Blackbird staff headshot of Robyn Denholm

Robyn Denholm joins Blackbird as Operating Partner

Date Published:
April 28, 2021

We’re excited to announce that Robyn Denholm has joined Blackbird as an Operating Partner.

Today, we’re excited to announce that Robyn Denholm has joined Blackbird as an Operating Partner to help our most ambitious late-stage companies reach their beautiful potential. Robyn comes to Blackbird after a phenomenal career in Australia and the US at Toyota, Sun Microsystems, Juniper Networks, Telstra, and Tesla where she is Chair of the Board of directors.

As our sixth partner, Robyn will play a critical role in Blackbird achieving its mission to not only find and back the best startups but also help grow them. Her aim is to provide impact to both the Blackbird portfolio, and to the whole Australian and New Zealand ecosystem at scale.

A Generational Partnership

Blackbird made its first investments in 2013 and many of them have now grown to become meaningful companies, with thousands of employees, and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. These companies are the lighthouse companies of our ecosystem and our ambition is to partner with them at the very first round of capital but also at every stage of their journey, right through their transition to a public company and beyond.

To achieve this, we must nurture magical relationships between our portfolio companies and the broader Blackbird team. Robyn will drive this on both a personal and program level.

On a personal level, Robyn is already helping some of our late-stage companies reach their potential. She is going deep with a handful of our later stage companies, particularly companies that are at an inflection point of growing their teams to hundreds of people. She is helping them design operating systems, plan and hire senior executive teams, build culture at scale, manage partnerships, and much more. Her huge experience in this area is already shining through.

One of our core operating principles at Blackbird is taking a product mindset to everything we do. Community is the scalable way to make a profound impact beyond a single person or team. Via her leadership of our Founder Success team, Robyn will pioneer products and programs that are designed to pass on her knowledge to the whole ecosystem. We are excited with the plans to roll this out more fully over the year ahead - stay tuned.

The Australian Blackbird + Startmate team at our Q1 offsite.

Paying It Forward

Robyn is a true believer and a wild heart.

In 2014, Robyn’s belief in the power of technology, manufacturing and sustainable energy and in a team with a phenomenal ambition led her to join Tesla as a Board Director and Audit committee chair and then as Chair in late 2018. Robyn has built an expansive career in the global technology industry, from Toyota to Sun Microsystems to Juniper Networks to Telstra, where she was in roles spanning finance and operations.

“I have been tremendously fortunate to work with phenomenal people and world class organisations” Robyn says. “In this next phase, I want to pay it forward and help growing Australian and New Zealand technology companies succeed on the global stage.”

“As I’ve become more involved in the ANZ startup landscape over the last couple of years, I’ve been blown away by the ambition of our local founders, and the quality of ideas and talent. Now, we need to develop the operating capability for these companies to continue to take on the world.

I’m excited to help Blackbird put that operating ecosystem in place for these companies to achieve their full potential.”

As Robyn joins Blackbird, she will continue her work with Tesla as Chair of the Board of Directors and in her committee capacities.

When we wrote the job description for this role, we said that the Operating Partner would be “referenced in the decades to come in articles about the success of Australia and New Zealand’s startup ecosystems”. Robyn is already (and rightfully) a legendary figure in these ecosystems. We are incredibly fortunate that she chose to work with us at Blackbird.

We are already seeing the impact of Robyn’s work on our portfolio founders and look forward to the journey ahead.

These are the good old days!