TOP STORIES

Beyond Borders Interview

Israeli startup expert eyes India

As the co-founder of a leading venture capital company, Chemi Peres is open to investing in Asian countries. But he does not rule out a totally different role for himself: that of a politician, like his late father.

Mention ‘Peres’ and most people think of Shimon Peres, the former President and Prime Minister of Israel. But there’s another Peres on the country’s political landscape: Nechemia ‘Chemi’ Peres, the late leader’s son, who is seen as the heir to his father’s political legacy. Entering politics will be a big leap for 57-year-old Chemi, who helped shape Israel’s startup boom as the co-founder of Pitango Venture Capital. Based in the Israeli city of Herzliya and named after a local fruit, the $1.8 billion (Rs 11,370.6 crore) fund has investments in 210 companies, including Via, an app-based ridesharing startup, and Taboola, a content search portal. Excerpts from an interview:

You run a tech-focussed venture capital firm. What is going to be the next wave of tech-enabled disruption?
Innovation will step up dramatically in the next 10 years, opening new horizons as we enter the next level of machine automation and IoT [Internet of Things]. Artificial intelligence will be an area of focus. Self-driven cars are a good way to conceptualise the idea: They will be able to ‘see’ and will have to understand what they see to drive autonomously. For this, they have to communicate with other machines.

What are the opportunities you are looking at in India? Who are your potential partners?
We are looking for partners who will invest in our funds and form relationships that can connect us with local ecosystems. We also want strategic partners and customers for our portfolio companies. The Tata group is an important investor in our funds and in I3. [I3 is an incubator that funds IoT startups].

Can you explain your investment principles? For instance, you don’t invest in weaponry companies.
We focus on companies that use unique technologies to address significant global markets and have high growth potential. We want to see the founders of the companies we invest in become category leaders. We have diversified keeping in mind the stage in which the investee companies are and their technology sector. We are socially responsible and stay away from investing in weaponry, gambling, and other domains that do not have a positive global impact.

You mentioned in your blog that the focus of Israeli enterprise is moving from the U.S. and Europe to Asia. Do you see more Israeli startups collaborating with Asian ones? What are your key investments in Asia?
Entrepreneurs have to decide whether to start in the U.S. or, say, China. In Asia, we look for investors in our fund and business partners for investing in companies. We made an investment in China with SCGC [Shenzhen Capital Group Company] in a company that went public on the NYSE [New York Stock Exchange]. But usually we do not look actively to invest outside Israel.

There has been talk about you entering politics. Are you seriously considering it?
All options are on the table. I would love to serve my country, but want it to be as impactful and effective as possible.