Investment, Innovation and Impact: Meet the speakers in NYC!

On Thursday, December 13th, 2018 at 1pm, Venture Smarter’s ‘NYC Leadership Summit: Investment, Innovation, and Impact’ will bring together key leaders from across the city, state, and region to focus on the intersection of investment, innovation, and impact in the smart city space.

We are excited to announce a handful of experts who will be joining us to share their perspective on building smart cities, regions and industries. Learn more about these distinguished speakers below:


Jeannette Rausch

Director of Planning and Development, Long Island City Partnership

Jeannette Rausch is the Director of Planning & Development for the Long Island City Partnership (LICP).  Long Island City, Queens has recently attracted one of the largest, most competitive economic development investments in U.S. history, being where Amazon will establish its new corporate headquarters (HQ2).  Jeannette is a certified planner with degrees in landscape architecture, urban planning, and urban policy. She brings a combination of academic best practices and practical implementation knowledge to the Partnership. Jeannette has extensive work experience in government including several years at DCP and over a decade at EDC, where her portfolio focused on transportation and waterfront projects. She has also conducted significant research regarding participatory planning, the role of cultural partners in neighborhood change, placemaking, and streetscape culture.


Founder, Run for America

David is the Founder of Run for America, a citizen-powered movement to reimagine politics, reinvigorate government, and restore the promise of America for the 21st century. Run for America strategically recruits, trains, and works to elect a new generation of leaders to Congress who are committed to a solutions-first, future-focused, and innovative approach to tackling our major national challenges. RFA helps candidates navigate the process so they can run with integrity, win with independence and provide the leadership America deserves. David is also the author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World and the founder and Former Executive Director of Generation18, a nonpartisan young voter engagement organization. The group grew out of his documentary 18 in ‘08, about young voters in the 2008 election. Generation18 registered over 25,000 new voters and held over 1,000 events in 35 states. His 2012 follow-up film, Up to Us, focused on Millennials’ optimism amid the economic crisis.  

David is a frequent speaker and commentator on Millennials, social innovation and politics. He has appeared on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, NPR, ABC Evening News, and C-SPAN, and in The New York TimesUSA TodayPoliticoSalonThe Huffington Post, and many others. David is a contributor to Vanity Fair and Fast Company and has been a consultant to numerous organizations and companies on how to understand and engage Millennials. David is the Founding Co-Director of the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship @ Chicago Ideas Week, which helps outstanding young social entrepreneurs grow their impact. He is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Institute Disruptor Foundation Fellow, and serves on the advisory boards of Watson University, The Civic Life Project, and CanLeads. He is a graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.


Founder and Managing Partner, Turf Advisory

Lisa is Founder and Managing Partner of Turf Advisory, a business-development advisory firm specialized in transportation, water and the built space that embraces human-centric design principles, harnesses digital solutions and implements community engagement strategies to builds bridges between the public and private sectors. Registered as a Minority Women-Owned Business Enterprise.

Prior to Turf Advisory, Lisa served as a Managing Director for Goldman Sachs in the Securities Division covering many of the most important relationships of the firm among global hedge funds, Sovereign Wealth funds and large mutual fund complexes. Delivered the full suite of services of the firm across research, capital markets and prime brokerage. As global account captain, spearheaded connectivity on a firm-wide level across the capital structure to drive revenues.

Mitchell Kominsky

Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Venture Smarter

Mitchell Kominsky is the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer for Venture Smarter. Mitchell is leading the company's effort to build a platform, based on artificial intelligence, to help cultivate the Internet of Things ecosystem. Additionally, Mitchell is a founding advisor to 1776, a global incubator and seed fund with $12.5M under management and advised high-tech startups from seed stage to venture-backed companies with more than $30M in funding.

Mitchell recently served as a senior counsel for U.S. Senate Leadership on emerging technology, and is the author of various cybersecurity laws. As a Counsel in the U.S. Congress, Mitchell led high-profile investigations and congressional hearings into matters at the intersection of emerging technologies and national security.


Director of the Foundry, Cornell Tech

Dr. Arnaud Sahuguet is the team lead for the Foundry, Cornell Tech's in-house team of designers, product managers and software engineers who collaborate with faculty to design, create and build usable tools, platforms and products.

