The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

From the Gran­ite City to the Golden State

Alas­tair Caith­ness has achieved his am­bi­tion of run­ning his own firm and tells P&J Re­cruit­ment how he spent sev­eral years work­ing in Aberdeen be­fore mak­ing the move to sunny Cal­i­for­nia


● Born in In­ver­ness, Alas­tair Caith­ness founded Scot­tish-Amer­i­can oil and energy firm Ziyen in the US in 2016. The com­pany has since opened of­fices in Aberdeen and In­ver­ness and is on track to be listed on the Nas­daq Stock Mar­ket in 2018.

Af­ter leav­ing school aged 17, I be­gan a de­gree in Busi­ness Stud­ies at Robert Gordon’s In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (RGIT) – now the Robert Gordon Univer­sity.

Dur­ing my time there, my two favourite pro­fes­sors were Char­lie Weir and Bob Gam­mie as they gave me an in­sight to busi­ness, taught me to be in­quis­i­tive and un­der­stand the pos­i­tives of al­ways look­ing for so­lu­tions rather than prob­lems.

Fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion, I de­cided to go back-pack­ing and spent 18 months trav­el­ling across Aus­tralia and parts of Asia; pick­ing up jobs along the way such as bar­man, fruit picker and minibus driver – any­thing that could keep the cash flow com­ing in.

When I re­turned home, I set up an events and PR dis­tri­bu­tion busi­ness which proved suc­cess­ful. Clients in­cluded T in the Park, Scot­tish Home­lands and Aberdeen City Coun­cil.

For sev­eral years, we or­gan­ised a mu­sic col­lec­tive event in Aberdeen with Ziyen Energy makes the Nas­daq Globe Newswire stu­dents from Gray’s School of Art called Kia-Aura. We then moved on to set­ting up a vinyl record la­bel, pro­duc­ing mu­sic from UK and US artists with the un­doubted high­light be­ing asked to or­gan­ise a party for Smirnoff at the Mi­ami Win­ter Mu­sic Con­fer­ence.

The mu­sic busi­ness is a tough racket, where most peo­ple do it for the love of the mu­sic and very few make a lot of money. There­fore, I jumped at the chance to start a job in the oil in­dus­try with Mike Knox and work on a new por­tal for the power ca­ble in­dus­try, called The Ca­ble Di­rec­tory.

I was friends with Mike’s son, Chris – now a board mem­ber at Ziyen Inc. – who helped get me the job and I will al­ways be very thank­ful for the ed­u­ca­tion Mike gave me; not only about oil and gas, but busi­ness in gen­eral.

He sent me on nu­mer­ous trips to the oil hubs across the world, in­clud­ing Dubai, Sta­vanger, Abu Dhabi and Hous­ton.

Ev­ery day was a school day with Mike. On Fri­days, he would make me read the Up­stream news­pa­per and then test me on the news, the deals and the im­por­tance of al­ways in­creas­ing your knowl­edge.

But it’s the lit­tle things I think of when look­ing back, and I can still re­mem­ber al­ways en­joy­ing the Fri­day fish and chips and liq­uid lunch ses­sions in the Fit­tie Bar fol­lowed by a game of pool.

Mike has been the most im­por­tant men­tor in my life so far. Sadly, he has passed away and I only wish he was here to see the progress we have made so far with Ziyen stateside. There is hardly a day that goes by with­out me think­ing about Mike, and all the lessons he taught me.

I spent seven years work­ing for Mike be­fore join­ing Mill­stream As­so­ci­ates – an e-pro­cure­ment com­pany based on Queen’s Road, Aberdeen – as head of sales and mar­ket­ing. As the com­pany op­er­ated gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment por­tals, it in­creased my knowl­edge of the pro­cure­ment process and un­der­stand­ing of how dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ments spend their money.

My wife hails from San Diego so, once we had our sec­ond boy, she wanted to move back to Amer­ica to be closer to her fam­ily. It also gave me the op­por­tu­nity to set up my own busi­ness.

Ini­tially, the com­pany was set up as a soft­ware and in­for­ma­tion busi­ness fo­cused on the oil and gas sec­tor in the Mid­dle East. How­ever, when we ap­pointed Shane Fraser as di­rec­tor of oil in­tel­li­gence, we piv­oted the busi­ness, cre­at­ing a spe­cial­ist di­vi­sion, Ziyen Energy, and po­si­tion­ing the com­pany to be a do­mes­tic US oil and gas op­er­a­tor.

Shane is also from In­ver­ness and is a highly ex­pe­ri­enced oil­field en­gi­neer with over 28 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing more than 20 years work­ing for Shell in the North Sea and Syria.

In the same way that Aberdeen is a hub for oil and gas com­pa­nies, Cal­i­for­nia, and San Diego in par­tic­u­lar, is a hub for tech, de­fence and re­new­able energy com­pa­nies.

There­fore, it may seem a bit back­wards that I have come to Cal­i­for­nia to es­tab­lish an oil and energy com­pany but maybe I just can’t move away from my Scot­tish roots!

The move to Cal­i­for­nia has had a mas­sive im­pact on my ca­reer. I’m now the CEO of a com­pany that is head­ing to­wards the Nas­daq. The busi­ness is on track to be listed on the Stock Mar­ket in 2018 – pend­ing ap­proval of its ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing (IPO).

It has meant a steep learn­ing curve for me per­son­ally and I’m build­ing a com­pany of key per­son­nel who can help grow the busi­ness in a pos­i­tive way.

Ever since mov­ing to Cal­i­for­nia, the first place I wanted to open a UK di­vi­sion was in Aberdeen. The first two hires in the Aberdeen of­fice, Greg Simp­son and Cameron Murray, are also for­mer col­leagues that I’ve worked with in the past, so we al­ready have a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship.

The com­pany cur­rently has over 300 in­vestors, with over half com­ing from Scot­land. We never want to for­get our Scot­tish roots, and that is one of the rea­sons our tagline is “A Scot­tishAmer­i­can com­pany bring­ing busi­ness back to the USA”.

In 2018, we opened our op­er­a­tions in In­di­ana, USA, to al­low us to have per­son­nel close to our ex­ist­ing oil leases and fu­ture leases – each pro­duc­ing oil that will be ex­tracted by our team us­ing the lat­est in sus­tain­able tech­nol­ogy.

I al­ways missed my time work­ing in oil and gas, so I must say that I’m happy life has sent me back into this sec­tor. We have am­bi­tious plans to grow the do­mes­tic oil pro­duc­tion of Ziyen Energy in the Illi­nois Basin and ex­pand within the United States energy mar­ket through­out 2018 and be­yond.

“We never want to for­get our Scot­tish roots

 ??  ?? Alas­tair Caith­ness, founder of Ziyen
Alas­tair Caith­ness, founder of Ziyen
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