We are thrilled to announce that Ties Boukema has joined the Dawn team, and we are beyond excited to have him on board.
Ties is our first ever Data Lead, and is leading on devising and executing Dawn’s data & AI strategy — a strategy that will enable us to share even more in-depth insights with our founders.
The Dutch analytics expert studied law and statistics, completed a stint in banking, and joins us from Google, where a six-year career saw him promoted from Data Science facilitator to Revenue Analytics Lead. Ties oversaw all EMEA reporting and BI for the tech giant’s multi-billion dollar programmatic ads business, and will bring his knowledge of a Europe-wide ecosystem to Dawn and our companies.
Ties is also a successful founder himself, having co-founded Cognitas, an edtech startup that provides instructor-led SQL, Python and Data Automation courses to institutions including the London School of Economics and at Google. Through his experiences as a founder, Ties intimately understands the importance of being able to build on high-level benchmarking data and in-depth analyses of KPI performance, so is perfectly placed to head up things data for Dawn and assist our founders in realising their huge potential.
Ties is an intelligent, warm, genuine and deeply interesting person (who happens to have a Hollywood movie–like backstory — more on that later), and we are all excited to be working with him to take our data & AI strategy to new heights. We know he will be a huge asset to our team as we continue to deliver even more for our companies and investors.
Here we sit down with Ties to chat about everything from his thoughts on the use of data in early-stage VCs, to his favourite things to do when not working (they’re pretty diverse — he’s an occasional standup comic!)
What drew you to venture capital, and to Dawn?
Moving into VC feels like quite a natural evolution from being a startup founder.
I was inspired to start my own business during my time at Google. I was lucky enough to work on cool side projects alongside some brilliant people (one of these was the ARDA project, where I was part of a team using AI to help doctors prevent blindness in people with diabetes — it was incredible). Seeing some of that team start their own thing — and the energy that comes with it — lit the spark, and I decided to go for it.
Starting my own business in turn made me fall in love with the speed and ambiguity of being part of a very small group of smart people. And it made me respect how tough the job of entrepreneurs and early stage employees is! So when Dawn asked if I wanted to be the firm’s first Data Lead, I couldn’t say no. Everyone I met was razor sharp, personable and very diligent, and I can’t wait to work with the team and our founders to help everyone get the utmost from their data.
When did you first ‘get into’ data? And why is it such an exciting focus area?
My respect for data comes from quite a personal place.
I was born with a brain condition called hydrocephalus (don’t Google it), which means you have too much water around your brain. My condition was very severe, so I was in-and-out of hospitals constantly growing up, and I was told I would die young.
At age 20, I had a US doctor interpret the same scans differently, and had a surgery in the States that finally fixed the pain and gave me a normal life expectancy. I’ve been pain free ever since. You can imagine what a blessing that is, every day.
I firmly believe that AI and data have the potential to diagnose more diseases at an earlier stage, and give people a better life. It really is easier than ever to collect and work with data effectively, which is hugely exciting, and a big reason I’ve pushed my personal development in this direction.
That’s such a huge experience and journey, does having been through something that life changing give you a valuable perspective when it comes to work?
I’ve been in a place where the main stressor in my life was working out how I will get home, because I’ve had a migraine attack due to the hydrocephalus and my eyes and legs don’t work.
It definitely puts a lot of stuff in perspective. You become very aware of the concept of finding an internal locus of control. You learn to focus on the internal stuff you can control, and let go of the external stuff that you can’t control, which is constructive.
I think a big advantage is that today I handle stress very well, and don’t get phased that quickly. My work on data is quite broad, and it can involve going through the weeds to find where the wisdom lies. It can be stressful, especially when things move slowly, so having a sense of perspective, not getting worried or freaked out too quickly, is helpful.
Looking forwards, why is it so useful for VC firms to dive into their own data? And what are your plans for Dawn and its founders?
There are two reasons. Firstly, as a VC you always have to use all the information you have available really effectively. This means every piece of information, every piece of data, is crucial and should be extrapolated as much as possible.
Secondly, VC firms are generally very lean, and using data, AI and automation can help create more time in the day. There is so much VC work typically done in Excel and Powerpoint that can be partially automated, freeing up team time to do more meaningful, high-value work. That’s significant.
Implementing the strategy we’re developing now will put Dawn among the most forward-thinking VC funds in Europe when it comes to handling data. It will allow us to have the detailed answers to founder and investor questions at our fingertips, and ensure that all the data we get from our portfolio companies can be used to continually monitor, analyse and fuel growth. The strategy will enable and empower the entire firm, giving the team the bandwidth to spend even more time with our founders and delivering on the ground.
Now for the quick-fire round….
Where did you grow up and whereabouts are you based now?
I was born in Amsterdam, and have lived around the world in New York, London, Austin, Dublin and Madrid. I’m now based in London.
What are your favourite things to do in your free time?
I read about a book per week, on whatever topic I find interesting. My last three books have been about: Baseball analytics, the downfall of General Electric, and legal structures of venture deals at various stages. The last one was a real page turner.
What’s your favourite food?
I’ll eat pretty much anything, as long as there is enough of it. I have a massive appetite. When I started dating my now-partner Manon, I’d have dinner before we’d go out for dinner so I didn’t have to order two mains each time.
What’s your favourite book?
Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan. It’s changed what I do for a living, how I pick movies and how I approach personal relationships. I would definitely recommend it to anyone reading.
How would your friends describe you in one word?
I actually did this exercise with some friends a few months ago, and “happy” came up every time. I’m extremely grateful for my health and where I am in life at the moment.
To end the piece, it would be brilliant if you could share the best piece of advice you’ve ever received.
Always be kind. The world is a very small place.
To read more thoughts from Ties, follow him on LinkedIn.