Chemi Peres: Coronavirus Highlights Need for Innovation, Global Collaboration

Chemi Peres: Coronavirus Highlights Need for Innovation, Global Collaboration

If Chemi Peres has one regret, it’s that he didn’t travel enough or live abroad for an extended period of time. The 61-year-old son of the late Israeli president Shimon Peres, a prominent figure in Israel’s tech ecosystem and chairman of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, says travel and knowledge of other cultures and languages “contribute to a better society and a better world.”

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While this wanderlust is unrelated to the global coronavirus pandemic currently upending life as we know it here in Israel and across the world, Peres does say that more travel would have afforded him the opportunity to better promote his most important message — the power of collective innovation.

“There is a lot of power in our ability to innovate and in our ability to be entrepreneurs and to change the world for the better. We are transitioning from an old world where greatness and strength and wealth came from the land and from natural resources, to a new era where the source of power, the source of greatness, is coming from brainpower, from the mind,” he explains.

No single country can address the pandemic separately without collaboration from other countries, he says, just like “nobody can deal with climate change by themselves; it’s a new age.”

Peres may not have traveled as much as he would have liked – and there’s no telling when he might be able to in the near future – but he has seen and done a great deal, with a career that spans aerospace, technology, and finance. He co-founded Pitango Venture Capital in 1996, a firm that has invested in some 250 global high-tech companies, including disruptive Israeli-firms such as Via, Taboola, AppsFlyer, Drivenets, and DouxMatok. He sits on the board of directors of a number of those companies. Over the years, Pitango has become one of Israel’s largest VC firms to date, and recently raised $250 million in a second growth fund during a global crisis

“We believe that even during the turbulent times of Coronavirus, keeping a long-term strategy and investing in exceptional teams, will enable [us] to keep building big companies out of Israel,” Pitango announced in a Facebook post last week.

Peres has also served as the chairman of the executive committee of the Peres Center for Peace, first established in 1996 by his father Shimon Peres – the Nobel Prize-winning elder Israeli statesman who advocated for peace with the Palestinians and Israel’s neighbors, one of the architects of the country’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and a former prime minister and president. The center rebranded as the Peres Center for Peace And Innovation after the establishment of an innovation wing for Israel, one of Peres’ flagship projects before his passing in 2016 at 93. Shimon Peres was a champion of Israeli technologies and Israeli startups.

Shimon Peres addresses a gathering of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem in 2010. By Michael Thaidigsmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Shimon Peres addresses a gathering of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem in 2010. Photo by Michael Thaidigsmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The innovation center officially opened its doors in October 2018 in an inauguration ceremony attended by diplomats and executives from across the world. Last year, the center welcomed more than 75,000 guests from around the world — including government representatives, business leaders, founders, and members of the public — who wanted to learn from the Israeli innovation model.

The visitors’ wing highlights Israeli innovation through the ages, drawing on advanced technologies for highly visual platforms and interactive displays showing life-changing, cutting-edge tech developments. The center also hosts an exhibition of products or services from ground-breaking Israeli firms and runs innovation programs that draw from Israel’s diverse communities.

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