Georgia Robertson, Kirby Wotherspoon and Georgia Bretnall

Growing the Blackbird Aotearoa flock

Date Published:
June 4, 2024

Blackbird Aotearoa is having its own startup moment: we’ve had three new Blackbirds join us in the last month, taking us to a team of seven. Read on to meet them and learn more about what they’re bringing to our team!

Georgia Robertson - Investments

If you think about our Auckland-based investors, Georgia is the missing puzzle piece who completes a rounded picture of skills and perspectives. Prior to Blackbird, David was a founder; James was a fund-of-funds investor, and I was a later-stage investor. Georgia was an operator: her first CEO gig was running Humanitix New Zealand, then she was CEO of data consultancy Fundamentally. Georgia combines this lived experience with endless energy for understanding new technologies, businesses and founder stories.

With our powers combined, we are on a mission to invest in the next generation of Kiwi founders.

Describe your role at Blackbird in one sentence!

GR: I find and invest in ambitious Aussie and Kiwi Founders building generational companies - wherever they are in the world, and work with them from the very beginning.

Tell us about a couple of life or career experiences that led you to join Blackbird.

GR: A critical career juncture for me was the choice to leave behind the career I’d built in corporate law to build a tech charity. My world expanded so massively. I remember downloading a list of “50 Tech Terms for Beginners” and then going out to both raise money and start calling customers from the first day. I had to break years of training focussed on what could go wrong and totally reframe my uncertainty tolerance. It was the steepest learning curve of my life but it gave me the confidence to break out of a norm and back myself into the infinite learn-experiment feedback loop that is business building. 

Asking what can I learn, who do I want to team up with and how can I have an impact have always guided my decision-making and Blackbird is the ultimate platform for this.  It’s impossible not to be optimistic about the decades to come around here!

What's your favourite thing about early-stage technology startups?

GR: Working in tight knit groups of individuals on something bigger than ourselves. It takes grit, grace, agility and a healthy dose of good luck, to bring something that didn’t exist before into reality and sustain a pace of growth year over year. It’s such an energising process to be a part of and I love the magic that comes from testing the boundaries of what you’re capable of with a like-minded community. 

What did you want to be when you were six years' old?

GR: I had a laundry list of things I wanted to be when I grew up, from Lawyer, to Singer, to Journalist, to Midwife - I never wanted to be boxable and admittedly that holds true today. I never could’ve envisioned myself in technology, even up to a month prior to joining a tech-company - there are few things I’m more grateful for than the ripple effects that come from a single good decision. This has landed elsewhere than my six year old self, but I imagine she’d enjoy I’ve got to live a few lives anyway, albeit not in a delivery room, newsdesk or MSG stage.

2. Kirby Wotherspoon - Community

At Blackbird, we invest in founders doing their life’s work. And we believe that founders need community more than they need advice - so community is at the heart of what we do. When we set out to hire for this role, we couldn’t have imagined a more stellar candidate to fill it. Kirby’s experience working within Halter, one of New Zealand’s most exciting high-growth tech companies (and part of our Blackbird portfolio!), from when the team was fewer than 10 staff has set her perfectly to understand the needs of our portfolio founders and operators as they navigate their own journeys. She brings deep empathy and curiosity to all her relationships. 

Describe your role at Blackbird in one sentence.

KW: I build meaningful products that serve our community of founders and operators.

Tell us about a couple of life or career experiences that led you to join Blackbird.

KW: I spent almost 6 years at Halter as their first go-to-market hire, leading their Marketing function across Series A, B and C before moving into People and Performance where I worked with leaders to unlock team performance. Halter changed me in the best way possible. It was so hard and so fun.

I nod along to the statement ‘who you spend time with, is who you become’. The density of ambitious, kind people wanting to do work that means something in early-stage technology startups is outrageously high, and tops the long list of why I love (and feel incredibly grateful to be) working in this space.

Adding to this, I grew up competing in high-performance sport which has parallels to the startup world that I love - ambitious people, pace, pressure, many highs, some real lows. It’s almost impossible to imagine not operating in the startup world and I’m chuffed to join the Blackbird team.

What did you want to be when you were six years' old?

KW: A professional tennis player, hands down. Even started practising my signature to maximise speed and quality when pen hit the paper. Unfortunately, my tennis game never made it to the big leagues. And my signature is horrendous.

What's the book you most often gift to other people?

KW: Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday tops the list. Jam-packed with wisdom. I’m also going to bend the rules and sub in some top quality blog content - ‘Play for the Front of the Jersey’ by Ravi Gupta is great. Both were recommended to me by people I respect, and I’ve continued to cast them wide.

3. Georgia Bretnall - Leadership Support

Georgia joins our team as Executive Assistant  and our Office Manager in Auckland, taking over from the inimitable Becca Kennedy who has joined Blackbird’s People Operations team. Having Georgia join the team was a real pinch-me moment for me: I feel very lucky to be supported by such a cool, calm, collected and capable person! Georgia’s expertise in project and customer management are proving essential in whipping me into shape.

Describe your role at Blackbird in one sentence!

GB: I support Phoebe to maximise her impact in the Blackbird ecosystem - while also ensuring the Aotearoa office is an inviting, interactive space for the BB team and community.

Tell us about a couple of life or career experiences that led you to join Blackbird.

GB: Serendipity was definitely at play in my path to Blackbird. 

I’ve recently returned to NZ after five years in Amsterdam, working for BYBORRE - a textile startup that threw me in the deep-end as they scaled through series A and B. I was like a moth attracted to the flame of the co-founders’ entrepreneurial spirit and resilience. My job was to manage special projects and brand collaborations. 

So, when a few coinciding life events brought about a move home, I was unsure how to place myself in NZ. All I knew was I wanted to continue working in an entrepreneurial environment with a strong community; Tracksuit’s story piqued my interest.

Through my interest in Tracksuit! I heard Phoebe speak at Women on Track about her story and Blackbird… Now I’m lucky to have this opportunity to work on the VC side of startups, with an infinite amount to learn! I’m stoked to be stretched and trusted to help Phoebe continue to do what she does best.

What's your favourite thing about early-stage technology startups?

GB: Their power to unite the curious and carve a space to be comfortable with the unknown.

This community connects people across a breadth of expertise and experiences that are aligned by an honest hunger for innovation and ‘do-better’ mentality - in a high risk, fast-paced environment. Needless to say it is energising to be able to support, even in the smallest way!

Where is your favourite place to take people visiting New Zealand, and why?

GB: Elliot Bay - an east coast surf beach at the top of the North Island. It’s a nostalgic one, I’ve been camping there since it was a farm and I was crawling around the cow pats! It’s a quintessential Aotearoa beach. Plus there is a secret bay nearby that never ceases to amaze.