Globe and Mail: Story of Jim Balsillie

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Globe and Mail has a good article profiling RIM’s co-CEO Jim Balsillie and how his ultra competitive nature may be the reason why RIM has not settled with NTP. Born on Feb. 3, 1961, in Seaforth, north of London, Ont. His father, Raymond, was an electronics technician who worked on nuclear reactors at the Darlington power station while his mother stayed home to raise two boys and a girl. The family moved to Peterborough when Mr. Balsillie, the middle child, was five.

Always wanting more and never a person to play it safe, he went from small town boy to University of Toronto graduate to walking the halls of Harvard. When he graduated in 1989, Mr. Balsillie made a huge gamble that friends still marvel at. He accepted a job offer at a small technology company in Kitchener, Ont. Sutherland Schultz Inc. sold, among other things, a pioneering product that linked computers.


“I’m sure he would have made twice as much on Wall Street,” says Rick Brock, an owner of Sutherland Schultz who hired the young graduate.

Sutherland Schultz is where he met Mike Lazaridis, the inventor of the RIM pager devices which would become more famous as the Blackberry. Mike Lazaridis did contract work through Sutherland Schultz and when the company shut down, Jim paired up with Mike in 1992.

“I thought they would be a perfect fit,” Mr. Brock recalls. “Mike was so technically clever and Jim had the business acumen that Mike didn’t have.”

These were lean days at RIM and Mr. Balsillie mortgaged his home, took out a small-business development loan and invested about $250,000 in the firm when he joined. Their big break came when Mr. Balsillie saw an opportunity to boost RIM’s profile on a Team Canada mission to South Korea. The company was signing a deal with a local phone company, and Mr. Balsillie wanted then-prime minister Jean Chrétien on hand, so he approached the MP for Kitchener, John English, who happened to live at the end of his street, where he frequently walked his dog.

As RIM was growing, Mr. Balsillie kept up his passion for other forms of competition. He still plays pickup hockey, coaches his son’s basketball team and, at his 15th Harvard reunion, held a grudge tennis match against former classmates.

You can read the more detailed article here …