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Joel Connolly

Creative Director & Head, Blackbird Foundation

Fast Five is our quickfire interview series where we hit up some legendary movers, shakers, innovators and changemakers with, you’ve guessed it, five big questions. In this week’s edition, we talk to Joel Connolly, Creative Director and Head of the Blackbird Foundation.

Q1: Give us three words that describe your life working in the innovation, business growth and entrepreneurship space.

Creativity, community, culture.

Q2: What common strengths, skills or attitudes do you see (or look for) in successful founders?  

Creative people, with huge amounts of empathy. You need to be comfortable with ambiguity and be willing to learn relentlessly.

Q3: Tell us about a massive flearning (failing + learning) moment for you personally.

I used to manage bands. It was my own business that I built from scratch. I thought we were successful and I have all of the accolades to prove it (1st place in the Triple J Hottest 100, Platinum records and more).

But, it wasn’t until I left the music industry that I really began to understand what a successful business looks like.

I still had a great time and I was and still am very passionate about music, but I realise now we spent a lot of time working on something that was never going to work in the long term.

What would I do differently? Recognise that you need to marry your passions with an enthusiasm for building a business. And I would have sought out a mentor to help guide me on the way.

Q4: What do you wish you’d learned at school about starting, running or scaling a business?

That it’s even possible! Seriously though, I wish I had of had a basic understanding of the mechanics of a successful business.

You need a direct relationship with your customers, so that you can control pricing and get things like upgrade revenue.

It sounds silly but I had no basic understanding if micro economics.

Q5: What’s one book, website or podcast you’d recommend to aspiring young entrepreneurs, and why?  

Two books – Zero to One by Peter Thiel and The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath.

More about this week’s Fast Fiver, Joel Connolly. 

Joel is Creative Director and head of the Blackbird Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Blackbird, a community-driven venture capital firm. It invests in mission-driven founders in industries ranging from SaaS to Space. The social mission of Blackbird is to inspire the next generation of Australians through technology and entrepreneurship.

Prior to Blackbird, Joel co-founded and was Festival Director for Sydney Craft Beer Week, where he grew thier program from 6 events to 140 and played a significant role in the growth of the craft beer segment in Australia. He  also co-founded and ran Umbrella Artist Management and managed Platinum selling Australian bands including The Rubens, Cloud Control and Urthboy.

Joel  was a judge in the 2020 Future Anything National Finals, supporting the next generation of Aussie social entrepreneurs as they pitched their innovative, scalable and sustainable enterprises.

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