head to our Community page.