Team

Our team is comprised of seasoned technology founders, operators, and investors. Our collective experience allows us to unlock value for companies at any stage of their growth.

Bobby Yazdani

Founder & Managing Partner

Bobby Yazdani is a Founder and Managing Partner of Cota Capital. Bobby works full-time on the development and support of entrepreneurs and is well-known for his active, impactful approach to portfolio company engagement. Drawing from nearly three decades of entrepreneurial experience in Silicon Valley, he mentors, advances and empowers entrepreneurs on their journey to build great companies.

In 1997, Bobby founded Saba, taking the company public in 2000. Today, Saba is the leading provider of Human Capital Development & Management Solutions. Its applications are being used by over 30 million people from 2200 customers across 195 countries and in 37 languages worldwide. While at Saba, he was named a finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Prior to Saba, Bobby worked at Oracle in various R&D roles from 1988 to 1997.

Bobby made his first angel investment in 1989 in medical technology company Masimo (NASDAQ: MASI), where, in addition to providing capital, he wrote software to enhance the accuracy of the company’s early neonatal pulse oximeters. He founded his family office, Signatures Capital, in 2006. Through Signatures Capital, Bobby has invested in over 100 private companies in the technology sector, many of which have gone on to successful exits. In 2014, Bobby was ranked #1 out of 2000 angel investors in a report by CB Insights as having the most successful track record for investing in companies that received follow-on funding.

In 2015, Bobby endowed the Signatures Innovation Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley to support data science projects with commercial promise. Bobby is a founding member of the Persian Tech Entrepreneurs network, a National Advisory Board Member of The Reset Foundation, and serves as a Director on multiple company boards. Born in Tehran, Iran, Bobby completed high school in England and received a B.A. in Applied Mathematics at UC Berkeley.

Babak Poushanchi

Founder & Managing Partner

Babak Poushanchi is a Founder and Managing Partner of Cota Capital. Prior to founding Cota, Babak was a Co-Founder and Co-Portfolio Manager of Newbrook Capital, a $1+ billion long/short equity fund. Previously, Babak was an Investment Analyst at Karsch Capital, a $2+ billion global long/short equity fund. He was also a Venture Partner at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, a technology-focused accelerator with over 70 portfolio companies, and an Investment Associate at Indosuez Capital, a $3+ billion merchant banking fund, investing in private companies across the capital structure. Babak received a B.A. in Economics at Northwestern University.

Pete Williams

Partner, COO & CCO

Pete Wiliams joined Cota in 2016 as Partner and COO. Prior to Cota, Pete served in a number of executive positions at Saba, including EVP of Corporate Development, General Counsel and CFO. During his tenure, Pete played an instrumental role in Saba’s IPO, acquisition strategy and integration, transition from enterprise software to SaaS, and sale in a go-private transaction. Today, Saba is the leading provider of Human Capital Development & Management Solutions, serving over 30 million people from 2,200 customers across 195 countries and in 37 languages worldwide. Previously, Pete was a partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP, a leading international law firm. Pete has extensive experience representing high-tech companies, as well as venture capital and investment banking firms. In addition to private and public financings and acquisitions, Pete also specializes in technology and content development, licensing and distribution transactions. Pete has BAs in economics and psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a JD, cum laude, from Santa Clara University.

Albert Azout

Partner

Albert Azout joined Cota in 2016 as a Partner. Prior to joining Cota, Albert was Senior Director of Product & Applied Engineering at AOL, where he was charged with leading a variety of AOL’s efforts in bidding and optimization. Prior to AOL, Albert was the Founder and CEO of Velos, a machine learning software platform, which Verizon/AOL acquired in March 2015. Prior to Velos, Albert was a Co-Founder of StyleCaster, which was sold to SheKnows Media, backed by leading private equity firm Great Hill Partners, and currently the largest media company in lifestyle category with over 90 million monthly uniques. Albert has invested in and actively advises a variety of companies, with a focus on the disruptive utilization of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in products and services. Albert received a B.A. in Finance & Economics at Babson College.

