The Startup Playbook

Connecting you to the best entrepreneurs, investors and resources from around the world

Ep150 – Rick Baker (Partner – Blackbird Ventures) on culture, innovation & the rule of no exits

My guest for Ep150 of The Startup Playbook Podcast was the Co-founder & Partner at Blackbird Ventures, Rick Baker.

Blackbird is one of, if not the leading Venture Capital Fund in Australia.

Since launching in 2012, Blackbird has raised 4 funds for a combined committed capital of $1.24B with an astonishing net internal rate of return of 46.7% for every dollar invested as of June 30, 2020.

Their portfolio includes some of Australia’s most iconic companies  such as Culture Amp, Safety Culture and Canva where they own 14% ownership stake, which is by far the largest of any external investor.

The overall success of their first fund led them to selling 40% of their fund 1 for $100M, providing a 3x return to all of their LPs.

In this interview we discussed:

  • The story behind Blackbird’s first fund
  • Why Blackbird has a unique rule in backing in only backing founders who are not looking for exits
  • How Blackbird’s internal culture and curiosity led to investments in the future of food, space and autonomous vehicles
  • The thinking behind Blackbird’s decision to sell 40% of their first fund for $100M
  • When and how to reach out to Blackbird for investment
  • & much more!


  • 3.03 – Intro to Rick Baker and his background  
  • 6.07 – How Rick got connected to his co-founder Niki and they started Blackbird 
  • 8.16 – Starting Blackbird during a time when VC was dying in Australia 
  • 11.10 – Early days of Blackbird and not paying themselves for the first 18 months 
  • 11.53 – What Blackbird looks for in founders and experience working with Baraja 
  • 16.00 – Blackbirds goal to be more than just a financial fund by offering connections and other support 
  • 17.58 – Blackbirds no exits rule and why they have it
  • 21.53 – Shift in founders ambition in Australia since the growth of the startup industry
  • 23.12 – Why Blackbird is selling off part of their Fund 1
  • 26.53 – How Blackbird helps founders to stay motivated, engaged and involved in the business 
  • 29.27 – Supporting founders through difficult times 
  • 32.50 – The importance of giving constructive feedback
  • 35.14 – Building the Blackbird team and the importance of having a solid team for the growth and success of the company 
  • 39.24 – Choosing what to invest in and how those decisions have changed from the beginning of Blackbird 
  • 41.30 – Maintaining company culture as a team grows 
  • 43.50 – Defining the culture at Blackbird
  • 45.23 – Looking for opportunities and Blackbirds’ choice to invest in new industries and technologies 
  • 49.12 – When is the right time to pitch Blackbird and why it’s never too early 
  • 51.53 – The importance of social proof and the ability to bring people on your journey as a founder 
  • 53.49 – Getting investment from Blackbird or joining the Startmate Accelerator
  • 56.22 – What Blackbird are looking for in new and future investments 
  • 59.45 – Where Blackbird is going next 
  • 1.02.04 – How to get in contact with Rick and Blackbird

Links Mentioned 

Ricks Links 

People Mentioned 

Companies Mentioned

Past Episodes Mentioned 

Special Thanks:

Special thanks to Niki Scevak, Federico Collarte and Cibby Pulikkaseril for their help with research for this interview! 

Feedback/connect/say hello:
@RohitBhargava7 (Twitter)
/rohbhargava (LinkedIn)
@rohit_bhargava (Instagram)
My Youtube Channel


Music: Joakim Karud – Dreams

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