Blackbird Arrives in NZ in Style with #Sunrise2019

Blackbird Ventures, a venture capital fund based primarily in Australia, has just opened their Auckland offices last week. This was alongside a successful Sunrise event that attracted hundreds of founders, investors, and other stakeholders in the early-stage investment space.

With their founder-focused investment strategy and community approach, Blackbird brings a new voice and style to the NZ market. Their strong values statements make it clear that they put people first, think in the long-term, and comfortable with high-risk: all values that we at Matū support as well. We think it will be really helpful to add a strong voice in the ecosystem around actively guiding, mentoring, and supporting founders.

The Sunrise summit itself on Oct 25th was a clear representation of those values. The team from Blackbird didn’t spend much time talking about their fund or making big announcements – they mostly got out of the way and let a group of founders tell their stories and share their lessons. The program was very well structured, showcasing a variety of founders and experiences.

The morning started with Melanie Perkins from $3.2 billion unicorn Canva, talking about the rollercoaster journey from working out of her mum’s lounge to a company with 700 employees. She conveyed two key messages – fight through the rejection that will inevitably come along the way, and dream big and far so that you have something to strive towards.

Other speakers included Brianne West from environmentally-conscious and socially sustainable personal care company Ethique, Shama Lee from alternative meat company Sunfed Foods, and Tama Toki from Great Barrier Island-based cosmetics company Aotea Made.

The formal part of the program closed with a gripping story from Jodie Fox, co-founder of personalised/customised fashion company Shoes of Prey, which went into liquidation last year after nine years of operation and at one point reaching a valuation >$100mil. For an industry that suffers from strong survivor bias (i.e. we only hear the good stories about entrepreneurship), it was a tough story to share but incredibly valuable for everyone to hear that these things happen and how it happens. Huge kudos to Jodie for bravely sharing her journey publicly – she has written a book to tell the story. My main takeaway was that there is a right way to close down a company, which starts from building a really strong culture of respect years beforehand. Without that sense of community and loyalty, the process of closing down a big company would have been much, much harder.

Apart from the speakers, the other really valuable part of the day was structured networking. People were able to make bookings beforehand based on short bios that attendees provided online, which meant that we didn’t have to just go up to someone and try to strike up a conversation. We met a bunch of founders throughout the day who were interested in Matū’s offering, and we will be keeping track of these various projects and giving our support where we can.

We often think of the New Zealand early-stage investment community as being “small”, but events like Sunrise remind me that “tightknit” and “connected” are perhaps better descriptors. There are thousands of people involves in this space, which may be small in comparison to some places overseas, but it affords us a sense of collegiality that helps us work together and build towards collective success. We at Matū are always happy to help wherever we can within our means, so get in touch!

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