Ben Malka

Partner

Ben Malka joined Cota in 2019 as a Partner on the investment team, where he is focused on sourcing, evaluating, executing and governance of venture investments. Prior to Cota, Ben was a General Partner at F-Prime Capital, a San Francisco-based financial technology and enterprise IT-focused venture capital fund. At F-Prime, he served as lead partner for a number of investments, including Snapsheet, Vestwell, Toast Inc, and Blispay. Since 1999, Ben has also served as a General Partner at North Hill Ventures, a financial technology focused venture capital fund. At North Hill, he was the lead partner for investments in Compete Inc, Placemark Investments, Paychoice, Simple Tuition/Valore Books, CashStar, and FSV Payment Systems. Previously, Ben was with The Boston Consulting Group, where he was the Project Lead for a number of clients across strategy development, acquisition strategy, new product evaluation and operations improvement. He began his career at Bank of America as a Statistical Analyst. Ben graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from Stanford University and a MBA from the University of Chicago.

Marcella McColl

VP Finance

Marcella McColl joined Cota Capital as VP Finance in 2018. Prior to Cota, Marcella was the CFO/CCO at Manifold Partners. She has extensive experience in the alternative investment space and held various senior finance roles including Controller at Hellman and Friedman, American Infrastructure Funds and Carmel Partners. Marcella began her career at KPMG, LLP where she was a manager in the Assurance Practice specializing in investment management and banking. She graduated magna cum laude from Pace University, New York with a BBA in Public Accounting. She is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in California.

Frida Peters

VP Business Operations

Frida Peters joined Cota in 2019 as VP Business Operations, where she focuses her time on operational excellence, strategic planning and overall infrastructure enhancements. Prior to Cota, Frida served as Vice President of Business Operations at Crowdpac, a political crowdfunding platform. At Crowdpac, she was responsible for establishing operating processes and implementing technology to support the company’s growth, as well as the growth of the team and the growth of the organizational infrastructure, both domestically and internationally. Prior to Crowdpac, Frida held a number of high-level positions in business development and hospitality in Europe. Early in her career she co-founded The Wag List, an e-commerce startup for high-end dog accessories. Frida graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the American University of Paris.

Ashkan Marsh

Principal

Ashkan Marsh joined Cota is 2019 as a Principal, where he focuses on sourcing, evaluating, and monitoring of public investments. Prior to Cota, Ashkan was an Investment Partner at Crimson Investment Partners making private equity investments in founder-led companies to accelerate growth through digital transformation and corporate processes. Prior to CIP, Ashkan was a public equity Investment Analyst at Newbrook Capital, a $1+ billion long/short equity fund. Previously, Ashkan was an Investment Analyst and Investment Associate at Goldman Sachs in private equity at the firm’s Special Situations Group, a $25 billion proprietary investment fund. Ashkan was Founder and CEO of SilverIP Communications, which became the leading gigabit internet service provider in Illinois and exited to private equity. Ashkan received a B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Dr. Shubhra Jain

Principal

Dr. Shubhra Jain joined Cota Capital in 2018. As a Principal, she is responsible for sourcing, executing and analyzing healthcare investments. Prior to Cota, Shubhra was Associate Director of Commercial Strategy and Corporate Development at Natera where she focused on biopharma partnerships, acquisitions, market research and competitive positioning. Prior to Natera, she led Product management for Acute care suite of products at Pieces Technologies where she led product development and launch of SaaS risk surveillance and prediction solutions for clinical outcomes and published peer-reviewed research on the subject. Dr. Jain has served as a consultant and an advisor to several health tech startups and Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Jain is a Primary Care Physician from India. She has her Masters in Engineering from Stanford with a major in Biodesign and her MBA from the Wharton School of Business.

Joe Blair

Principal

Joe Blair joined Cota Capital in 2019 as a Principal on the investment team, where he focuses on sourcing, evaluating, and monitoring of venture investments. Prior to Cota, Joe served as Vice President at Obvious Ventures, where he was focused on electric mobility, construction & real estate technology, robotics & automation, insurance technology, and the future of distributed & remote work. He was involved in investments including Lyric, Lilium, Canvas, Hedvig, and Amply Power. Prior to Obvious Ventures, Joe was a Vice President at Chrysalix Venture Capital, a Vancouver-based firm specializing in industrial innovation. Previously, Joe was Founder and CEO of chillbaby, a subscription service providing curated children’s clothing. He also worked in Business Development at FlexEnergy, a startup that develops microturbine systems for distributed power and heat generation, and participated in an engineering leadership development program at Ingersoll Rand. Joe graduated with a B.S. and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Eric Lee

