New “dream team” start-up fund Blackbird Ventures set to take flight

A new venture capital fund is aiming to take the Australian start-up scene by storm, founded by a self-described “dream team” including Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar.


Blackbird Ventures, based in Sydney, hasn’t confirmed when it will launch but already has 14 Australian tech entrepreneurs on board, keen to invest in the next generation of internet start-ups.


It will be led by Bill Bartee, managing director of Southern Cross Venture Partners, and Richard Baker, former portfolio manager of venture capital at MLC Private Equity.


Joining them is Startmate co-founder Niki Scevak and Larry Marshall, Silicon Valley-based managing director of Southern Cross Venture Partners.


Also on board are Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, the founders of Australian tech start-up success story Atlassian.


According to Cannon-Brookes, preparations have been “bubbling along” for about six months, including the formation of a “dream team” of successful Australian tech entrepreneurs.


In addition to its impressive line-up of founder funders, Blackbird will raise capital from institutional investors here and in the United States.


“We have a lot of connections to Silicon Valley and part of the thing is it’s hard for those VCs to come down to Australia, so that’s the gap we’re looking to fill,” he told StartupSmart.


“We want to make sure we maintain good connections with [investors in] the valley.”


Cannon-Brookes says Blackbird Ventures will be structured as a classic venture capital fund, which will invest in 20 to 25 companies over its lifetime.


“We’re aiming [to initially raise] $50 million before government matching,” he says.


“But we won’t be putting money [into start-ups] and saying, ‘Hey, we’ll see you in 12 months time’. There will be great opportunities for founders to tap into in terms of mentoring.”


According to Baker, there is “virtually no Aussie venture capital around”.


“What got me really excited, and why I left MLC to do Blackbird Ventures, is I think there’s a real gap in the market to help companies that are forming in Australia,” he told BRW.


“I knew at MLC that it was going to be very difficult to raise money from Australian institutions, particularly superannuation funds, who are not generally allocating to this space at the moment.”


“We knew we needed to have a really good funding story and source. And the founders [of Blackbird Ventures] provide both.”


“That’s what we were striving towards – was to create a differentiated story that people can get behind, and particularly some large institutions can get behind.”


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