Venture capital firm Blackbird has raised Australia’s first $1 billion VC fund, with pension funds once again being cornerstone investors.
The announcement comes just a week after Square Peg announced it had raised $860 million in fifth-generation funds. Combined with another $700 million raised by Airtree earlier this year. that means the country’s three largest venture capital funds secured more than A$2.5 billion from investors by 2022.
The new Blackbird fund consists of a $284 million core fund, $668 million in a follow-up fund and NZ$75 million for investments in startups in New Zealand.
AustralianSuper and Hostplus, anchor investors in Square Peg’s latest fund, have shared love with Blackbird, alongside HESTA, Aware Super, Telstra Super and NGS, with Australian and New Zealand sovereign wealth funds, the Future Fund, New Zealand Growth Capital Partners Elevate fund and ACC are also putting money on the board.
Blackbird partner Rick Baker said the fund is also backed by more than 270 individual investors, many of whom are technical founders and operators.
“During an amazing cycle of life, we are proud to welcome some of the founders we have supported in previous funds as investors in this new fund,” he said.
“Our mission was to help catalyze the startup community in Australia and New Zealand and this is a great example of how our startup ecosystem is maturing and founders are investing back into the community.”
The new fund, which first closed in May, has already made 18 investments in startups from AI to manufacturing to e-commerce, including employee and student wellness company Sonder and data and AI-driven infrastructure platform Spice AI.
Partner Nick Crocker said a decade after Blackbird’s initial $29 million fund invested in the first rounds for unicorn tech companies Canva, Culture Amp and SafetyCulture, the VC’s focus remains the same.
“Our investment approach is not changing, we are still investing in the earliest stages and most of our initial investments are made before there are any revenues,” he said.
“This new fund gives us the privilege to invest in even more founders from the outset, to give them the initial capital they need to get started and hopefully in each stage that follows.”
His colleague and co-founder Niki Scevak said they believe tech companies will contribute 20% of Australia’s GDP within the next 10 years.
“The economic contribution of the Australian technology sector has increased by 79% since 2016, and our 2.2% share of unicorn companies is well over our 1.6% of global GDP,” he said.
“By 2032, we believe that Australia and New Zealand’s five most valuable companies will be technology companies, and the direct and indirect contribution of the technology sector will exceed $300 billion – greater than mining, manufacturing or construction.”
New Zealand-based partner Samantha Wong said about 6% of people worldwide now interact with ANZ tech companies (most recently Blackbird-backed Canva announced it has 100 million monthly users).
“Over the past decade, we’ve seen generational companies emerge from all over Australia and New Zealand – companies now used by 1 in 17 people who have access to the internet, who have outperformed their weight on the global stage, and thousands in be on duty. Australians and New Zealanders,” Wong said.
“In the next decade, employees will take their experiences from these companies and start the next generation of companies that follow, and Blackbird will be there to work with them.”