Dimmes Doornhein: Experienced founder and investor

By Solvita Mazeikaite - For a young startup, having a coach who has worked in a wide range of roles and markets sure is invaluable. And when you add to that his passion for building great teams and companies, there is little left you can ask for. Dimmes Doornhein is among YES!Delft’s Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR) – an experienced founder and investor himself – who is looking to share his knowledge with the new generation of young entrepreneurs.

‘It’s about building the right teams’

At the age of 70, Dimmes not only has valuable lessons to share, but he also brings the type of energy and sparks that many young founders need to ignite their confidence. 

Having worked in the fields of city redevelopment, telecommunications – in particular during the liberalization of telecom companies in the 80s, to more recently being involved with newer technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Dimmes has a wide range of experiences to draw from and pass on to others. 

Yet, perhaps what he knows most about is not a specific field of technology. It is people. It is building and growing successful teams. 

“Throughout the years, I have worked in many multidisciplinary teams and what is characteristic about such teams is that on an individual basis, everyone is brilliant. But then you put them all together and things don’t always work.” In other words, a strong team needs the right chemistry, not just the brightest minds. 

Putting the right teams together and helping them shape the companies of tomorrow is one of the areas that Dimmes focuses on when coaching young founders. What’s more, he makes sure to create the environment entrepreneurs need to shine and grow as individuals, while contributing to the development of the wider team.

While he’s worked in a variety of roles during his career, Dimmes has most often ended up in the position of manager or CEO. In that, he has had hundreds of people working with him. 

Not for him, he emphasizes, with him. 

“The role of CEO is to be a leader and bring the best out of everyone,” he believes. “Probably half of the people I have worked with were smarter than me and I find it important to acknowledge that. It is important to give people the space to do what they are best at as they contribute to the goals of the team.”

Bringing market experience together with the knowledge of complex tech

What Dimmes likes most about working with young people is that he gets to bring both his successes and mistakes, while they bring inspiration, fresh ideas and insights on new technologies. In a way, it is the perfect recipe for bringing together real-life market experience with very specialized technologies.   

One of those technologies comes from the team of YES!Delft startup Flexous. Dimmes is currently with the team and believes their innovative approach to horology has the potential to revolutionize the watch industry. An industry that is hundreds of years old. “If you dare to revolutionize and you do it right, you can become really big,” he says.  

Over the past months, Dimmes has been mentoring the team of Flexous and now sits on their recently created advisory board. “I don’t know it all,” he admits, “but I am here to advise, ask the right questions and ignite people’s creativity.”  

Next to being the person that teams can get advice from, he also strives to be someone they can confide in. “I am there so people can talk to me and know that what they tell me will never leak.” In other words, he creates a safe space for teams to share and work out their differences.

And why does he do all that? 

In his experience, it is really difficult to keep a team together. In fact, not having the right team and being able to move forward as one is among the three main reasons companies fail. It is, therefore, crucial that startups have things properly set up from the get-go.  

“You need to get things right from the start,” he says. “Think about this. If you leave the port of Rotterdam for New York and you make a mistake of two degrees – just two degrees – you will end up in Rio de Janeiro. This is why it is so important to have the right guidance and avoid any mistakes from the start.”  

Without a doubt, strong teams are at the heart of being successful. Yet, building such teams is easier said than done, especially for young entrepreneurs who have never experienced it before. For those within the YES!Delft community, the knowledge of how to do that is there. And Dimmes is one of the sources of that knowledge.  

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