21 June, 2018

E42 – Sam Wong, Blackbird Ventures

This week on Open The Pod Bay Doors we chat to Sam Wong, Partner at Blackbird Ventures, an Australian venture fund who back exceptional founders with big ambitions to build global businesses. They provide equity capital for Seed, Series A and later stage – no cheque is too early.

With a portfolio of over 40 companies, Blackbird has backed some of Australia’s startup powerhouses like Canva, Safety Culture, BugCrowd, Culture Amp.Sam and her parents emigrated to Perth from the UK in the 1980s, shortly after her mum started a computer sales business, and it wasn’t long until Sam and her dad were helping to run the business. Growing up with entrepreneurial parents instilled a drive and ambition in Sam from an early age.

Sam went on to study law, this led to a summer clerkship and a graduate offer at top law firm. Sam loved the learning and analytical framework, however wanted to work on side projects (including learning French), and lawyer hours allowed no time to focus on these.One of these side projects was SurfStitch, a surf e-commerce company, so Sam left corporate world to help with their SEO and email marketing. A year later, she was in France hiring the team to run SurfStitch’s European operations – putting the French she’d learned to good use.

After SurfStitch Sam knew she wanted to start her own thing, so she thought about a problem she faced working as a lawyer, working fewer hours, and CapacityHQ, an on-demand marketplace for legal talent was born. They were part of the Startmate cohort in 2015, the program accelerated their learning, and about halfway through realised they could build a small business but it wouldn’t meet their ambition.

At the end of Startmate and after selling CapacityHQ, Sam became the first employee of the Blackbird team as Head of Operations, two years later Sam became a Partner.

Blackbird is on its third fund of $250 million ($100M for new investments and $150M for follow on). They are focused on investing earlier and writing smaller cheques to back founders all along their journey. Outside the portfolio, Blackbird has been leading the charge adding value to the wider ecosystem with community initiatives like the Sunrise event, robotics clubs in universities and schools, and the partners regularly writing blog posts.

Sam has seen all sides of business, raised by entrepreneurs, working as a lawyer, a startup employee, founding her own business, and now an investor. In this episode she shares lots of her experiences and lesson learned along the way.  Enjoy.

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