The Startup Playbook

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

Ep159 – Niki Scevak (Co-founder & Partner – Blackbird VC) on raising ambition

My guest for Episode 159 of The Startup Playbook Podcast was the Co-founder & General Partner of Blackbird Ventures, Niki Scevak.

Blackbird Ventures is one of the leading Venture Capital funds in Australia and NZ, counting companies such as Canva, Culture Amp and Safety Culture as part of its portfolio.

Niki and previous podcast guest, Rick Baker, Co-founded Blackbird in 2012 with an initial $29M. That initial fund proved to be hugely successful, with the fund selling 40% of fund 1 for $100M. The sale provided a guaranteed 3x return to all 96 investors who contributed to fund 1, while retaining an interest in the 12 portfolio companies with a carrying value of $6.50 per $1 invested.

In this interview we covered the story behind how Niki and Rick Baker first met and decided to launch Blackbird together, how the power law shapes Blackbird’s investing philosophy and how their approach to raising the ambition for their portfolio led them to change their own strategy from building the “Craigslist of VC” to growing from 4-60 people and raising Australia’s first $1B fund.


  • 4:39 – An introduction to Niki 
  • 6:15 – The importance of being around the right people early in Niki’s career
  • 8:10 – What led Niki and Rick to launch Blackbird together despite not knowing too much about each other at the time
  • 10:50 – How founders can do their own due diligence on potential cofounders
  • 14:22 – How Rick and Niki’s own background and experience helps their approach in “backing the hungry, not the proven”
  • 16:50 – What Blackbird looks for when investing early in founders and ideas that haven’t got revenue or haven’t launched
  • 23:00 – How Niki and Blackbird support their portfolio companies and help calibrate their founders
  • 25:54 – Blackbird’s approach to ownership of portfolio companies and their follow-on strategy
  • 30:35 – How Blackbird and Startmate builds an internal ecosystem of raising ambition
  • 33:45 – A deep dive into Blackbird’s investment in Zoox, their first non-software investment that paved the way for a new approach Blackbird took to investing
  • 39:49 – A reflection on Blackbird’s initial investments and how their approach has evolved as they have built up confidence
  • 42:35 – The role that the power law plays in how Blackbird decides to invest in companies
  • 45:45 – What led to the shift from Blackbird’s approach to building the “Craigslist of VC” i.e. small team/company to now growing from 4 to 60 people and raising Australia’s 1st $1B fund
  • 51:15 – Blackbird and Startmate’s internal culture and environment to raise their own ambition
  • 53:19 – How founders can recreate their own version of Blackbird’s culture
  • 57:00 – How founders can identify their own team cultural values

Links Mentioned 

A big thank you to our podcast partners for this episode


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Links Mentioned 

Niki’s Links 

People Mentioned 

Companies Mentioned 

Resources Mentioned 

Previous Episodes Mentioned 

Special Thanks:

Special thanks to Rick Baker, Nick Crocker, Rayn Ong and Rory San Miguel for their help with research for this interview! 

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


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