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Blackbird Ventures rolls out $30 million start-up fund

Thursday, 14 March | By Michelle Hammond

Blackbird Ventures is determined to offer Australian start-ups much-needed Series A funding rounds, after announcing the formation and first close of its $30 million venture capital fund.


Blackbird Ventures, which first came to the fore in August last year, brings together the talents and financial backing of Startmate and Southern Cross Venture Partners, and the founders of successful Australian companies including Atlassian, Campaign Monitor and Aconex.


The majority of the fund’s capital has been raised in a first close focused on key industry players, including Silicon Valley venture capitalists Bill Tai and Dave McClure.


Other investors will have the opportunity to participate before the fund’s final close later in the year.


Meanwhile, the local management team consists of Startmate founder Niki Scevak, Southern Cross Venture Partners co-founder Bill Bartee, and Rick Baker, formerly of MLC Private Equity.


They are assisted in Silicon Valley by Southern Cross partner John Scull, who sits on the investment committee. Blackbird expects to make around 25 investments from the fund.


Its first investments include Canva, a collaborative online design platform for non-designers, and Ninja Blocks, which “makes it trivial to build web and mobile apps that talk to hardware”.


Canva is yet to release details of its investment, while Ninja Blocks announced the news last year.


Blackbird Ventures was aiming to initially raise $50 million before government funding, according to Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, who spoke to StartupSmart last year.


But Scevak insists that’s not the case.


“It was always going to be around this range,” he told StartupSmart.


According to Scevak, there is a lack of Series A investments in Australia, so this is the gap Blackbird is hoping to fill.


“People can raise, say, $500,000 from a group of angel investors and then they’re in a stage to hit it out of the park,” he says.


“US accelerators and venture capitalists and so on would love to invest in more Australian companies, but they want to invest $10-$20 million in each of them… Where do they raise that $2-$5 million Series A round?


“Blackbird was formed to address that gap and it was formed to address that in a thoughtful way… Investors are not only investing money in a very substantial way but investing their time.”


Blackbird also has strong links to Silicon Valley, says Baker.


“We have a strong focus on businesses that we can help inject into the Silicon Valley ecosystem to connect them with expertise, customers and sources of finance,” Baker said in a statement.


“The combination of our partnership with Sydney-Palo Alto-based Southern Cross Ventures, and our strong network of Silicon Valley advisors and venture capitalists, means we’re in an excellent position to do this.”


According to Tai, Blackbird Ventures has “placed itself in the vortex” of the Australian tech scene through its founder community and start-up network from past investments.


“As more capital looks to fuel the growing number of world-class start-ups from Australia, Blackbird is positioned to be the trusted investment partner for the US VC ecosystem,” Tai said in a statement.