Our Team

Decades of investing experience in the private markets

Ziad Makkawi
Founder, CEO and Executive Committee Member

Ziad Makkawi has a track-record in building high-powered teams to execute on new market opportunities of which the private shares market is the most recent. Ziad has 30 plus years experience as an investor and business builder in the financial services sector. Ziad chairs the Manager’s Investment Committee and is responsible for the firm’s overall strategic direction and product offering.

Ziad started his career at JP Morgan in New York in 1986 as a currency and derivatives trader where as Vice President, he spearheaded the firm’s arbitrage activity in the currency and interest rate derivatives markets. Ziad has served as a CEO for both private and publicly listed companies. He served as CEO of Dubai Bank and later Qatar First Bank; CEO of PE firm Istithmar World a USD 5+ billion SWF based in Dubai. Ziad also co-founded two emerging market focused investment banks MECG and SHUAA Capital. He was the Founder, CEO and CIO of Algebra Capital an emerging markets manager which he successfully sold in 2011 to global asset manager Franklin Templeton.

Ziad served on the boards of more than a dozen firms on four continents, as chairman, executive and investment committee member, director, and observer at companies such as Cirque du Soleil (entertainment – Canada), Barneys (retail – New York), IHI (hospitality – Malta), ISS (marine solutions – UK), Pension Corporation Group (insurance – UK), Istithmar P&O (real estate – UK), Dubai World Africa (hospitality – Dubai), Capital Management House (asset management – Bahrain), Algebra Capital (asset management – Dubai), Memorial Hospitals (healthcare – Turkey), David Morris (luxury retail – UK), as well as numerous other companies and funds.

Ziad holds a B.A. in Economics from Rice University, an MBA in Finance from NYU Stern School of Business, a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University and has participated in several executive development programs including the Harvard YPO President University. He is a member and served as Chairman of both YPO Emirates Chapter as well as the YPO’s Regional MENA Board and the YPO’s global Art Network.

John Zic
Partner, Founding Team Member

John was the first hire at the Manager. He was instrumental in the successful launch and subsequent operation of the firm. He led the direct-to-investor fundraising efforts for, the Equiam Private Tech30 Fund I (Fund I) and EQUIAM Private Alpha Fund (Fund II). John currently oversees the day-to-day execution of the investment strategy for the Fund. Further, John has and continues to be instrumental in the building and on-going optimization of the Manager’s proprietary GENIUS model that underlies the Fund’s investment strategy.  John is a member of EQUIAM’s Investment Committee.

Prior to joining Equiam, John was hired as the 6th non-founder hire employee at Forge. While there, he facilitated $400 million+ of private tech equity transactions. He executed 500+ transactions across dozens of issuers, gaining best-in-class knowledge of private secondary transaction mechanics, issuer-specific idiosyncrasies, and general private equity market dynamics. Additionally, John led various data analytics and special projects efforts at Forge developing the Forge Tech30 Capped Index and creating a proprietary valuation model for private technology companies. John holds a B.B.A. from the University of Notre Dame.

Arin Nazarian
Portfolio Strategist

Arin currently shares responsibility for the execution of the  investment strategy and ongoing optimization of the Equiam GENIUS model. Arin helps develop and maintain the optimal mix of proprietary signals underpinning the GENIUS model while adhering to goals, return objectives and risk tolerance constraints for the portfolio. Arin’s day-to-day duties include identifying the top companies for Equiam to invest in and building relationships with brokers and companies to acquire positions for the portfolio. Arin is a member of the Investment Committee.

Arin has over a decade of principal investment experience across Private Equity and Venture Capital industries. He has worked with a variety of early-stage and late-stage start-ups in an advisory capacity, investing family office capital of a pre-IPO Goldman Sachs partners. He was the 7th employee and Principal at the Kingfish Group, where he helped lead private equity co-investment and direct investing activities representing $1 billion+ of invested capital. He is a graduate of the Marshall School of Business Honors Program at the University of Southern California.

Kirk Oliver
Director, Placement & Distribution

Kirk, led the institutional outreach and distribution for Fund II’s $50M raise. He is in charge of qualifying and sourcing investors, strategic outreach initiatives, and managing the firm’s distribution partner relationships. He also manages several key broker relationships for the investment committee. 

Kirk was formerly institutional equity sales at B. Riley FBR where he worked with some of the top asset managers in the U.S. and abroad. He worked with a variety of start-ups in an advisory capacity and has bootstrapped various projects in the Tech & Real Estate sector. He is a web developer hobbyist and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, Quantitative Finance and Computer Science.

Laxus Tat
Investment Engineer

Laxus, as part of the investment team is responsible for codifying and back-testing our proprietary algorithms, and working on new model optimization functions. He also focuses on our data gathering, ingestion, and insight derivations.

Laxus has extensive experience in multi-billion AUM asset management strategies. He has been producing and applying quantitative research to drive investment decisions, signal construction, process improvement. Laxus is a data science, machine learning and optimization enthusiast. He has been programming since 9th grade and previously a professional gamer. He holds a Masters of Financial Engineering from UCLA Anderson, B.S. in Computer Science from University of Colorado at Boulder.

