What I’ve soaked up at Blackbird Ventures — Day 11 as a VC intern
This week I’m at Blackbird Ventures, a fund committed to strengthening the Australian startup ecosystem. Here’s some of the things I’ve picked up during this amazing experience.
How to push the success factor of a startup up?
Founders helping founders.
During a meeting, the concept of founders of startups helping out other founders popped up, an idea employed at StartMate. It’s not just getting the founders of successful startups to give advice to those just at the first steps of their startup road. It’s about founders who are just starting on a process or struggling through one getting real stories and advice from founders who have only just past that very process. For instance a startup raising series A, should talk to those who have successfully raised a series A round. A startup about to make their first hires, should get advice from startups who have already made good and successful first hires (maybe after making several hiring mistakes).
You shortcut and you move faster.
And that’s one really big difference I’ve noticed about Blackbird. They have an accelerator program, StartMate where they offer mentorship and financing to startups. Their accelerator program means they have an extensive network of startups struggling and soaring through all sorts of stages. Startups that they mentor and guide, so extremely close relationships and understanding are developed.
While some venture funds helpfully connect you with other potential angel investors, VC’s and startups they know. Blackbird also connects you with startups and founders they potentially have mentored personally, selected out of the large pool of startup founders they know.
I remember last week sitting in a meeting with Gretta (founder of SkinnyMe Tea) and another founder going through Startmate. It was a meeting of perhaps an hour or more and throughout the entire meeting that was made up of advice and personal stories, the other founder kept nodding and jotting down things on a pad. They found it so incredibly useful , but even I a VC intern learnt a whole deal about everything from marketing mistakes and marketing wins to customer experience.
VC’s are looking for 10X returns (the game is lose big but win bigger). They want to invest in something that’s global, that’s ginormous. VC’s in Australia have noted that the ‘think big’ psyche in Silicon Valley isn’t as popular in Australia.
VC’s are more reluctant to invest in companies that only work within the boundaries of Australia.
Getting investment advice really early
As really young startups (maybe pre-product, pre-MVP) pitching your idea to someone else may seem premature. But it’s important that you bounce your ideas off someone else, even if it’s just an idea.
I still remember I had a startup idea (something I’m too embarrassed to even think about now) and I thought it was absolutely amazing, I decided to schedule a meeting with Billy Tucker at Oneflare to chat about it. Thank god I did, I discovered there was about a million holes in the idea.
What is it like being a VC?
Rejecting someone is hard
Sometimes VC’s may decide not to invest in a company. But having to provide a no that really explains why you don’t feel that conviction without being demoralising but still providing that frank communication is difficult and VC’s really care about that. All the VC companies I’ve interned at during these 3 weeks have really taken a supportive and mentoring role (which is great to see!) so they try to build constructive relationships.
A ‘no’ email will be quite long and detailed. It’s aimed at providing good feedback with clarity but also executing the refusal in a way that doesn’t add too much weight onto a founder’s shoulders.
It’s an emotional investment
When VC’s invest it’s not just a financial investment it’s an emotional investment too. (Everyone at Blackbird is so geekily into self-driving cars and rockets, because they are related to companies they’ve invested in).
VC’s have been along for the ride for a big part of the startup’s journey. They’ve seen the ups, the downs, the wins and the losses. When the company grows and the founders really develop into great leaders VC’s feel proud of it.
When a company begins flailing VC’s have an urge to help out, to crisis-manage. In a sense they feel part of the startup’s team.