Year in Reflection: 2018
From expanding our team, to mentoring in caves and seed investments, 2018 was a profound year.
We’re now a team of thirteen, spread across two offices in Sydney and Melbourne.
Here’s a quick rundown of how 2018 transpired.
Startmate Sydney 2018 kicked off in January with a Week 0 trip to the Blue Mountains, and a founder <> mentor dinner in a cave!
The Startmate team was supercharged in 2018. James Tynan joined as Startmate’s CEO, Michael Batko joined as Startmate’s Head of Operations, and Jessie Summons joined as Head of Outreach.
Startmate Sydney 2018 was a special cohort, with Work180, Making Things and Stratejos all closing their seed funding rounds during the program.
We were thrilled that Justina Yap joined Blackbird as Financial Controller.
To cap off the quarter, Bugcrowd announced their $33M Series C funding round.
Also, after 5 years, we got a new logo (the pink Blackbird you see above).
Q2 kicked off with Blackbird’s Fund III announcement and the news that Samantha Wong and I would be moving into our new roles as Blackbird General Partners.
Niki shared our masterplan as part of the new funding announcement.
Blog post: The Blackbird Master Plan
And Samantha made our first investment from the new fund, a pre-seed investment into Heuros, shortly after.
Blog post: Welcome to the Third Agricultural Revolution
Alex Apoifis joined Blackbird as Head of Operations.
Q2 was a big quarter for funding announcements.
Propeller raised their $10M USD Series A round with Blackbird leading and Sequoia and Accel joining.
Safety Culture announced their $60M Series C round, led by Tiger Global.
August Robotics announced their $5M seed round, led by Blackbird.
Blackbird led nura’s $15M Series A.
And led Culture Amp’s $54M Series D.
We made three more investments in Q2 which have not yet been announced.
Reflektive acquired Blackbird portfolio company Shape Analytics.
Finally, alongside Airtree Ventures, Square Peg Capital, and Rampersand, we launched a Model Code of Conduct for the Australian Startup Community.
Blog post: Intriducing a Model Code of Conduct for the Australian Startup Community
Q3 kicked off with Zoox announcing its $500M USD Series B and lifting the covers on its stunning progress.
Startmate Melbourne 2018 kicked off, representing the second time we’ve run Startmate in Melbourne.
Blackbird welcomed two new members to the team — our Portfolio Intelligence analysts — Tip Piumsomboon, and Mason Yates.
Inventia raised its Series A round.
We hosted an unforgettable Sunrise on Cockatoo Island.
Blog post: Sunrise Island: What was the point?
We led Snuffer’s Series A, heralding a future of meat-free meat.
Gilmour Space raised its $19M Series B.
Applied raised its seed round.
Whispli raised its seed round.
And we made one more investment which has yet to be announced.
The quarter ended with a reminder of the uncertainty of the startup journey, and the pressures our founders face, with Zoox CEO Tim Kentley-Klay leaving the company and Shoes of Prey shutting down.
In Rick’s note to our investors sharing the Shoes of Prey news, he took the chance to remind everyone of the commitment we have to the founders we back.
“I want to start by saying how proud we are to have been a part of the Shoes of Prey journey and to have worked with the three co-founders; Jodie, Michael and Mike.
The Shoes of Prey investment was a defining part of our early years at Blackbird and we are proud of our long association with the founders and team.
They built the company with inventiveness, intelligence and integrity … and very nearly pulled it off. The past few months have been highly stressful for them and they have lost way more than us.
If you get a chance, please do join us in thanking Jodie, Michael and Mike for all their work and wishing them the best as they embark on the next stage of their lives.”
We ended the quarter by officially opening our Melbourne office in Gertrude St, Fitzroy, marking the occasion with a photo in a laneway.
Q4 is still in train, but much progress is being made.
Our Women in VC program continues, with Michelle Hu joining us in the Melbourne office.
Just last week, we announced the Startmate Fellowship, a huge initiative for the future of Startmate and the Australian startup ecosystem.
(P.S. Applications are now open.)
We anticipate closing two more deals in 2018.
All in all, it has been a big year for the team at Blackbird!
Though funding announcements give companies a chance to pop their heads up and share their progress, most of what goes on at great startups happens in huddles around desks, in hard decisions, and in long days of trial and error.
Just because a portfolio company didn’t announce a fundraise during 2018 doesn’t indicate any lack of growth or advancement.
At the announcement of Fund III, Rick said:
“The biggest misconception about Blackbird is that because we have raised more capital over time, we naturally want to invest later in a company’s life.”
We have stuck true to this, with 7 of our investments this year being $400,000 or less. Hint: if you’re early, come and talk to us :)
And despite our increasing fund size, we have kept our cadence of 8–10 new investments per year, just as it’s been since Blackbird was founded.
We continue to serve our founders every day, and act as stewards for the best interests of our LPs.
7 years in, Blackbird is still hungry, still searching, still at Day 1.
Thanks to Michael Batko.