News & Analysis

Blackbird Ventures launches Sirius A program to ‘concierge’ top computer science students into startup jobs

- May 20, 2016 3 MIN READ

Recruiting is hard for startups the world over, hence the ping pong tables, catered meals, endless snacks, gym memberships…the perks go on. For Australian startups however attracting top talent is particularly difficult, even for those with US$30 million of funding under their belt.

In an AMA with Sydney-based firm Blackbird Ventures yesterday, Canva cofounder Melanie Perkins discussed the difficulties the startup has faced, and still faces, in recruiting, writing, “We’ve done everything under the sun to recruit our amazing team. It’s a lot easier now than it was in our initial stages – but it’s still hard to find people at the caliber that we need, especially considering how rapidly we are trying to expand.”

Recognising the same problem over and over again among the startups in its portfolio and in the wider startup community, Blackbird has been experimenting with a way to help: Sirius A. Essentially a graduate program, with Sirius A the firm will look to ‘concierge’ top computer science graduates into startups.

Though still experimenting with how to put the program into practice, Blackbird has been talking to heads of school at Sydney universities to have them tell students about the program and get them expressing their interest. Blackbird will then meet with the students to see what their interests are and where their passions lie, and then determine which company they might work well at.

Joel Connolly, head of community at Blackbird, said that the problem with startup recruitment in the Australian context is largely one of communication.

“We just don’t think students know or are aware of what startups are around in Sydney and Melbourne and Australia more broadly. They’re not aware of the opportunities available and we think that’s because in a startup you’re working so, so hard to build a product, a team, acquire customers that you don’t have time to embed yourself deeply in universities like some of the companies at the bigger end of town do,” he said.

Startups are incredible places to work, particularly for young people who are looking to make their mark and do something special, Connolly said, but the story needs to be told to make people aware.

“One piece of feedback that has come back to us from the universities is that lots of people want to get to these students, it’s not just startups. We really, truly believe that if we can just tell the story, get to these students and explain some of the benefits about working at a startup and what a startup is and dispel some of the myths, if we can just get to them and have that conversation with them then we think it’s a really easy argument to make,” Connolly explained.

Beyond just placing the students at their first job, Blackbird will look to stay with these graduates throughout their careers.

“If they decide they want to move on from their first job and go somewhere else, we’ll help them get somewhere else. If they decide the startup life isn’t for them and they want to go to Facebook or Google, we can help them there too. If someday some of these kids have a great idea for a business, they’ll have our ear and a really easy walk into Blackbird,” Connolly said.

With top engineers the biggest need for its portfolio companies – and most local startups – Connolly said Sirius A will be focusing on computer science students, but Blackbird may expand to work with students in different fields if the program proves successful.

Learn more about Sirius A here.

Image: Blackbird founders Niki Scevak, Bill Bartee, Rick Baker.