Our Team

Kiyan Zandiyeh

Kiyan Zandiyeh – Chief Investment Officer  Kiyan’s journey to leading a venture firm is as impressive as it is atypical. Kiyan began formally investing in his late teens when he launched a strategy investing in global equities (for individuals in his network) that ultimately grew to $20m, compounding capital at >40% per year between 2007-2012. Born in the UK to Iranian parents, his regular travel to Iran opened his eyes to the transformative business opportunities in emerging markets. As a result, he went to work with the famous (arguably infamous) economist Nouriel Roubini leading economic research and investment strategy in emerging and frontier markets. During this time, Kiyan witnessed the changing technology infrastructure landscape in emerging and frontier markets – and the multi-decade opportunity it represented.

Alex Branton

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

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.

Maryna Omelchenko

Maryna Omelchenko – Head of Investor Relations  Maryna has a background in venture capital, strategy consulting and entrepreneurship. Prior to joining Sturgeon, Maryna was a VC Investor at DN Capital, a global early-stage VC fund investing in Seed-Series B tech startups in Europe, the US, and select emerging markets. Prior to working in VC, Maryna was the Founder and CEO of an Edtech startup in the UK, and worked in strategy consulting and deal advisory at EY-Parthenon. Maryna has a diverse and international background, having lived and studied in 7 different countries. She holds a BSc in Architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) and an MSc in Management from Imperial College London. Maryna is fluent in Ukrainian, Russian, and French, and is currently learning Arabic.

Saad Hasan

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

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

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.