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.

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.

Mariana Gereda

Mariana Gereda – Executive Assistant  Highly experienced office manager and executive assistant. Mariana has lived and worked across the UK, Italy, Spain, South America, and Kenya. She has worked for several international organizations such as Apple and Vodafone gaining a strong office-based experience working in sales and marketing for the GDO, real estate, travel, and leisure sectors. Mariana has a degree in Financial Management from the University of Sunderland (Canary Wharf, London). She has certificates covering intercultural mediation and business development management. She also has a BA in Law and political sciences from the University of Macerata in Italy.

Adilet Karabayev

Adilet Karabayev – Kazakhstan PE – Managing Director  Adilet has built an 18-year career, most recently seven years with well-known players (KCM, Al Falah and DSV) where he gained a solid track record. Before this, Adilet worked at Citibank (energy IB/M&A) after completing an MBA from LBS. He has worked on many high-profile transactions in his career. Adilet does not sit on the Sturgeon’s IC but has the scope to review early-stage deals for the Kazakhstan PE mandate.

Rustam Mursalimov

Rustam Mursalimov – Kazakhstan PE – Managing Director  Rustam has over 13 years of experience investing in global emerging markets, consistently achieving strong performance. Before Sturgeon, he worked as Lead Portfolio Manager at Gazprombank AM. He also worked as PM at Deka Investment, co-managing more than US$1bn across Russia, Turkey, CIS and Emerging Asia. More recently Rustam has worked on several private deals from early stage to large industrial projects working closely with all stakeholders.

Assel Azhigariyeva

Assel Azhigariyeva – Kazakhstan PE – Chief Compliance Officer  A licensed lawyer with 13 years of professional experience (4 years – private-equity fund; 3 years – law firm; 1 year – accountancy/advisory firm; 5 years – tax authorities). She has significant experience across many legal and compliance matters in Kazakhstan. Assel is also awaiting the results of her QLTS exam that would allow her to practice as a Solicitor in England. Her study of local and international law is exceptional, and she works closely with the PE investment team in Kazakhstan. She can be called upon for any internal legal reviews the VC team may wish to complete in Central Asia.

Nurgul Raushanova

Nurgul Raushanova – Kazakhstan PE – Chief Finance Officer  13 years of experience in finance and accounting across multiple companies including KMH, Baker-Tilly, EY and Deloitte. Nurgul has overseen large teams and has an intimate knowledge of corporate financial processes and preparation for M&A activity. Nurgul also oversees all in-house accounting. Over time the PE team envision Nurgul to work closely with portfolio companies to instil financial best practices, and occasionally work with external providers on forensic due diligence.

Mukhammed Dyussembayev

Mukhammed Dyussembayev – Kazakhstan PE – Investment Officer  Mukhammed has experience at Deloitte with a focus on M&A. He is focused exclusively on Sturgeon’s Kazakhstan PE mandate but may occasionally review early-stage Kazakh investments.

Yerassyl Kanapyanov

Yerassyl Kanapyanov – Kazakhstan PE – Investment Officer  Yerassyl has experience at KPMG with a focus on M&A. He is focused exclusively on Sturgeon’s Kazakhstan PE mandate but may occasionally review early-stage Kazakh investments.