For Four Days in 2012, Shimon Peres Dominated Silicon Valley. Here’s What Happened

As world leaders mourn Shimon Peres today in Israel, we remember the late Israeli president’s surreal tour of Silicon Valley in 2012. Here’s what happened.

aNewDomain — As U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders mourn Shimon Peres today in Israel (the former Israeli president, prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner died Wednesday at the age of 93) we remember quite a different gathering around Peres.

Different and, well, pretty surreal. I am talking about Peres’ whirlwind 2012 tour of Silicon Valley. For four days in March, it felt like Peres was everywhere: Having coffee with Eric Schmidt and wandering around Google; hanging with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, even delivering the opening keynote at Jason Calacanis’ Launch 2012. If you didn’t know Peres was the president of Israel, you would’ve thought he was a veteran Silicon Valley powerbroker. He was that confident, that cool with talking tech to tech folk. I remember thinking, someone get this man a black turtleneck sweater …

I shot photos and videos that week for aNewDomain. Here are some of my favorites, a collection of videos and photos that I hope will capture a side of Peres few people outside tech may remember. As for us in tech, well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Above, that’s one of my favorite photos from the week. I snapped it as Peres (center) at Launch 2012 discussed how and whether his new social media presence could somehow further peace in the Middle East. He’s flanked by famed Israeli VC Yossi Vardi (left) and Launch’s Calacanis.

And here is the video I shot of Peres’ talk at Launch 2012. His March 7, 2012 opening keynote there is one of my all-time favorite Launch moments, and that is saying a lot. If you watch it, you’ll see why.

The day before, March 6, Peres launched his Facebook page. In a live interview from the company’s Menlo Park, CA digs, he spoke at length with Facebook’s Sandberg, explaining he was launching his Facebook presence because “peace is no longer the business of governments … it is the business of the people.”

Social networking has, in its way, created a global society — and one that supports free expression to a degree that it will inevitably promote social change,” Peres told Sandberg, adding: “The great thing in life is not free speech but free expression.”

Here’s a video of that live conversation between Peres and Sandberg, with Dave Fisher setting the stage. A must see.

If you were there, you may remember that Peres’ visit to Silicon Valley in March 2012 occurred at a seriously tense time.

Just a day before, on March 5, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Washington, D.C. to heatedly discuss whether Israel should strike Iran — and under what circumstances it could or should ever do so. Tensions were high. Silicon Valley journalists, like journalists everywhere, were listening closely for the great peace negotiator’s comments on the matter. And Peres didn’t disappoint, offering some choice words on day one of his personal YouTube channel, which he also launched in Silicon Valley that week.

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In retrospect, Facebook and Google were well prepared for the visit of the great statesman. Launch 2012 was a different story. A few dozen secret service agents and cops made the room seem even more packed than usual, and packed it was. Here’s a shot I took from the front of the room.

Peres’ presence at Launch of course meant heightened security, police and dogs — adding to the long line of people waiting to get into the event early that morning. Security officials wouldn’t allow me to take photos of the security teams or police K-9 units.

And if things were packed inside Launch, in downtown San Francisco, it was worse outside. Just a couple of blocks away from where Peres spoke, Apple unveiled its third generation iPad, the iPad 3. This is what the street outside looked like.

Security shimon peres

 

 

Here in 2016, where world leaders and some 50,000 Israelis gather to mourn near Peres as his body lays in state, it is easy to forget the wit and wisdom Silicon Valley experienced that week four years ago, which seems at once so long ago and so very near.

“A light has gone out,” Obama said in a statement, hours after Peres died in a Tel Aviv area hospital Wednesday. He’d suffered a stroke two days before.

For aNewDomain, this is Julie Blaustein Pimentel reporting.

Gina Smith and Jeremy Lesniak contributed to this story.

Credits: Shimon Peres at Launch 2016, photos and videos: Julie Blaustein for aNewDomain, All Rights Reserved. Photos of Peres at Facebook: Jason Lesniak for aNewDomain, All Rights Reserved. Other videos courtesy YouTube, All Rights Reserved. Special thanks to Jason Calacanis.

About the author

Julie Blaustein