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Sam Wong discusses building an ecosystem, leverage, and investing in New Zealand

First Cheque

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Summary

In this insightful episode of the podcast, listeners are introduced to the world of venture capital through the lens of Sam Wong, a seasoned Partner at Blackbird Ventures. Delving into her journey from the early investments to scaling venture funds across markets, this conversation provides an intimate look at what it means to both contribute to and grow within a startup ecosystem. Sam shares her experiences in identifying alpha opportunities, scaling venture fund operations, and the unique challenges and triumphs found in burgeoning markets like New Zealand.

As the podcast unfolds, Sam recalls her first investment and the lessons learned from its considerable return, offering a gateway to discussions on angel investing, ecosystem building, and the dedication needed to manage venture funds successfully. She provides a clearer understanding of the nuanced journey from fund one to the subsequent funds, highlighting the responsibilities of fund managers to their LPs and the critical considerations leading up to successful fund raises. This episode is not just about past decisions but also the leveraging of opportunities, strategizing for long-term outcomes, and the bold moves that define a venture capital career.

About the Guest(s):

Sam Wong is a Partner at Blackbird Ventures, a leading Australian venture capital firm. With a background initially in law, Sam made the transition into the world of tech startups, eventually finding her place within the venture capital space. She is applauded for her precision, thoughtful approach, and credibility. Recognized as being among the first to identify New Zealand as a burgeoning space for startup investment, she significantly impacted both the Australian and New Zealand startup ecosystems. Her brave step into leading Blackbird Ventures’ expansion into New Zealand despite personal challenges speaks volumes of her determination and vision for the industry.

Key Takeaways:

  • The transition from angel investing to venture capital management involves long-term commitment and strategic relationship building with founders and LPs.
  • The phenomenon of market asymmetry can provide disproportionate access to quality deals, creating opportunities for generating alpha in venture capital investments.
  • Scaling a venture fund from one iteration to the next requires more than historical performance; it necessitates team growth, market positioning, and an alignment with LP expectations.
  • Early-stage ecosystems, like New Zealand’s, possess unique characteristics such as strong vertical SaaS and deep tech capabilities, influenced by successful local companies and founder backgrounds.
  • Personal conviction and the ability to take calculated risks, as demonstrated by Sam’s decision to relocate and spearhead Blackbird’s New Zealand fund, are essential traits for success in venture capital.

Notable Quotes:

  • “I think that [small checks] are actually more about the relationship. And can a founder be bothered giving you a line on their cap table when the money doesn’t even cover a week of Runway?” – Sam Wong
  • “You can’t just profit from the ecosystem, you have to take responsibility for building it too, and building it in a certain way.” – Sam Wong
  • “That asymmetry of capital supply to founder talent is what creates alpha opportunities, right? And you just don’t get many of those in a venture lifetime.” – Sam Wong
  • “It didn’t really take very long before I only grew in conviction that there was a sort of Australia 2013 esque opportunity where you had…a real scarcity of quality options for capital” – Sam Wong
  • “I think starting New Zealand has probably been the biggest, big cojones thing because I felt it at the time too. It did feel very risky at the time.” – Sam Wong

Transcript

This transcript has been A.I. generated.

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