Posts Tagged ‘startups’

Curating Community Key To Success

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Blackbird Ventures’ recent visit to ThincLab was all about the well known venture capital firm getting to know our founders. But it was also about community building, collegiality and learning.

After numerous false starts thanks to lockdowns and alert level changes, we finally managed to pull off our long awaited event hosting the New Zealand Blackbird and Startmate crews at the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship. Having created $10 billion in equity across some of Australia’s earliest unicorns, not to mention a generous sprinkling of other high growth companies, Blackbird Ventures has emerged over the last decade as Australasia’s largest and most active venture capital firm.

Whilst venture investment may not be for everyone, for those companies embarking on the journey, preparation is key. So we had Blackbird principal Phoebe Harrop lead a pitch workshop with founders from across the Christchurch ecosystem invited. Kathleen Yee from Plant My Carbon stepped up to give her Food, Fibre & Agritech Supernode Challenge pitch for the first time. “It was a wonderful opportunity to get feedback from a leading investor with the support of a room full of friendly founders” she said. Liam Beale CEO of Zealandia Systems, a ThincLab Growth programme company, also pitched. He explained that the session gave him some fresh ideas about refining his material ahead of some big sales events and conferences.

Harrop, who now runs the New Zealand wing of Blackbird, expressed that she is a big fan of building community. Blackbird is all about “finding the wild hearts” she says and investors ultimately rely on a pipeline of opportunities created by a vibrant and connected community. This has led to a promise of renewed engagement across the wider startup ecosystem including the announcement of a new Sunrise event planned for later this year. Now with the news of NZ Growth Capital Partners committing $30 million to Blackbird’s second $100M Kiwi fund and the relationship with Blackbird on a firm footing, it’s a fair bet there’s going to be a lot more pitch practice happening around the office.

Finger Pickin’ Good

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

Joining a band can be a lot like doing a startup company. So there must be a little bit of bluegrass moonshine in the blood of banjo picking, guitar strumming Sean Whitaker who has played a part in developing a number of homegrown food and beverage brands in recent years. Now he’s advising companies within the ThincLab-Food South programme.

Sean has a diverse business background including running his own project management consultancy and providing leadership and tertiary training for project management practitioners. Having completed post-graduate degrees at both Lincoln University and University of Canterbury, Sean gained a wealth of experience delivering or advising on projects for major corporates as well as government sectors across New Zealand and Australia. At one point he was even involved in a collaboration with NASA.

Whitaker’s part-time role at ThincLab involves advising company founders on business growth and capital raising strategies. He’s been keeping busy with a range of companies from a truffle farm through to a vegan food manufacturer, with a particular focus on scaling for global growth. An appreciation for cultivating a global outlook was ingrained in Sean from an early age in fact, having grown up in a military family with postings within the multi-ethnic commercial hub nations of  Malaysia and Singapore.

When asked about how we can boost business across the region Sean points out that, “Canterbury is under appreciated as a home for great start-ups”. He’s a big believer in training and mentoring for early stage founders, including encouraging young entrepreneurs from secondary schools and university. Something that aligns well with the ThincLab Canterbury ethos. “Entrepreneurialism needs to be framed as a legitimate career and not just something that people fall into accidentally”, he says. He also thinks it’s time to rebrand the city of Christchurch from Garden City to the City of Innovation. Perhaps we could even do both?

Are you a founder of a growth stage business with global ambitions? ThincLab Canterbury is supported by ChristchurchNZ to provide free advisory to eligible companies on strategy, capital-raising and international growth. Contact ThincLab for more information.