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Mike Lazaridis

Mike Lazardis is a Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, best known for being the CEO of BlackBerry (formerly knows as Research in Motion, or RIM). Lazaridis was born in Turkey on March 14th, 1961, to Greek parents. He immigrated to Canada with his family at the age of five, and made Windsor, Ontario home. He was fascinated by science from a very young age, and in high school took not only science courses, but also shop courses, fueling his creative innovation.

After high school, Lazardis enrolled at the University of Windsor to study electrical engineering and computer science. He never completed  his undergraduate degree, however, instead deciding to drop out in his last year to follow a tow truck like pull to devote more time to his business venture, which was Research in Motion.

He and fellow student Doug Fregin had founded RIM while they were still in university. RIM started out as a consulting business for electronics and computer science, and only later did it become focused on the development of technology that it’s known for today. It was after the two of them had been joined by another student, Michael Barnstijn, that General Motors awarded RIM a $600, 000 contract to develop a network computer control display system. They were still university students at the time.

The first Blackberry mobile device was introduced in 1999, and by the end of 2007, Blackberry had become an international corporation worth 68 billions dollars. The company had achieved this by essentially creating the smartphone, and with Lazaridis’ innovation and the business savvy of Jim Balsillie, who joined Lazaridis as co-CEO in 1992, Blackberry had become Canada’s biggest global tech business.

The company enjoyed many years of prosperity, but began to see fierce competition from iPhones and Android devices. In 2011, RIM’s stock price dropped dramatically, and as a result, there was a call for a change in leadership. Eventually, Lazaridis stepped down to assume the position of vice-chair of the board and chair of the board’s new innovation committee, but only held these positions for a year, after which he decided to retire from the company in 2013.

Despite his retirement from Blackberry, Lazaridis remained very much involved in the industry and continued the philanthropic work in which he had already been involved for years. One of his most notable donations to the industry, one he made alongside his wife, Ophelia, was one that established the Perimeter Institute for Research in Theoretical Physics in Waterloo in 1999, and that he continued to fund for years after its foundation.

It has since evolved into a leading centre for research and training in theoretical physics thanks to the continued support of Lazaridis and the Ontario government. In 2004, Lazaridis and his wife had also made a donation to the University of Waterloo to help found the Institute for Quantum Computing, which not only conducts groundbreaking research in the field of quantum computing, but also provides workshops to the public and to young students in order to provide scientific outreach to the community.

Lazaridis continued to support the university’s programs for years, and was the Chancellor of the University from 2003 to 2009. Mike Lazaridis is an important advocate for higher education and the pursuit of knowledge, and has received countless honours and awards in recognition of the work he has done to promote the study of how science can change the world.