AirTree Ventures

Innovation agenda helps lure new AirTree venture partner from London

JH

by Yolanda Redrup

Highly-regarded Australian venture capital firm AirTree Ventures has recruited a new partner from London’s venture scene, John Henderson.Mr Henderson has been a principal with White Star Capital, which has backed companies such as Dollar Shave Club, Cryex Group and Freshly.As part of the role, Mr Henderson is relocating to Australia to work alongside the AirTree Ventures team, which includes co-founders Daniel Petre and Craig Blair, and he says his decision to return home came down to the strengthening local ecosystem.”To be honest, the Innovation Statement was an important factor for me,” he said.

“Having been based in London, I’ve seen a similar thing play out with the start of Tech City a few years ago and it puts start-ups on the national agenda in a way I didn’t expect.

“This is an exciting stage for Australia. It becomes part of the dinner party conversations for all the people in business.”Before moving into start-ups and venture capital, Mr Henderson began his career as a lawyer for Allens Arthur Robinson, before moving to the Boston Consulting Group.After BCG, Mr Henderson left corporate world and joined Facebook in a strategy and business development role in 2012, before heading up business development and operations for news summary start-up Summly, which was sold to Yahoo for $30 million.

Expertise and focus

Most recently AirTree has backed New Zealand cloud-based corporate video start-up 90 Seconds, alongside Sequoia Capital.”AirTree’s focus is on software-as-a-service and marketplace start-ups. Artificial intelligence [AI] will enable new features and improve the capabilities of these businesses. I have some expertise in AI and hope to meet great Australian founders in that space,” Mr Henderson said.”My working thesis currently is that we need to look at things where Australia has a natural advantage. So for me, I look at things like mobility, AI and apps, because there is a global distribution channel, so the business can start from anywhere. Also with SaaS companies, small and medium sized businesses can onboard themselves, so Australia is well suited to creating these world leading companies.”

While at White Star, some major deals Mr Henderson was instrumental in securing were investments in KeyMe, Bloglovin’ and Aire. He has also served on the board of a number of firms including music discovery and ticketing platform DICE, social media marketing business AdGlow and foreign exchange trading platform Cryex.In 2015 Mr Henderson also co-founded London.AI, an event that has become the leading forum for AI practitioners from across the continentMr Henderson thinks his international exposure will be where he can add the most value at AirTree.

“White Star has offices in London and New York … and I feel like I’ve broken in and been exposed to some of the leading companies in the US and Europe,” he said.

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