A call to founders

Norman Fiore
Dawn Capital
Published in
4 min readSep 10, 2020


The Dawn team

Innovation thrives on instability. System-wide shocks drive change that startups can exploit ruthlessly, and to which incumbents cannot adjust.

Historically, these shocks were either financial, technological or societal. In 2020, we’ve had all three at once: technology shock as the cloud came into its own, financial shock which will force society to do more with less, and a fundamental change to the way our working and personal lives are organised. This is your time!

The battle in the world of startups is that of David versus Goliath. And it happens over and over again. The incumbents are the Goliaths. They have the advantage of size, an established brand, know-how, cash and other resources. They set prices in the market, gain coverage from analysts, garner glowing references from notable customers and receive constant attention from journalists, all whilst reaping the rewards of economies of scale. The Davids have none of these. But for all of these very real disadvantages, startups have one superpower that makes up for them all: agility. Every single one of our founders builds organisations which can adapt to change overnight.

We cannot wait to see where our current founders, or the extraordinary entrepreneurs we’ve yet to meet, will take us as we invest Dawn IV, our fourth flagship fund, and Europe’s largest to date investing exclusively in early-stage European B2B software businesses.

As we all know well, system-wide shocks cause chaos in the established pecking order of industries. Most often these shocks are driven by fundamental technology shifts — for example, the move from client server, to web, to mobile, to cloud and now to AI. For startups, the opportunity to take advantage of these events to deliver offerings that are both better and cheaper than established players is vast.

It was our partner Evgenia who capitalised on the AI shift and made one of our most successful bets of Dawn III. She led our investment in Dataiku, a Paris-based company that is helping more than 300 customers, including GE Aviation, Sephora and Unilever, to use their data to create machine-learning and AI models for operational projects.

With the volume of data collected by businesses growing exponentially, AI became not a choice but an imperative. When I first met Dataiku over three years ago, it was immediately clear that it was poised to democratise AI in the enterprise: it was and remains the only tool in the market that is collaborative, end-to-end and accessible to business and pro users alike.

And we are still early in AI’s unstoppable journey to transform the world. I look forward to backing a new generation of picks and shovels businesses and, equally, to the avalanche of AI-native businesses sure to follow.

Within financial services, change is often driven by aggressive regulatory shifts. Another of the standout investments in Dawn III is Tink, one of the best open banking platforms in Europe, and a bet Josh, one of the Dawn co-founders who leads our fintech sector, made:

I was seeing that, with the rise of open banking — and the trend towards an open finance economy more generally — banks and fintechs alike had to consider how they can thrive and best serve their customers. At its core, this would rely on the ability to effectively share, collect and understand data at scale. In Tink’s infrastructure, which now supports more than 2,500 institutions across Europe, Dawn invested in the only player which could provide that connectivity to underpin the product strategies of banks and fintechs through the coming decades.

Now we’re turning the page to Dawn IV, and I’m immensely excited about the future partnerships the team will uncover. Mina is Dawn’s lead on investments in the Future of Work. It’s hard to imagine anyone being more busy than Mina during the investment of this fund, as the world migrates from applications hacked to serve the worker at home, to applications built natively to deliver a flexible, seamless corporate experience, wherever an employee may be.

And whereas Mina likes to focus on the application layer, you’ll always find Henry digging a little deeper and looking at the infrastructure that not only aggregates data from ever disparate services but, now, delivers that data securely to employees physically outside the enterprise, building business value.

Finally, a mention of my long-time partner in crime, my co-founder, Haakon, who leads all our growth efforts and is currently edging our largest position, Collibra, the world’s largest end-to-end data intelligence platform, towards the milestone of $100m invested capital. If you truly have big dreams, start with a VC that can back you all the way.

We hope you share our direction of travel. And, if not, we challenge you to team up with us and change it!