Mike Lazaridis

Philanthropist, entrepreneur.

Mike Lazardis is a Greek-Canadian entrepreneur, business executive and philanthropist,Mike Lazaridis widely known for founding RIM (Research in Motion) and for his long time role as co-CEO of Blackberry. He has pioneered a number of technological innovations that have enhanced mobile communications worldwide. He is also a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society. He has been a generous benefactor to his alma mater, The University of Waterloo, and to the Windsor Public Library.

Mihal “Mike” Lazaridis was born March 14, 1960, in Istanbul, Turkey to Greek parents: Nick (a factory worker) and Dorothy (a seamstress) Lazaridis. He moved to Canada with his parents at the age of 5, and was raised in Windsor, ON. He attended Ada C. Richards grade school and Herman High School. As a child, Lazaridis loved science; at the age of 12 he won an award from the Windsor Public Library for reading every book in its science collection. In high school he balanced his coursework between science class and shop, as he recognized the value in learning theory while at the same time learning through tinkering. Lucky for him, Herman had a cutting edge machine shop program coupled with an ahead of its time facility. Laziridis credits Herman shop teacher John Micsinszki for changing his life. After high school, he moved on to the University of Waterloo to study engineering.

In 1984, while still in school, Lazaridis founded Research in Motion (RIM) together with his close friend, Doug Fregin, who also grew up in Windsor. Their first big contract (1986) was with General Motors. By 2007, RIM had grown from a 10-person company to an international corporation worth over $68 billion; RIM’s success was due largely to their development of the Blackberry. For most of his career, Laziridis acted as co-CEO of Blackberry alongside Jim Basile. Basile headed up the finance, and Laziridis was mainly responsible for the technical vision. In 2013 Lazaridis announced his retirement from RIM, moving on to establish the Quantam Valley Investments Fund.

Mike Lazaridis and his wife Ophelia have given extensively both within their community and throughout Canada. Mike has donated at least $100 million for programs to encourage educational research in the Waterloo, Ontario, region. In 2000, he found the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, which focused on cutting-edge scientific research in experimental physics, and then in 2002 he also founded the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo.

Although most of his life has been spent in the Waterloo area, Lazaridis hasn’t forgotten his roots in Windsor, Ontario. In December of 2002 he donated $50,000 (his share of the Preston Manning Principal Award for Innovation) to the Windsor Public Library for the purchase of engineering and science books.

Throughout his career, Lazaridis has received numerous awards for both his technological innovations and his philanthropic endeavours. In 1999 he received an Academy Award for RIM’s role in inventing a digital barcode reader for film editing. In 2005 he was featured in Time Magazine’s list of the most influential people, and was appointed to the Order of Ontario. In 2006 he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. These are merely a few of his many notable accomplishments.


Bonikowsky, Laura Neilson and Sasha Yusufali. “Mike Lazaridis“. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Toronto: Historica Canada, 2013. Web. 2 Apr 2013.

Governor General of Canada website: https://www.gg.ca/honour.aspx?id=10479&t=12&ln=Lazaridis

Hornsey, Chris. Hi-tech guru says thanks to Windsor; Herman teacher praised: [Final Edition]. The Windsor Star [Windsor, Ont] 31 Dec 2003: A4.

Petruso, A. “Balsillie, Jim and Mike Lazaridis.” Newsmakers 2006 Cumulation. Detroit: Gale, 2007. 22-25. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Image source: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/mike-lazaridis/