Samantha Chow
Sr. Associate, Operations

Samantha is focused on building an institutional-grade operational framework. Her day-to- day activity focuses on investor onboarding, reporting, and distributions. She also assists with liaising with EQUIAM’s external providers as well as fund investment execution and settlement. Her overall focus is to improve the firm and/or fund level operation efficiency at EQUIAM.


Prior to joining EQUIAM, Samantha worked at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, where she focused on trade settlement and operational work for Goldman Mutual Funds. Preceding Goldman, Samantha worked at Northern Trust Hedge Fund Services, bringing along experience working with multi-billion dollar hedge funds and private equity funds. Samantha holds a B.S. at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is currently working towards her Masters in Accountancy from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business.

Shachi Shah
Director, Strategic Operations

Shachi is an operator, entrepreneur, and executive. She leads multiple business projects and strategic initiatives to completion for Equiam. She drives fund execution & operations, branding, content, marketing, sales effectiveness, and various cross-functional projects.

She has over 6 years of experience in the Financial Services and Venture Capital industry. She was responsible for implementing systems & tools, process improvements for sales, marketing, finance, reporting and human resources. She was formerly at Plug and Play Tech Centre, set up the Automation and Commercial Ops team. She is a graduate from UC Berkeley; Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (M.B.A.), Nirma University (B.Tech.).

Yusef Alexandrine
Chief Legal and Compliance Officer

Yusef is the Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at EQUIAM. Prior to joining EQUIAM, Yusef was a Director and Senior Counsel at Allianz Global Investors, where he oversaw the hedge funds and the institutional accounts businesses. At Allianz, Yusef was also responsible for ensuring compliance with all regulatory developments impacting the North America region. Previously, Yusef was an associate at K&L Gates LLP in the investment management and corporate practice groups, where he counseled a broad range of financial industry clients on regulatory compliance, fund formation, and corporate transactions. During law school, Yusef worked as a regulatory intern at the Pacific Exchange (now NYSE Arca).

Yusef holds a B.A. from Howard University and a J.D. from University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He is a member of the California State Bar. Yusef also provides pro bono support to Bay Area non-profit organizations focused on child development and welfare.


Vijay Advani

Vijay last served as Executive Chairman and CEO of Nuveen where he grew AUMs by 14% to $1T+ during his tenure. He also served as former co-President of Franklin Templeton Investments where amongst other things he built out Franklin’s extensive distribution capabilities. Vijay previously had an 11-year career at the World Bank where he advised governments on financial markets development. He is a board member of: BowX (SPAC), The Hive, Global Impact Investing Network. He is also a director and advisor at Seviora Holdings the asset management arm of Temasek in Singapore.Vijay is on the Investment committee at Santa Clara University. University of Mumbai; University of Massachusetts Amherst (MBA).

Mike Ryan

Mike is the Co-Founder and CEO of Bullet Point Network, and Board Chair of Alpha Partners Technolgy Merger Corp, which trades on NASDAQ under the ticket APTM. Mike was the previously Head of Public Equity and Absolute Return at the Harvard endowment, Head of Global Securities (overseeing equities, fixed income, currencies & commodities) at Credit Suisse and he spent nearly two decades at where was Partner and Head of Global Equity Products. Mike graduated summa cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics; Academic All-American in basketball and wrote his senior essay under David Swensen.

Jacob Miller
Advisor, Systematic Signal Development & Analytics
Kelly Rodriques
Advisor, Executive Committee Member

Kelly is the current CEO of Forge. He is the founding investor of mFoundry, the leading provider of mobile banking, which was acquired by Fidelity Information Systems in 2013. Formerly, CEO of PENSCO, one of the nation’s leading alternative asset custodians, which was sold to Opus Bank in 2017. He is the Managing Partner of Operative Capital, a Fintech venture firm based in San Francisco.

Najam Kidwai
Advisor, Executive Committee Member

Najam holds several Board and Advisory Roles including Neurable, ForgeGlobal, Boxed, Asia Innovations and Crypto 1. He is the Founding CEO of two companies that have successfully IPO’d.

Najam has previously held investment roles at Edge Venture Capital (a $100M Early Stage fund) and Stanford Research International (Investments to come out from Stanford Research include Nuance an innovator in voice, natural language understanding, reasoning and systems integration and Siri, now Apple’s AI voice assistant).

Najam was also the Founder and CEO of Real Time content, a proprietary Adaptive Media platform which exited to the NASDAQ listed Pitney Bowes.

Together with Ziad and Forge, Najam was one of the original investors into EQUIAM.

Perry Ha

Perry is the Founder and Managing Director of Draper Athena — a venture capital firm with offices in the U.S., Korea, Hong Kong and China. He currently serves on the board of several public and private companies including Anoto Group, HunetPlus, Takoma Technology and NexiaDevice; and is a member of the Board of Trustees at MIT.

Engineering Advisors

Philippe Legault
Engineering Advisor
Justin Moore
Engineering Advisor

Justin is the CTO and cofounder of Caplight, a platform that enables institutional investors to trade derivatives on private company stock. Prior to Caplight, Justin was one of the first employees at Forge Global and built the technology powering Forge’s marketplace for private stock. He holds a bachelors in economics from Northwestern University.

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