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Malcolm Gladwell and ex-RIM CEO Jim Balsillie were inseparable college buddies

Jim Balsillie and Malcolm Gladwell at The University of Waterloo in 2007. The pair were inseparable in college, playing up to ten games of backgammon a day. A wiry, wild-haired track star who would go on to become a celebrated author. A chrome-domed hockey fanatic who would become a billionaire by helping change the way the world used mobile technology.

If this were the premise of a sitcom being pitched to a TV network it might be rejected as implausible. But it happened; at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College, author Malcolm Gladwell and former RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie were dorm mates, and close friends.

According to Balsillie, the pair were nearly inseparable, jogging, partying, attending classes and playing up to ten games of backgammon a day. They remain close: “He’s a really good guy and he’s very good-natured” Balsillie told writer Madeline Stephenson recently, adding: “….I think he just loves the clever word and the clever thought and the clever twisted phrase, and he’s bloody, bloody good at it.”

Gladwell graduated with a degree in history in 1984, Balsille earned a Bachelor of Commerce the same year. Balsillie went on to earn an MBA from Harvard, then famously mortgaged his house to buy a third of Research in Motion from founder Mike Lazaridis in 1992.

Gladwell was born in Fareham, England. His family moved to Elmira, Ontaro when he was six. His father was a professor of mathematics and engineering at the University of Waterloo. The “Tipping Point” author got his start writing the newsletter for the Trinity football team then, in 1996, went on to become a staff writer for The New Yorker, a position he retains today. Gladwell has written four books, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), and What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009), which is a collection of pieces he wrote for the New Yorker. All four books were New York Times Bestsellers.

Gladwell’s next book, scheduled to be released next year, will be called David and Goliath. The book is inspired by a New Yorker article called “How David Beats Goliath” that Gladwell wrote in 2009. The article followed a girls basketball team that defied massive odds to reach the California state championship.

Balsillie, who was born in the small town Seathforth, Ontario, resigned as co-CEO of Research in Motion earlier this year. He still sits on the Boards of Communitech and Wilfred Laurier University and is the Chairman of social networking startup Igloo Inc.

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About The Author /

Nick Waddell
Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.

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