2020 Great Immigrants Recipient

Fadi Chehadé
Co-CEO, Ethos Capital; Former President and CEO, ICANN
Born in:
Lebanon

Before Fadi Chehadé was even born, his Coptic Christian family was forced to move to Ethiopia from Egypt to escape religious discrimination, eventually settling down in Lebanon. Growing up in Beirut, one of the Middle East’s most vibrant and diverse cities, Chehadé had friends of different faiths and religious denominations. In 1975, however, the Lebanese civil war began. Fearing that his teenage son would be conscripted to fight in a militia, Chehadé’s father arranged to sneak Chehadé out of the country, and Chehadé spent part of the war living with his grandparents in Egypt before returning to Lebanon to finish high school.

Chehadé came to the United States in 1980, while the war in Lebanon was still raging. He was 18 years old, spoke little English, and had only $430 in his pocket. Chehadé started out his American life at the back of a restaurant peeling onions and learning English at a community college. He went on to earn his bachelor's of science from the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering (now the New York University Tandon School of Engineering), and a master’s in engineering management from Stanford University. For Chehadé, this education opened doors to a career in corporate America, including positions with telecommunications giants like AT&T and IBM, where he was general manager of global technology services in the Middle East and Africa.

Today, Chehadé is a prominent digital entrepreneur and thought leader on Internet governance. His startups include Viacore, a provider of supply chain software and services, which was acquired by IBM in 2006, and RosettaNet, an information-technology industry coalition promoting standards for e-business.

From 2012 to 2016, Chehadé was the president of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The Los Angeles-based nonprofit has an outsized influence worldwide as the guardian of the Internet’s infrastructure, most notably through its coordinating role in determining the Internet’s naming system. Specifically, ICANN is the authority on which domains — think about the “.org” in carnegie.org — are accredited. Under Chehadé, ICANN launched a substantial expansion of top-level domains. In 2014, he oversaw a critical milestone in ICANN’s history, transitioning management of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority from the United States to the international Internet community, thereby cementing ICANN’s reputation as an independent, nongovernmental global organization.

Formerly a senior advisor to Abry Partners, he is currently Co-CEO of Ethos Capital. Chehadé is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global IoT Council.

Chehadé is a former member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, a senior advisor to the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, and an advisory board member of the Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He has held fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.

For Chehadé, what is the American dream? “It is about values that keep our lives, our system open,  inclusive, and really an opportunity for anyone who is really  ready to work hard to participate in the system.”