However, the recent criticism masks his incredible accomplishments over his career. I really enjoyed listening to him speak about his career in general, and it helped to put his accomplishments in context. Lazaridis started Research In Motion in the early 1980s while he was finishing his undergraduate education. He did so in Waterloo, Ontario -- about as far from the tech world as you can imagine. Did he get savvy blue-chip venture capitalists to back him? No. Together with a buddy, he started the company with a loan of $15,000 from his parents, which was matched from the Ontario provincial government.
In fact, venture capitalists wouldn't even talk to him about his company for 10 years. (It was at that time that Lazaridis met Balsillie, who took a mortgage out on his house to invest in RIM and join the company in management.)
As a result, this 12-plus years worth of work allowed RIM to be an "overnight" success in 1999 with its first BlackBerry devices. RIM had a great run from then through 2010. Hugo Miller asked Lazaridis what his biggest regret was about his time at RIM. He immediately responded that he should have bought QNX earlier. QNX is the company that become the foundation for the new BB10 operating system that powers BlackBerry's new phones and tablets. It also gives BlackBerry the ability to move into other areas of mobile computing. RIM pulled the trigger in April 2010 and is just getting to market now three years later. Just imagine how the mobile landscape would be different if Lazaridis had done the acquisition right after the iPhone's introduction in January 2007 with new phones to market in 2010 when RIM's market share was still at its peak. Later in the session, I was able to ask Lazaridis why he'd chosen to locate his office in a building that was a 15 minute drive away from Jim Balsillie's office in tiny Waterloo? He said he thought that question had been overplayed as being a reason why the company missed the rapid shift in the mobile computing market. He defended his choice by saying RIM had just invested a huge amount of money in a new CRM system from SAP ( SAP) to allow everyone in the company -- including him and Balsillie -- to stay in touch with each other no matter where they were. He also said that it made sense for him to be with engineers while Balsillie was with sales folks.