Israeli startups have made great strides under their founding leadership. But some have advanced to such a point that they need outside leadership to help them grow further – like Valens, which has tapped an industry heavyweight to sit in the big chair at the head of the table.
In a major coup, Valens Semiconductor announced this week that Dr. Peter Mertens will serve as the chairman of its board of directors. The highly experienced automotive engineer most recently served as head of technical development and design at Audi, but stepped down due to health reasons at the end of 2018 after sixteen months in the role. Prior to Audi, Mertens served for six years as senior vice president for research and development at Volvo, and before that worked for General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz (among others). All told, he brings more than 35 years of experience to bear in chairing the Valens board.
“While Valens is leading significant progress in several different markets, its innovative approach to solve the challenges in the automotive industry is what steered me to accept the position of Chairman of the Board,” said Mertens upon the announcement. “Valens’ groundbreaking technology will be an important enabler for the fully connected and autonomous car. I am excited to be part of this journey.”
“Mertens has exceptionally broad technical expertise and an international background in the automotive industry,” Audi’s then-CEO Rupert Stadler said upon his previous appointment in 2017. On his departure, Audi chairman (and Volkswagen CEO) Herbert Diess said he and his colleagues “deeply regret that Peter Mertens is stepping down from the Board of Management,” wishing him a speedy recovery.
Founded in 2006, Valens develops high-speed, ultra-high-definition connectivity solutions particularly for the automotive industry, its HDBaseT system capable of transmitting a large volume of data over a single cable – a crucial technology as automobiles get “smarter” and have more information to process.
The company is based in Hod HaSharon in the center of Israel (just east of Herzliah), and has offices abroad in California, Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan. To date it’s raised $164 million in funding from an array of venture-capital firms.
Along with Mertens’ appointment, Valens also named serial entrepreneur Gideon Ben-Zvi as its permanent CEO – a role he had filled on an interim basis since February, when he took over from co-founder Dror Jerushalmi.
“In the two months as Interim CEO, the Valens team impressed me deeply with its talents and capabilities, which I see as the basis for the company’s success and remarkable potential for growth,” said Gideon Ben-Zvi. “I welcome this appointment as the company’s CEO, and I am excited to lead Valens towards extraordinary achievements during these exciting and innovative times. I am grateful for having Peter join us as Chairman of the Board, a true testament of his faith in the company and its technology, and I look forward to his contribution to our success.”