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Michael J.T. Steep

Founder and Executive Director of Stanford University School of Engineering Disruptive Technology and Digital Cities Program

Adjunct Professor of Engineering

President of Transform Innovation


Professional Biography:

Michael Steep is a senior global executive specializing in operational excellence, innovation leadership, business development, and venture.  In January of 2017, he founded Stanford University’s new program on Digital Cities and Emerging Technologies. Throughout his career as an operating executive, he has successfully built, managed, and transformed international organizations by leveraging the power of emerging technologies to deliver fully integrated, scalable, and practical approaches to innovation. Mr. Steep excels at leveraging strategic alliances and an extensive, high-level network to drive new revenue opportunities. His strengths include executing a broad range of technology initiatives and joint ventures in areas of big data, predictive algorithms, cloud, location-based services, and mobile. He also served on the London Smart City Board of Directors – providing technology advice to the city government.


Before Stanford, Mr. Steep worked as Senior Vice President of Global Business Operations at PARC, a Xerox Company. As SVP, he oversaw corporate and P&L management for Commercial and innovation services - with a focus on transforming their commercial business model into a sustainable growth engine. He also managed business development, sales, corporate strategy, intellectual property, marketing, and strategic alliances. While at PARC, he helped Fortune Group companies transform early-stage technologies into new revenue-generating business models crossing predictive analytics, AI, privacy preserving analytics, and radical new hardware technologies for low-cost sensor development used in autonomous vehicles and IoT. He also developed new approaches to understand human behavior and emotion through imaging technologies and behavioral algorithms.


He founded Transform Innovation as a partnership with Stanford faculty to help clients transform disruptive technology into paths to monetization. Mike is often retained as a keynote speaker with Leading Authorities speaking on the topic of disruptive technologies and new business models. This year he is scheduled to speak across the country on that topic to a dozen CEO conference events. Transform clients include a wide range of companies including IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Cushman Wakefield, and many others. He is regarded as a world class expert on digital transformation and business modeling.


From 2005 to 2011, Mr. Steep worked at Microsoft in executive roles including Global Managing Director in the Office of the CTO - Bill Gates. While in this role, he was integral in setting the overall vision for customer-driven Microsoft innovation, capitalizing on emerging technologies and industry breakthroughs in smartphone, tablet, and cloud. His prior role at Microsoft included overseeing a $1.5B global enterprise sales organization.


Prior to Microsoft, he held various leadership roles including VP at IBM (Lexmark), and Chief Operating Officer at ENCAD where he turned around the public company resulting in its successful sale to Kodak. He also drove top-line, international revenue growth at Lexmark and launched 30+ products at Apple including the first consumer digital camera and other imaging products. In the early years, he launched the first software for the introduction of the IBM PC.


Mr. Steep holds a Master of Business Administration from the Darden School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his extensive corporate experience, he is a Distinguished Speaker at Imperial College London. He currently resides in the Rancho Santa Fe with offices at Stanford and in Southern California.  

Ray Levitt

Operating Partner in Blackhorn Ventures

Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering, Stanford School of Civil Engineering

Consulting Partner on Early-Stage Technology for Transform Innovation


Professional Biography:

Dr. Levitt served on the faculty of the Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford from 1980 until his retirement in 2017. Before that, he served on the faculty of MIT's Civil Engineering Dept. from 1975-1980. He is a consulting partner for early-stage technology for Transform Innovation.

Projects to develop and operate civil infrastructure increasingly involve private, public and NGO participants from multiple countries, resulting in clashes between participants' values, cultural norms and laws that can create high institutional costs, and attendant delays. Dr. Levitt's past research, conducted through the Global Projects Center (GPC), was aimed at developing new financing, governance, and organizational approaches to enhance the long-term financial, environmental, and social sustainability of these critically needed, but institutionally challenging, projects. His research program developed theory, methods, and tools to design organization structures and governance regimes for project and matrix organization structures in construction and other project-based industries. He retired from Stanford in July 2017.  In recognition of this work, he was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger as a Commissioner of the California Public Infrastructure Advisory Commission (PIAC) in 2008 and served as a Commissioner of PIAC from 2008-2013. Levitt founded and served as Academic Director of the Stanford Advanced Project Management (SAPM) executive education certificate program. SAPM awarded more than 9,000 certificates to mid-career professionals in a wide variety of industry sectors. Dr. Levitt was elected a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a Member of the National Academy of Construction.

After retiring from Stanford, Dr. Levitt joined Blackhorn Ventures as an Operating Partner. He currently leads Blackhorn’s investments in startups whose solutions aim to increase resource efficiency dramatically in all phases of the development of buildings and infrastructure.

  • PhD, Stanford University, Civil and Environmental Engineering (1975)

  • MS, Stanford University, Civil and Environmental Engineering (1973)

  • B.Sc. Cum Laude, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Civil and Environmental Engineering (1971)


Ram Rajagopal

Associate Professor, Stanford Civil and Environmental Engineering

Co-Academic Director, Stanford Global Projects Center

Director and Founding Researcher, Stanford University Bits and Watts Lab

Consulting Partner on Early-Stage AI and Data Technology for Transform Innovation


Professional Biography: Ram Rajagopal is an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, where he directs the Stanford Sustainable Systems Lab (S3L), focused on large-scale monitoring, data analytics and stochastic control for infrastructure networks power networks. His current research interests in power systems are in the integration of renewables, smart distribution systems, and demand-side data analytics.


