Niki Scevak – Wild Hearts and Wild Ideas – [Invest Like the Best, EP.200]

My guest today is Niki Scevak, co-founder and partner at Blackbird Ventures. Blackbird is a leading VC firm in Australia and New Zealand and has invested in companies like graphic design platform Canva and autonomous vehicle company Zoox. Our conversation covers the types of wild ideas Blackbird invests in, the landscape of venture and start-ups in Australia and New Zealand, and everything Niki knows about gross margins and customer acquisition. We also introduce a new concept on the show I’m calling Breakdowns, where we dive into a single business, what it does, how it operates, and what makes it tick. I hope you enjoy the conversation.

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This episode of Invest Like The Best is also sponsored by Assure. Assure is changing the way investors manage private transactions.

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For more episodes go to InvestorFieldGuide.com/podcast

Sign up for the book club and new email newsletter called “Inside the Episode” at InvestorFieldGuide.com/bookclub.

Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_oshag

Show Notes

(2:39) – (First question) – Defining a wild heart

(3:38 – How you identify someone doing their life’s work

(4:30) – Defining a wild idea

(6:13) – Origin of Blackbird and importance of small teams

(7:05) – Investing in companies and not rounds 

(09:57) – Signs of a good story and storyteller

(11:37) – Any places he disagrees with the majority of thinkers in the tech investing space

(13:11) – The sleepy firms backing high growth companies

(16:02) – The products of an investment firm

(18:17) – What he likes to see in a startup after their initial investment and gets him worried

(20:21) – Unique characteristics of the New Zealand and Australian markets 

(23:36) – Trends he’s seeing in companies he’s backed recently 

(24:46) – Everything he knows about gross margins

(25:36) – Range of gross margins in software companies and the quality of the business

(27:00) – Lessons on customer acquisition

(28:23) – Unique way a company acquired customers early on

(29:23) – Customer retention

(31:12) – Finding the best product thinkers

(32:30) – Question he is trying to answer

(34:01) – Lessons from his investing career

(35:40) – Business breakdown of Canva 

(38:36) – How Canva gets to its customers

(41:25) – Figuring out the monetization model

(44:42) – Canva’s moat

(46:08) – Most delightful feature

(46:41) – Positive portable lesson from Canva

(49:13) – Best way to learn more about the company

(49:24) – How I Built This with Melanie Perkins

(49:27) – This Week in Startups with Melanie Perkins

(49:41) – Kindest thing anyone has done for him

Learn More

For more episodes go to InvestorFieldGuide.com/podcast

Sign up for the book club and new email newsletter called “Inside the Episode” at InvestorFieldGuide.com/bookclub.

Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_oshag