Senior Associate

Eric Lee joined Cota in 2019 as a Senior Associate on the investment team, where he focuses on sourcing, evaluating, and monitoring of public investments. Prior to Cota, Eric was an Analyst at Partner Fund Management and an Associate at The Capital Group covering investments in the technology sector. He also held a summer Analyst position at Whale Rock Capital, a technology-focused equity long/short hedge fund. Eric began his career as an Analyst in the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs. Eric graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a Minor in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California, and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Sam Heidari

Operating Partner

Dr. Sam Heidari is a seasoned technology executive for both public and private companies. Recently, he was the Chairman of the board and CEO of Quantenna Communications in which he drove the organization in developing the most advanced Wi-Fi hardware and software solutions to date – thereby enabling networking applications previously not thought possible. Dr. Haidari led Quantenna’s successful IPO in 2016 and its subsequent acquisition in 2019. Prior to Quantenna, he served as chief technology officer at Ikanos Communications Inc. He joined Ikanos as one of the original team members and provided meaningful contributions to its IPO. Then, Dr. Heidari rejoined Ikanos in 2006 via the acquisition of Doradus Technologies Inc., where he had served as president and CEO. Dr. Heidari serves on the Global Semiconductor Alliance Board of Directors and has served on the advisory board for both Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Departments at the University of Southern California. He is a senior member of IEEE and holds more than 46 U.S. and international patents. Dr. Heidari was named the 2014 Executive of the Year by the Golden Bridge Awards and the 2017 Executive of the Year by UBM. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Southern California, and a bachelor’s degree in science from Northeastern University, all in Electrical Engineering.

John Jung

Operating Partner

John Jung is a highly experienced strategist and C-level executive in the energy, renewables, and smart grid sectors, among other verticals. He is skilled at scaling high growth, VC-backed companies that are deploying disruptive technologies, strategies, and business models. From 2009 to 2018, John served as Founder, President and CEO of Greensmith Energy, a company he built from concept to industry global leader in programmable energy storage solutions and software with grid-scale deployments. Greensmith grew to deploy over a third of total energy storage systems in the United States in 2016, was sold to Wärtsilä for $170 million in 2017, and now operates in a dozen countries. Serving both utilities and independent power producers, Greensmith leveraged a battery-agnostic platform and a myriad of regulatory environments to establish energy storage as a ROI-positive, multi-application appliance that provided both technical and financial value. Prior to that, John built electronics marketplaces to bring transparency and liquidity to supply chain management, including Pantellos which served 21 of the 25 largest electric utilities in North America. Additional prior leadership roles include CEO of First Index, COO of Perfect Commerce, COO of Achilles Group, and Managing Director of Commerce One. John is a former principal and practice leader with A.T. Kearney and is proven in turn-around assignments to improve growth and/or prepare a startup to maximize transaction outcomes. He has held Board Directorships with five organizations, including the Energy Storage Association. John also has extensive international business development experience covering Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. John has an MBA in Strategy and Finance from Ivey Business School and a BA in Pre-med and Economics from the University of Western Ontario.

Lily Sarafan

Operating Partner

Lily Sarafan is CEO of Home Care Assistance (HCA), where she has led the company from startup to sector leader with nearly 10,000 employees across North America. HCA is consistently recognized as a best-in-class healthcare company, and Lily as a featured expert on digital health and the future of aging at the White House and global conferences. Lily is also a board member, investor and advisor for innovative companies, serving as a board director at Thumbtack and at Counsyl through its acquisition by Myriad Genetics (MYGN). An active Stanford alum, Lily serves on the Stanford Alumni Association Board of Directors, the Freeman Spogli Institute Council, and the Stanford Undergraduate Education Cabinet. She is also Founding Partner of Project BIG: The Stanford Brain Immune Gut Initiative. Lily’s board service extends to other high-impact nonprofits including the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and the BerkeleyHaas Center for Innovation Economies, where she is board chair. An appointee to the California Governor’s Alzheimer’s Task Force, Lily serves in various leadership roles to advance economic development, civic engagement, and precision health. Lily holds an M.S. in Management Science and Engineering and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Society from Stanford University, where she was Eben Tisdale Fellow and Class President. She has been named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Women Health Care Executives Woman of the Year, and a Silicon Valley 40 Under 40. Lily is a Member of Young Presidents’ Organization, a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