Dr. Rajagopal is a consulting faculty member for Transform Innovation and has done work focused on energy and data analytics for Transform Clients.


He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and an M.A. in Statistics, both from the University of California Berkeley, master’s in electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Texas, Austin and bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, Powell Foundation Fellowship, Berkeley Regents Fellowship, and the Makhoul Conjecture Challenge award. He holds more than 30 patents and several best paper awards from his work and has advised or founded various companies in the fields of sensor networks, power systems, and data analytics.


Herman Donner, Ph.D.

Advanced Research in Technology Applications, Economic Policy, and Real Estate

Principal Researcher for Transform Innovation

Director of Research, Stanford Graduate School of Business


Professional Biography: Dr. Donner has an extensive background in early-stage technology, urban economics, and quantitative methods. In his work at Stanford and for Transform Innovation, Dr. Donner conducts research on disruptive technologies and how they will impact industry business models. In the commercial real estate space, his research has covered issues such as foreclosures and the impact of sale mechanism on price, rent control, informational asymmetries on the housing market and office rent determinants. His academic publications in journals such as the Journal of Housing Economics, the Journal of Real Estate Research and the Journal of Housing and the Built Environment have received global recognition.


In addition to academic publications, Dr. Donner has been engaged in several policy-related research projects including work on digital cities, privacy, and government policymaking. His publications at Stanford include a paper on the impact of IoT technologies on business models, a groundbreaking paper on new models for la new financial model for low-income workers for Visa International, and other significant work with Stanford Faculty.


Internationally, he has co-authored a report on the distributional effects of rent control for the Swedish Fiscal Policy Council (a government agency that advises the Swedish government on fiscal policy) and developed best practice guidelines for appraisal of development land for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in Sweden. As part of his role at the Digital Cities initiative at Stanford, heco-authored a report covering technologies that make mobility within cities more efficient, which is published by Visa Inc.


At Stanford, he engages with more than 20 corporate affiliate members -including 3M, Bain, Medtronic, Jones Lang LaSalle,and Verizon -to identify disruptive technologies that is relevant to their business models. ForTransform, he has engaged in multiple consulting projects including Family Office, a new insurance model, and work in digital cities.He also has conducted research that broadly relates to economics and technology applications. Current research projects include a paper analyzing the relationship between earned wage access and household financial wellbeing (joint with Stanford Law School), data strategies for real estate and a framework for energy benchmarking of buildings. He is also part of a research team that is developing a platform for converging urban data sources and create insight through machine learning.


Prior to his current role, Dr. Donner was a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. He received his PhD in real estate economics from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. During his PhD studies, he was a visiting graduate student researcher at Stanford University School of Engineering and a visiting scholar at the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business. Dr. Donner holds BSc and MSc degrees

Todd Peterson

Director of Operations for the Disruptive

Technology and Digital Cities corporate

affiliate program at Stanford University

Todd Peterson has held executive positions in business development and technology for over 20 years and has developed applications of disruptive technology at organizations such as Microsoft, Qualcomm, the U.S. Department of Defense and Stanford University.


Since its founding in 2017, Mr. Peterson is the Director of Operations for the Disruptive Technology and Digital Cities corporate affiliate program at Stanford University. The program goal is to bridge the gap between disruptive innovation and corporations by connecting Stanford technology to corporate business models. At Stanford, Mr. Peterson is responsible for affiliate relations with more than 25 companies across all industry segments – such as Amazon, Microsoft, Jones Lang LaSalle, and 3M.


Mr. Peterson has a deep understanding of disruptive technology and is an advisor and equity partner in several technology startups.


Mr. Peterson is recognized as an expert in Cybersecurity as it relates to the system (network and device) and the three pillars required (real time threat mitigation, risk awareness and scoring, and risk transfer).  He brings 15 years of experience working on strategy, business development and leadership on cybersecurity ecosystems development.


Prior to his current engagements, he was the founder and CEO of the W4Group – a consumer strategy consultancy with Microsoft as the premier partner. Notably, W4Group was the founding partner selected to develop and execute the Microsoft Consumer Experience Center and Program. The project was a first for Microsoft that leveraged partners such as Intel and HP to bring experiential consumer scenarios and demonstrations to life and be presented in their relevant environments.


Salvatore Spina

Research Associate

Stanford Computer Science and Economics

During his time at Stanford, Sal has worked at public technology companies, startups, venture capital firms, and nonprofits. Recently, at OCA Ventures, he helped lead diligence on potential seed and Series A equity investments into software focused companies. He also worked in the research and development arm of Alembic Technologies, an OCA Ventures marketing analytics portfolio company. At Alembic, Sal created a correlation analysis algorithm to complement the suite of predictive marketing analytics tools. Prior to his work at OCA and Alembic, Sal assisted in creating an internal invoice automation process at Verizon(NASDAQ: VERI).


In his free time, Sal serves as the CFO of The Farmlink Project, a multimillion-dollar non-profit organization connecting farms with excess produce to food banks in need. At Farmlink, Sal successfully transitioned the company from a subsidiary of another organization into its own 501(c)(3). He is also in the process of launching the Farmlink Project’s “Legacy Fund”, an internal endowment that ensures the sustainability of the organization’s operations.

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