by Ben Worthen

CIO 20/20 Honorees–Innovator’s Profile: Mike Lazaridis of Research in Motion Ltd.

Oct 01, 20022 mins

Founder, President and Co-CEO

Research In Motion Ltd.

Mike Lazaridis needed a project to keep him busy when it was his turn to stay up watching his second baby. So Lazaridis, founder, president and co-CEO of Research In Motion (RIM), worked out a series of algorithms that determined ideal component placement for his entertainment system. The result is what colleagues describe as the “best home theater in the world,” which Lazaridis?who also has an Oscar and an Emmy for inventing DigiSync, a special film tracking process?said he knew he got right when he “stopped tinkering with it.”

The project didn’t have the same world-changing potential as the one he took up when his first child was born. That was the BlackBerry?the pager-size device that revolutionized mobile communication. BlackBerry has 6.1 percent of the U.S. PDA market as of the second quarter, 2002, and is still the torch bearer when it comes to the delivery of wireless messages, according to IDC (a sister company to CIO’s publisher). The BlackBerry breakthrough came at a crucial time for 41-year-old Lazaridis. Although companies had been implementing wireless projects for years, Lazaridis says, “it was a consulting industry not a product industry.” A customer had to take products from tens to hundreds of different companies and weave them into a custom solution.

Lazaridis predicted customers would need small, easy to use devices, and the industry needed a standard means of transmission. Lazaridis steered RIM, the only company he has ever worked full-time for, toward his vision. While the wireless war isn’t over, the early battles have confirmed Lazaridis’s instincts. Success hasn’t crippled his drive to improve, however. While he thinks he has BlackBerry right, Lazaridis says, “I don’t think I could ever stop tinkering with the BlackBerry.”