Blackbird Raises A$500 Million Fund for Australian Startups

Blackbird Ventures, one of Australia’s largest venture firms, has another A$500 million ($357 million) to invest after raising its fourth fund.

The firm, which was one of the first investors in Australia’s most-highly valued startup Canva Inc., said in a statement that the A$500 million marks its largest fund to date. It last raised A$261 million in 2018 and has a total of A$1.3 billion in committed capital.

Blackbird said it has invested about $110 million in Canva, a graphic design business which had a $6 billion valuation in a funding round in June. That round was led by Blackbird and Sequoia China, with participation from existing backers including General Catalyst Partners, Felicis Ventures and Bond.

Blackbird also invested in autonomous vehicle startup Zoox Inc., which sold in June to Amazon.com Inc. for more than $1 billion. Compliance software SafetyCulture and analytics company Culture Amp are some of its other portfolio companies.

The mission of Blackbird, which was founded in 2012, is to be one of the first to write checks to local startups founded in Australia and New Zealand said Niki Scevak, a co-founder and partner at the firm.

Atlassian Inc., which was founded in Australia about 19 years ago and is now a $43 billion public company, helped inspire other enterprise software startups to be started there, he said. One of Atlassian’s co-founders, Mike Cannon-Brookes, is now on the board of Blackbird’s management company.

Australia’s sovereign wealth fund and Greenspring Associates are some of the investors that participated in Blackbird’s fund, according to its partners.

Pandemic, Recession

Rick Baker, co-founder and partner at Blackbird, said that even though Australia is in its first recession in 29 years, the startup investment scene remains active.

“We’ve seen heaps of deal flow over the last two months,” said Baker. He added that while some mediocre startups have struggled in the pandemic, the best businesses will still be able to raise more financing.

Australian Investment Council Chief Executive Officer Yasser El-Ansary said it’s “highly likely” 2020 will be a record year for venture capital fund raises after the Blackbird deal and an A$350 million round in June by Square Peg Capital Pty. That’s a “really positive sign” given Australia’s economy is in a recession, he said.

“When you look at the future, you can see very clearly the fundamental shifts that have already started to play out will continue to accelerate and may accelerate even faster on the back of this pandemic,” El-Ansary said.

‘Catching Up’

While Australia’s venture sector is nascent compared to the U.S., Europe and China, it’s closing the gap, El-Ansary said.

“It will only be probably in five years from now that we start to see Australia enter the global race a little bit more comprehensively because we will have done the catching up that we needed to,” he said. “From that point, it will be a little bit more about the genuine competition between us and other markets.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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