Simone Brunozzi

Operating Partner

Simone Brunozzi has worked in the IT industry at large companies and startups for more than 20 years, focused for the last ten on Cloud Computing. His most recent experience has been as CEO of Fabrica.city, a software platform to digitize real estate transactions. Simone is a founding partner at Mission and Market (www.m14t.com), a micro VC fund with sixty investments to date. He served as Vice President and CTO at Composure.ai, a container orchestration platform for enterprise IT. Prior to that he worked at VMware as Vice President and Chief Technologist, Hybrid Cloud (vCloud Air) from 2014 to early 2016. From 2008 to 2014 Simone worked at Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a Senior Technology Evangelist, heading AWS’ EMEA developer evangelism for two years, APAC for two years, and Americas for the remaining two. He has also founded his own company (Wedoit), and two consulting companies. He was a Professor at Perugia University in Italy from 2004-2006. Simone holds a Bachelor in Computer Science from Università degli Studi di Perugia.

Rich Ellinger

Operating Partner

Rich Ellinger is a serial entrepreneur with multiple successful exits. Rich co-founded Saba in 1997, and when Saba went public, Rich ran Saba’s 150 person global R&D organization. After Saba, Rich served as COO of Webs, which was acquired by Vistaprint in 2011. Most recently, Rich was Founder and CEO of Wealthminder, a financial technology company that was acquired by AdvisorEngine in 2017. Rich has an M.S. and B.S. in Computer Science as well as a B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University.

Patrick Bischoff

Operating Partner

Patrick Bischoff is an entrepreneur with several successful exits whose experience ranges from private to public companies as an Operator, Investor, and Board Member. Patrick was a Partner in Europe’s largest Systems Integration company, CompuNet AG, which he helped grow to over $1B in revenue. CompuNet was sold to GE Capital in 1996. Patrick was a Co-Founder of Saba, where he built the Professional Services, Training and Support organizations, then later built and ran its EMEA operations. Patrick served as CSO & Board Member at World Energy, where he helped take the company public on TSX followed by a listing on Nasdaq (XWES). When he joined Greensmith Energy as CSO and Board member, he helped the company become the dominant global energy storage solution provider, and he facilitated its sale to Finnish Engineering Giant Wärtsilä. Recently, Patrick built the Professional Services, Data Science and Support organizations at Wealthengine.com, as well as serving as Chief Revenue Officer/GM for the Commercial and Luxury business. Patrick studied Technische BWL in Germany, has a BA from Drury College, and holds a Master of International Management with distinction from the American Graduate School in International Management (Thunderbird).

Mariam Barar

Operating Principal

Mariam Barar has experience providing guidance on strategic and operational planning to Venture and Growth stage companies. Mariam spent her career in management consulting as a Director at KPMG. She has experience leading global transformation programs and developing innovative service offerings for Fortune 500 companies in the Technology sector. Mariam has an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management with an emphasis in Finance and Entrepreneurship. She has a Bachelors in Science in Finance and a Bachelors in Science in Economics from Santa Clara University.

Cat Rauschuber

Investor Relations Associate

Cat Rauschuber joined Cota Capital in 2017. She supports Cota’s community of investors and broader stakeholders. Prior to Cota, Cat worked in San Francisco government and politics, including for San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu across a wide range of policies and a broad range of constituents. Cat has also held senior analyst positions with the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of the Budget and Legislative Analyst, Department of the Environment, and Recreation and Park Department. Cat received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin and her Master of Public Policy from Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she was a recipient of the Public Service Fellowship.

Christina Hu

Team Administrator

Christina Hu joined Cota Capital in 2018 as Team Administrator. She manages the office and serves as an Executive Assistant. Prior to Cota, Christina worked as an Associate at Tiedemann Advisors where she assisted high net worth clients. Christina graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Minor in Education.

Allison Chapman

Executive Assistant

Allison Chapman joined Cota Capital in 2019 as an Executive Assistant on the Operations team. Prior to Cota, Allison worked as an Executive Assistant at Blockchain Capital and Brunswick Group. Allison graduated with a B.A. in Human Geography and Humanistic Psychology from the University of West Georgia.