Kiyan Zandiyeh – Chief Investment Officer Kiyan is CEO and CIO of Sturgeon Capital, a leading Emerging Markets venture firm focussed on investing in and helping build some of the leading technology companies in countries early into their digital transition. Under his leadership, Sturgeon has launched three funds and accumulated $300m in AUM from LPs ranging from global family offices, DFI’s and multinational corporates. Headquartered in London, the firm today has offices across four countries. Kiyan took on the role of CEO of Sturgeon in his mid-20s after working with the well-known economist Nouriel Roubini as head of Emerging Market investment strategy. During this time, he witnessed the changing technology landscape in Emerging Markets and the opportunity to build an investment firm around the theme. In parallel to investments in existing companies, he has played a vital role in incubating and building companies as an operator. These include Zoodpay (e-commerce enabled digital lender), where as a founding investor and board member, he has helped expand the company into five countries and a $200m enterprise value business, Oasis MFI (a digital microfinance bank), Azki (online insurance marketplace) and Khodro45 (online auto marketplace). Kiyan is a graduate of Imperial College Business School.
Alex Branton – Partner Alex has over a decade of investment industry experience as both a GP and LP. He was a key early hire to Sturgeon’s VC team, supporting the strategy and infrastructure development. Alex has studied and lived in emerging markets (most significantly China) on and off for 15 years. Prior to Sturgeon, he helped establish Columbus Point (a high-profile tech-orientated global equity manager) and was on the emerging markets team at Cambridge Associates. Alex holds a BA in Industrial Economics from the University of Nottingham and an MSc in Development (economics) from the London School of Economics. Alex has also completed academic stints at Hong Kong University, Shanghai Jiaotong University and Korea University. Alex is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
Robin Butler – Partner Robin’s background is eclectic, pivoting from a historian-linguist to VC via nine months of living and studying Farsi in Iran. A student of Arabic and Middle Eastern History at university, Robin has lived, worked, and travelled in emerging markets for the past ten years. His academic background ensures that he always looks for both sides of the argument, while his time spent in the countries that Sturgeon invests in both a personal and work capacity means he has been able to empathise and build strong relationships with founders’ local investors.
Saad Hasan – Principal Previously a senior member of the VC team at Pakistan’s largest bank, Habib Bank Limited (HBL), Saad has an extremely strong track record as an operator and an investor. Saad has a decade of experience as a founder, executive and investor in both emerging and developed markets. As an investor, he has worked for Morgan Stanley, Qatar Airways, and JLL handling diverse mandates in Corporate Development, Venture Capital, and Private Equity, primarily in emerging markets. From 2017 to 2019, Saad co-founded and successfully scaled Jrop, a North American Mapping as a Service company that pioneered last meter routing for ride-sharing companies.
Steve Chaves – Chief Operating Officer Deloitte trained (FCA and FCT qualified professional) with 13 years’ experience at a mid-market European private equity house Silverfleet. Steve has deep technical knowledge in both fund and corporate accounting and has worked extensively with fund administration, advisory services, tax compliance, audit firms and regulators. He has a degree in business studies and Japanese from the University of Wales. Steve has been integral to building up a world-class operational platform at Sturgeon.
Alijon Ravshanov – Central Asia Lead Alijon has 20 years of investment experience with a proven record of success in private equity investments in Uzbekistan. He has developed one of the most extensive networks in Central Asia, supporting deal flow and due diligence. Alijon began working with Sturgeon as a consultant in late 2018 and was formally hired in early 2019. He is one of the most experienced PE investors in both Uzbekistan – and Central Asia more broadly. Alijon is critical for on-the-ground due diligence pre-investment through to monitoring positions post-investment.
Waiz Rahim – Bangladesh Venture Partner Waiz is the former founder of Deligram, an omni-channel eCommerce company that raised over $2.5m in venture funding in Bangladesh. Waiz graduated from USC studying Industrial & Systems Engineering. He is also a non-executive board member at his 70-year-old family holding company, Rahimafrooz. Waiz brings this unique perspective of both traditional and startup business in Bangladesh to support Sturgeon Capital with every aspect of the investment process, from deal sourcing to due diligence and post investment support.
McKinley Richards – Impact Venture Partner A graduate of international economics and global development, McKinley has built her career around public and private impact initiatives including the prestigious Page program at the Canadian House of Commons, Enactus at the University of Ottawa, and the Propel Impact Consulting Fellowship. McKinley most recently lived and worked in Kyrgyzstan, supporting Accelerate Prosperity – an accelerator and impact investing initiative powered by the Aga Khan Development Network in Central and South Asia. Prior, she worked at a grants management consulting firm, steering funding from private donors toward health, education, and economic self-sufficiency across North America. McKinley is focused on developing and increasing impact across Sturgeon’s operations, and she brings a genuine passion and diverse experiences promoting entrepreneurship and economic development to the team.