Rick Baker

Blackbird Ventures – Dealflow observations in the 8 months since launch – Rick Baker @blackbirdvc

Rick Baker is the Managing Director of Blackbird Ventures, a Sydney based Venture Capital fund raised early this year by Rick Baker, Niki Scevak, and VC Veterans Bill Bartee and John Scull and backed by numerous names in the Australian and US tech scene including Mike Cannon-Brooks from Atlassian, Dave McClure from 500 Startups, Bill Tai the Kite Surfing VC and Southern Cross Ventures.


Rick Baker Blackbird Ventures



I wrote this piece as a newsletter to our investors a few weeks ago. We thought we’d share it to give you some more insights on what’s out there and what we’re looking for.

After 8 months since the fund opened, we’ve logged 226 companies in our database and seen another 100 or so that weren’t worth logging. Add to this 260 Startmate applications, and we’ve seen a lot of business ideas.

From this deal flow we’ve made 9 investments and have one more in progress. So we’re getting good at saying no! Nevertheless we’re very happy with the deal flow coming out of the Aussie tech ecosystem at the moment.


Here are some observations from the deal flow so far, our filters and what we’re looking for:

Blackbird Investment Map - Credit Blackbird.vc

Blackbird Investment Map – Credit Blackbird.vc

1. Sources:

As would be expected, by far the majority of deal flow by quantity comes from our [email protected] email address. This is despite us and our website imploring founders to find a warm introduction to us through their networks.

By far the majority of quality deal flow comes from the Blackbird community of investors, founders and Startmate. We’ve been very pleased with the way this is developing and all of our investments to date have originated from these sources. It’s given us a number of opportunities that are outside the general flow of usual sources: accelerators, incubators, angel groups and well-known founders in capital cities.

There is a third category, which is investment advisors – i.e. people who promise to raise money for young companies for a cut of the raising or equity. While there are some good advisors with interesting companies, we’re a little cynical of deal flow that comes from this source as it tends to indicate a founder who is not able to get to us directly, or does not know or care about fund raising. Fund raising is such an important part of the early years of many tech startups, that this is a factor we have to take into account. They also tend to come with 60 page business plans and detailed forecast spreadsheets to justify high valuations! We haven’t yet found a company introduced by an advisor that we’ve really fallen in love with, but this may change of course. [By the way, this is not a dig at the advisor community and we we certainly take all companies introduced to us seriously. I’ll try to write some more detail on this soon, but please do feel free to comment below if you think differently.]

2. Stage:

As you know we have a strong focus on companies that have a product in the hands of a “core group of happy customers”. While revenues are not essential, it’s often the best measure of this. So we’ve quickly filtered out a lot of pre-product, pre-revenue businesses, pointing these founders to the angel communities. We have only made one exception to this rule: Canva, where the founders had built a previous business in a similar area and I (Rick) had been mentoring the founders for some time.

It’s encouraging that we’re seeing more and more series A stage companies, where the business is around 2 years old and starting to generate decent and growing revenues. We love companies with $30-100k in monthly recurring revenue and seem to be finding a steady stream of these! We still see very little Australian capital targeting this space. Our key collaborator is Square Peg Ventures, and we hope to continue investing alongside them.

3. Global vs local:

The second quick filter is businesses that do not meet our passion for global markets. The majority of Australian deal flow is either Aussie focussed, or Aussie first. We are constantly challenging founders to think bigger and smash local boundaries from day one. Each of the businesses we have backed so far is truly global, with founders who have a real passion to be the best in the world, rather than the best in Australia.

4. Scalable business models:

One of the key attributes we’ve become more and more focussed on is finding scalable marketing and sales models. This usually comes in the form of digital and content marketing, with only light touch human sales efforts. We are particularly avoiding business models which require scaling up sales teams in Australia and around the world. We think this is a difficult model to execute from Australia.

5. Founders with an authentic connection to the problem they’re solving:

Finally and most importantly, we’re looking for founders who we think have a real passion and expertise in the area they are tackling. We have to believe that this person has a better chance than 99.999999% of the global population of being able to have insights to crack apart a market. We’re not interested in people who want to be entrepreneurs for it’s own sake, or have chosen random problems while gazing at their navel. We want founders who have become immersed in their niche and have a driving passion to make it better. They are rare, but we love it when we find these founders, and have found them in all the companies we’ve backed so far.

