Mike Lazaridis

The Early Life of BlackBerry Owner Mike Lazaridis

by admin

Early Life and Signs of Brilliance

Mike Lazaridis was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1960 to a working-class Greek family. After a brief stint in Germany, his father moved them to Windsor, Ontario, to pursue an apprenticeship as a tool-and-die maker. He eventually opened and ran his own retail store, while his mother worked as a seamstress and journalist.

“[My parents] were always self-sufficient — they taught me that you control your own destiny,” he told Computerworld in an interview. “The world is a big place and it’s full of opportunity.”

Even at a young age, Lazaridis showed signs of extraordinary intelligence. At four-years-old, he built a model phonograph out of a pile of Lego blocks. Then, at eight, he crafted a pendulum clock that kept exact time. One day, he received an electric train set, igniting his exploration into engineering. When the landlord, who lived below, complained about the loud noises his locomotive made, his father showed him how to silently illuminate the lights by touching two wires to the track.

“That was the first time I understood how an electric circuit was completed,” he told Computerworld.

High School and Nurturing a Passion for Electronics

Lazaridis was a bright student, excelling in both reading and science, and his high school was blessed with an exceptional engineering program — equipped with two auto shops, an architectural shop and a mechanical drafting shop. There was even a woodworking shop, two large machines shops and two large electronic shops.

Introduction to Electronics

“One of them was completely outfitted with the latest electronics technology, electric motor-generator pairs, amplifiers, all the way up to precision electronic instrumentation,” Lazaridis said.

Shop Teacher’s Influence

His shop teacher, John Micsinszki, had one rule: if you wanted to use a piece of equipment, you had to first take the manual home and learn it. Only once you passed a quick quiz, were you allowed to unpack and use the machinery. That summer, Lazaridis opened and learned to use every tool in the laboratory.

Foreseeing the Future

“Be careful not to get too involved in computers,” Lazaridis said Micsinszki had once told him, according to Computerworld. “In the future, electronics, computers and wireless are all going to combine — and that’s going to be the next big thing.” He didn’t understand it then, but those words would seep into his subconscious. Years later, after starting RIM, they would creep back and remind him, almost like fate, of the opportunities that lie ahead.

Academic Brilliance

In class, not only did he have an intuitive understanding of the theoretical basis of science, he also had a knack for invention — very practical inventions.

Early Inventions and Entrepreneurial Spirit

For example, when practicing for “Reach for the Top,” a Canadian quiz-show that featured students in trivia tournaments, he noticed his team had a tangled mess of wires. So he built a compact buzzer-box to determine which of the four contestants hit the button first. Before then, everyone was confused. The invention worked so well that soon other teams began to ask for them, so he and his father built and sold them to schools.

University and Entrepreneurship

Those profits paid for his first year’s tuition at the University of Waterloo, which chose for its strong co-op program. He received not just theoretical electrical engineering coursework, but also hands-on experience to help pay for college. Soon, he began to work on his own projects, and in 1984, General Motors granted him a $600,000 contract to make LED notification displays, which he called the “Budgie,” for use at its factories.

Entrepreneurial Decision

With a month before graduation, the 23-year-old, like so many entrepreneurs before him, dropped out of college to go into business. But before he could do so, he needed permission from Doug Write, the president of the university.

“I have to do this,” Write said, according to CrackBerry.com, “I have to try and dissuade you… but speaking personally, just between you and me, go for it.”

Instead of a trip to California, though, Lazaridis and childhood friend Doug Fregin — with funds from friends and family and a $15,000 government loan — moved a few blocks from campus to a tiny office atop a strip mall.

From Sunset Vistas to Snowy Fields: An Unexpected Startup Hub

Waterloo, Ontario was about the farthest place from Silicon Valley. The industrial city of around 98,000 sits on the outer edge of Mennonite country. Instead of seaside sunset vistas, at about 70 miles west of Toronto, it had snow and more snow. It wasn’t a place to base a startup, and yet, that was exactly what Lazaridis did.

From Paradigm to Research In Motion: The Birth of a Name

After a few ideas, he decided on Paradigm Research. But the name was registered. So they dropped “Paradigm” settled on the next-best idea: Research in Motion.

“[Motion] means we never stop, we never end,” Lazaridis told Fast Company. “We keep going.”

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