Before joining Cornell Tech, Arnaud served as Chief Technology Officer for the NYU Governance Lab where he focused on civic innovation and open data. He spent eight years at Google as a product manager for speech recognition products and Google Maps; he founded and launched the OneToday mobile fundraising platform for

He also worked for five years at Bell Labs research as member of technical staff working on standardisation and identity management. Arnaud holds a PhD in Computer Science from University of Pennsylvania, a MSc from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and a BSc from Ecole Polytechnique in France.

Rhonda Binda

Co-founder and VP Policy, Venture Smarter; Executive Director, Smart Regions Initiative

Rhonda Binda is VP Policy for Venture Smarter and Director of their Regional Smart Cities Initiatives. She has a distinguished history of public service, as Deputy Director for the U.S. Department of State’s Global Intergovernmental Affairs Division, and in the West Wing of the White House, under two administrations respectively. In between her government tours she practiced technology law with Alston & Bird. 

Binda most recently returned to her hometown and served as the Executive Director of the Jamaica Business Improvement District. Under her tenure, Governor Cuomo awarded Jamaica the #1 award state-wide for downtown revitalization, Jamaica was named #1 hottest neighborhood in NYC by the Wall Street Journal and won NYC’s SBS Neighborhood Challenge Grant. In 2016, she was Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leader of the Year and named Community Leader of the Year by QCYD. Binda attended Duke and Oxford and received her JD from Georgetown.

Youssef Kalad

Program Director of NYCx, NYC Mayor's Office of the Chief Technology Officer

Youssef Kalad is the Program Director of NYCx, the world's first municipal program to transform urban spaces into hubs for tech collaboration, testing, and R&D. In short, we seek to make tech work for working people. Focus areas include: emerging technologies, the future of work, urban mobility, affordable internet accessibility, strategic support for minority/women-owned startups, and so on. Formerly Senior Central Operations Manager @ Uber focused on running, scaling, and growing the ride-sharing business in the US & Canada. Prior to that, I was a strategy & management consultant for a firm specializing in growth and innovation. I worked across industries to diagnose and solve the complex growth problems that Fortune 500 business leaders encounter. Business acumen, intellectual curiosity, grit, and hypothesis-driven problem solving drive my work. I'm passionate about public service and economic mobility, especially for children who are born into systemic poverty. I've served on several nonprofit boards and organizations dedicated to economic equity and service.


Director of Outreach, Congress Member Yvette D. Clarke (NY-9)

Lovelie Tejada is the Director of Outreach for Congress Member Yvette D. Clarke (NY-9) where she oversees community engagement throughout the district and builds relationships with community leaders, constituent groups, and local organizations. Previously Ms. Tejada served as the Senior Associate of Political Engagement at the New York Immigration Coalition and a Constituency Aide at the Office of the Governor Dannel Malloy. Her passion for engaging communities of color in the political process has been an overarching theme throughout her career tied to her commitment to social and racial justice. Ms. Tejada earned her BA in Political Science and Film Studies from Trinity College.


Principal, Protean Capital Management

Ari Schottenstein has over 15 years of experience in alternative investments, including real estate, investment banking, private equity, venture capital and social impact investing / philanthropy.  Ari co-founded Protean Capital Management, a special situations platform for family office investors in the alternative investment space, is a Special Advisor to several tech startups, and serves as President of the Central Ohio Business Accelerator, an incubation platform supporting the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in and around his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.  Ari previously worked in the investment banking division of Citigroup Global Markets in the financial entrepreneurs group, and co-founded the New York office of Cogent Partners' private equity platform (acquired by Greenhill & Co.).  Ari graduated with Sigma Xi honors in Operations Research and Financial Engineering from Princeton University, earned his Master's in Business Administration from Columbia University and Certificate from CSAIL-Sloan at MIT, and is both a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) and a longstanding member of the International Association for Financial Engineers (IAFE).


Chief Business Officer, Spherical Analytics

Chris Rezendes is Chief Business Officer of Spherical Analytics, which is a blockchain-enabled Trust Platform that ingests, proofs and ledgers the most accurate environmental data and climate analytics in the world, from attested sources so that general managers, investors, risk partners, public sector leaders, scientists and policy makers can develop, fund and deploy climate risk mitigation strategies with higher impact and lower risk.

Jayson White

Author, The Next American City; Independent Consultant, Urban Affairs and Innovation

Jayson White has worked in urban affairs and innovation for the past decade, leading the Urban Policy Advisory Group at Harvard Kennedy School and launching cutting-edge companies in urban change and commercial real estate. He is now researching and writing on city innovation ecosystems with the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.


