Going Against the Flow: Bastiaan Janmaat, CEO & Cofounder of DataFox

Bastiaan is the CEO and Cofounder of DataFox Intelligence, a company and sector intelligence platform backed by Google Ventures. Prior to launching DataFox, Bastiaan worked in private equity and venture capital at Goldman Sachs. He later served as Director of Business Development for a Kleiner Perkins portfolio company, evaluating over 150 acquisition targets. His intimate knowledge of the type of information investment and advisory firms seek played an integral role in the development of DataFox. Bastiaan was born in Japan, grew up in Singapore, went to undergraduate schools in the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Spain, and the UK, and holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Bastiaan Janmaat

Q: What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

BJ: To me entrepreneurship is all about bringing together people with unique experiences, opinions and expertise, and collectively building something that no other team could emulate. Successful founders have a north star - an idea or a vision of something that fixes a broken status quo- and they are able to find the individuals with the talents necessary to drive towards that north star, fully expecting that the exact location and nature of that north star will change over time.

When Alden, Mike, Ben and I started DataFox, our north star was "Wow, even the most well-resourced firms in the world employ analysts to do very manual labor, day in day out, hence limiting the time available for true analysis and discovery - this needs to be fixed." The exact shape of the product we're building to bring predictive intelligence to analysts in companies large and small has changed somewhat over the course of our journey. However, since we bring expertise from finance, enterprise SaaS, and artificial intelligence, we believe we're able to make decisions at critical forks in the road to continue building the best possible product that our current and prospective customers need.

Q: What are you most proud of in your professional career? If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?

BJ: I'm most proud of the team we've built at DataFox. Building a startup brings a lot of uncertainty with it, and I am sometimes tempted by an instinct to have to have all the answers, but I have found in the past year and a half that being surrounded by experts in various fields ensures that I can rely 100% upon our team's ability to make the best decisions most of the time.

Something I would have done differently? I would have studied a more technical field in college: perhaps, industrial design or civil engineering. I am fascinated with the technical considerations behind simple design, and I think this would have helped me tremendously in designing DataFox. Fortunately we have a co-founder and head of product who brings on board investment banking experience and a foundation in engineering, and has an authentic understanding of the problems we are solving. Still, I would have liked to be more helpful to him on the product design front.

Q: Tell us about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.

BJ: I had been working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in London for a little over two years when I decided I wanted to get an MBA in the US. I was very happy in my job, but as an investment analyst, I constantly found myself wanting to be on the other side of the table- in the entrepreneur's seat. However, I didn't know the first thing about starting my own company, and I was a generalist without any deep domain knowledge. An MBA presented itself as a great way to meet entrepreneurs and other industry experts, and consequently, the opportunity to figure out whether entrepreneurship might indeed be the right route for me. Leaving GS begged a big opportunity cost. Many peers, managers, and mentors advised me not to leave, but I followed my gut and couldn't be more grateful with the path that it has presented me with.

Q: What major trend is DataFox riding?

BJ: The volume of communication and data is exploding. There are too many streams to pull from, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to pull the right data point at the right time. Specifically for our customers, their companies' online footprints are expanding, but they don't have the time to monitor a company's employees on LinkedIn, their Twitter account, their Delaware filings, and the regional papers that cover them. Hence the need for "push". I train my delivery pipe to understand my interests, schedule, and priorities. The pipe decides what's important and surfaces that for me.

That's DataFox in a nutshell. Our clients - spanning investment firms, banks, business development, sales & marketing - track lists of prospects using DataFox, uncover new high-growth companies, benefit from having information garnered from thousands of sources all in one place, and receive notifications any time our algorithms pick up an important milestone.

Q: LinkedIn style - If you were to give advice to your 22 old self, what would it be?

BJ: "Never eat alone." This is the title given to marketing expert Keith Ferrazzi's impactful book about building and nurturing your network. I came to the US three years ago with a meager network here. I was fortunate to benefit tremendously from Stanford and the doors that it opened for me - introducing me to my co-founders, employees, advisers, mentors, investors, customers, and friends for life. I have found that amidst all of these remarkable people, there are a handful of folks who keep coming back as staunch supporters of myself and DataFox. These relationships were built up through meaningful interactions: over coffee, a tennis game, a shared class, or a shared glass. I would advise my 22-year-old self to invest more deliberately earlier on in life in building such meaningful relationships.

Follow Bastiaan at @bastiaanjanmaat , and check out the other interviews in Going Against the Flow series at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charu-sharma/ or thestartupsutra.com.