That’s all for this month. Please do keep your antennae tuned to find great businesses to send us!

Blackbird.vc or fill out the form to contact via staging.startup88.flywheelsites.com

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SydneyFirehose.com – Coke’s Big Data Startup Competition – The Quest for Big Data, Solutions and Entrepreneurship

Crunch data from 3 years of CCA shipments

Crunch data from 3 years of CCA shipments

This warehouse is emptied every two days. A few small changes to operations can make a huge difference.

Franki Chamaki

Franki Chamaki

Coke’s Sydney Startup Accelerator Team is launching a novel big data competition called SydneyFirehose.com. The team which was founded by Franki Chamaki and Jason Hosking has launched a number of really interesting initiatives over the last six months, centred around solving real meaty problems for Coke and creating new business opportunities and partnerships with startups.

The Sydney Firehose Big Data Startup Competition aims to give real data from a massive business to help entrepreneurs and software guys to get close to a real customer and hopefully start a new business or develop a big data application.

Analysing big data can lead to big insights and a greater understanding of business problems and ways to solve them.

The Sydney Firehose: Big Data Startup Competition invites entrepreneurs to create something useful, marketable and unique by analyzing a huge set of data (1 TB/150,000,000 records), which will be given to them by Coca Cola Amatil, Coke’s Australian partner and bottler.

Jason Hosking

Jason Hosking

The data is basically the company’s supply chain data, collected by the company for the last 3 years. The data includes information of about CCA’s suppliers, clients, products, deliveries and orders.

The aim of the competition is to build an application or business that will make improvements to the companies operations by analyzing this data.

Big Data startups find it tough to find big companies that are willing to hand over their full operational history.

By providing the means and access to a huge set of data, the event aims at promoting innovation and as a result will hopefully help launch a number of new businesses.

The event is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs, who want to get access to an enormous quantity of data and use this to gain business insights and develop applications.

The features of the event include :

1. Coca Cola Amatil supplying three years of their Australian supply chain data for the entrepreneurs to access and utilize.

2. A platform to collaborate and learn from fellow entrepreneurs and mentors.

3. A chance for the participant to pitch their idea to a large prospective client, Coca Cola.

4. A great chance to meet extraordinary people from the entrepreneurship world and learn from them. The event will be judged by some great business leaders and entrepreneurs such as : Bruce Herbert, Rick Baker, Gerhard Voster, Ann Parker and Franki Chamaki.

They have some great prizes for the winner, $3000 in cash, startup training and 3 months of co-working experience with the Pollenizer team and the opportunity to pitch Coke as a customer for 3 months.

Coke trucks deliver to upto 40 customers per day

Coke trucks deliver to up to 40 customers per day

When and Where ?

The event will be held on the 15th, 16th and 23rd of November 2013. The participants can register on their website http://www.sydneyfirehose.com. The seats of the event are limited and are priced at $20. There are 20 slots each for entrepreneurs, designers and engineers.

The event will be held at :

The Hive

180 Commonwealth St

Surry Hills, NSW 2010

The Organizers

The event is co-organised by Pollenizer. A startup that co-founds businesses and organizes startup events like Firehose. Pollenizer was founded by Mick Liubinskas and Phil Morle in 2008. Mick Liubinskas is an entrepreneur, investor and technologist.

Phil Morle & Mick Liubinskas (looking very dapper) Credit Pollenizer.com

Phil Morle & Mick Liubinskas (looking very dapper) Credit Pollenizer.com

Mick and Phil Morle, the CEO of Pollenizer, worked in the team of Kazaa, a P2P sharing application that saw its rise during the end of the first generation of P2P networks such as Napster. In its golden days, Kazaa was downloaded and used by millions across the ‘World Wide Web’ for P2P sharing (over 300 million at its peak making it the most downloaded software in history at the time). They were also part of the team that helped launch Spreets.com which was sold to Yahoo Australia for $40m 18 months after launching.

UPDATE: Mick has taken up a new challenge at Muru Digital, the Telstra backed incubator, he will remain on the board at Pollenizer.

Final Word

The most unique feature of the event is it’s openness. The idea of making normally very tightly held data available to potential startups is a great initiative for the company and the potential startups.

Hopefully this initiative will see new businesses launched with Coke as a customer and help CCA improve its operations.

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