Deputy Secretary of State for Planning, Development, and Community Infrastructure, New York Department of State

As Deputy Secretary of State for Planning, Development, and Community Infrastructure at New York Department of State, Kisha Santiago-Martinez oversees a wide range of federal and state grants and programs that, through planning and implementation, drive sustainable and equitable growth in ways that balance competing land and water uses while increasing the resilience of New York communities. These programs include but are not limited to the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Brownfield Opportunity Areas, South Shore Estuary Reserve, Ocean and Great Lakes, as well as administering the New York State Coastal Management Program and the state’s coastal consistency review authority of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). Ms. Santiago-Martinez coordinates with other State agencies in meeting the Governor’s wide range of priorities and goals such as the Clean Energy Standard and strategic economic empowerment and development through the Regional Economic Development Councils.

Prior to joining the Department of State, Ms. Santiago-Martinez served in the Governor’s Executive Chamber, first as Assistant Secretary for Housing and later as Assistant Secretary for State Operations, General Government, and Technology. During her term as Assistant Secretary for Housing, the state housing agency, Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) set back-to-back records for creating or preserving affordable housing, negotiated the current rent laws helping to strengthen long-term affordability for more than one million New Yorkers, and spearheaded the interagency Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative that is creating 6,000 units of supportive housing through capital and operating grants. In her second post, she pushed large-scale operational and interagency improvements as well as the stand-up of the successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative. While working in the Executive Chamber, Ms. Santiago-Martinez’s agency portfolio included HCR, Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, Department of State, Office of General Services, Information and Technology Services, and Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.  

David Soares

President & CEO, Lexden Capital

Chair of the Finance Committee, Smart Cities Council

David Soares’ oversees and is responsible for all aspects of Lexden Capital’s operations and overall quality control. He manages Lexden’s business pipeline and the team and works with investors to develop new loan and investment programs for commercial real estate and sustainable infrastructure projects. Educated in London, David has over 30 years’ experience in finance and real estate investment in both the international and domestic arenas.  Since moving to New York in 1984, he has focused on real estate finance, investment and risk management. Early in his career, David performed all aspects of due diligence procedures related to commercial real estate transactions and finance, from underwriting to closing. He began originating directly in 1996, and has been responsible for more than $3 Billion dollars of infrastructure and real estate finance in the form of equity, short-term debt, construction loans, permanent mortgages, mezzanine debt and equity financing. Since 2010 David has applied his credit and capital market expertise to the infrastructure market with a special focus on sustainable solutions. Since 2010 David has been involved in LED retrofits, solar energy projects, waste management technology developments, power transmission line development, ‘green’ solutions to natural gas distribution, CHP sole-source power development and microgrid development for both ‘grid efficiency’ and ‘grid resiliency’. Currently, he is the Chair of the Finance Committee for Smart Cities Council, where his role is to organize education for municipalities on Public-Private Partnerships (“PPP’s or P3’s) and to bring in ‘best-in-class’ capital providers as part of the supporting membership team for Smart Cities Council. Full bio.



Zack is Chair of the IEEE Smart Cities Standards Committee; and is dedicated to building smart cities and connected communities. Zack was recently recognized as a Top 50 Global Leader in Smart Cities by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Foundation's Global CSR List, and locally as a Next Nine Community Leader by WCPO. Full bio.

Shira Mazor

Partnerships Director, Rentlogic

Shira Mazor is the Partnerships Director at Rentlogic, a tech-powered standards organization that grades every apartment building in New York City (A, B, C, and F) for health and safety. She is responsible for external relations and expanding Rentlogic’s reach throughout the United States and Canada. Shira’s background spans communications and business development in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. She was previously a Partnerships Fellow at New America and a Senior Advisor at Bretton Woods II, New America's social impact initiative. Other career highlights include serving as a Vice President on the Chief of Staff team for the Vice Chairman of BNY Mellon, where she focused on communications and strategy, and working as a Programs Officer for External Relations at the Qatar Foundation International.



Donahue Peebles III handles new acquisitions and business development for The Peebles Corporation. He leads the company’s Washington, D.C. efforts, including the day-to-day development of the SLS Hotel and Residences, where he was an integral part of the RFP, negotiating, and pre-development teams. He also oversees the day-to-day pre-development activities of all projects in the D.C. area.

Phil Jones

Senior Director of the East Coast, Lime