Partech’s Global Director of Brand & Community Keji Mustapha: From pioneering FemTech startup to supercharging startup founders
The second employee of female health tech pioneer Elvie, who moved into venture capital to help catapult startups to greatness, is on her own stratosphericrise.
Keji was in Uganda when she first received the call to join the startup world. On the other end of the line was TaniaBoler the founder of Elvie – a company that has raised over £70million pioneering women’s health tech, specifically breast pumps and pelvic floor exercisers. Now, Elvie is the stand-out success in FemTech. Back then, it was just an idea.
Tania had offered to be Keji’s mentor when they worked together in the early 2010s at Marie Stopes International, the NGO for women’s sexual health. Impressed as she was by Keji, Tania promised that if she would be able to secure funding for her next venture Keji would be one of the first people she’d call. Sure enough, eighteen months later Keji picked up the phone in Uganda and was soon on a flight back to London to be Tania’s righthand.
Keji was employee number two and took on the mantle of Head of Operations. “I was a jack of all trades,” Keji says, “I loved that early stage of things. I loved that nothing existed.”
When the company started heading towards their next round of funding – series A in 2017 where they picked up £7 million – Keji realised that she missed the scrappy early days of startup life. With the blessing of Tania, who promised that a spot would be there for her if ever she wanted to return, Keji decided it was time for a move.
Moving into venture capital
The next opportunity landed in her inbox via AngelList, the US startup jobs board. The offer came from Connect Ventures, the London-based venture capital firm which specialised in early-stage companies. Her job would be to build a community of early-stage founders.
“My first mission was to think about how we can help great founders turn into great leaders,” says Keji.
As a self-described generalist, Keji thought this role suited her perfectly, and dived right in. She set about building a platform that would help seed stage founders to learn the skills they need to succeed as quickly as possible: leadership, communication, high performance, and mental wellbeing.
As well as equipping startup tech founders with a framework for how they could approach the development of the product they’re trying to create, she helped them find the right training, and connected them with the experts, and coaches they needed.
She was originally only supposed to stay at Connect Ventures for two years to build up the community. She ended up staying there for nearly five years, helping to develop the operations and culture at the VC firm.
Joining a multi-stage firm
Joining Partech presented another opportunity to step up. If Connect Ventures was doing ten deals a year and had 75 companies on the roster, Partech was nearly triple that. What’s more, Partech had funds all over the world and in multiple sectors and investment stages – from seed all the way through to series E and beyond to an ultimate exit.
“I want to be a founder one day,” says Keji, “So where better to learn what it takes to actually move through the different stages to exit than at a multi-stage firm.” Partech has given Keji the chance to learn from founders she really admires – and figure out exactly which characteristics she respects in certain founders. Namely, being ambitious and humble but also unapologetic.
“I definitely have the best job in Europe, maybe the world,” says Keji, “It's such a privilege to get to spend my waking hours helping the best founders scale themselves, their teams, and their companies. And doing so through the power of community. I’m a firm believer in the African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go together.’”
The In-Focus interview series is a collection of articles commissioned by Atara Partners with some of the world's fastest-moving technology businesses and their leaders.
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