Elaia Partners Partner Marie Ekeland will be leaving the VC firm at the end of the summer, the Rude Baguette has learned. Ekeland joined the team in 2005 and subsequently became a partner in 2008, investing in some of Elaia’s best investments, including Criteo, Teads & Scoop.it. Ekeland will resign her board seat on all of her portfolio companies, except for Criteo, where she will maintain a seat in her own name, instead of in her capacity as a Partner at Elaia Partners.
Ekeland was also appointed a board administrator seat to connected hardware company Parrot, which was decided in their General Assembly earlier this month.
I sat down to speak with Ekeland about her departure, rumors of which had already begun to turn by the time she took the stage last week at France Digitale Day. Ekeland says it was the right time for her to leave, and her next move will be to “try to build a different type of VC.” Ekeland has become an authority figure on the state of VC, both through her work as a VC at Elaia Partners, as well as through France Digitale, which she co-founded in 2012 in order to unite startups and venture capitalists to lobby the government for pro-startup legislation.
While Ekeland didn’t delve into details, she says that her next project will attempt to “take advantage of digital platforms that are emerging” in order to “bring different money into the sector.” Such a project may manifest itself as a crowd-funding for equity platform, or something entirely different – Ekeland spoke of changing the boutique VC model to something “scalable,” which sounds ambitious.
The departure is on amicable terms, as was confirmed by Elaia Partners’ Partner Xavier Lezarus, who co-founded Elaia Partners 11 years ago, and has worked with Ekeland for the last 15 years. Elaia is getting ready to raise a new fund in the fall, which, for Partners, is a 10-year commitment, and so it was the right time for Ekeland to decide whether she wanted to stay in or move on from Elaia.
While Ekeland’s presence will surely be missed at Elaia, they are anything but ailing at this point. Fresh off the Criteo IPO – France’s largest startup exit in recent history – as well as many up-and-coming global leaders (1001 Menus, SIGFOX, Teads, tinyclues, Scoop.it, Carnet de Mode), Elaia has been staffing up, adding team members like Pauline Roux, who joined the team to help with M&A after having worked previously in Corporate Finance.
In addition, Ekeland’s departure will allow for other team members to rise in the ranks (expect internal promotions to follow). Notably, Samantha Jérusalmy, who joined Elaia in 2008, and who has begun to manage investments like 1001Menus, Carnet de Mode & CookAngels, will be able to get out from under what can be a large shadow made by Ekeland, and will be able shine on her own as a VC.
To say that Ekeland single-handedly led Elaia Partners to become a tier-one VC in France would be an overstatement, but, as a venture capitalist, she has perhaps had the single biggest impact on the French tech ecosystem to date. She has managed to balance having an incredible professional career, on par with IDInvest’s Guillaume Lautour, while maintaining a political footprint comparable to ISAI’s Jean-David Chamboredon. She had an non-negligible role in Criteo’s remaining a French company despite its US IPO, and the way she talks, I think her chef-d’œuvre has yet to reveal itself.