“These guys are no smarter or better than our people”.
Former BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie was at Toronto’s Empire Club Tuesday alongside Sean Silcoff and Jacquie McNish, authors of “Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry”, a book that provides unprecedented insight into the demise of BlackBerry’s hardware business following the release of the iPhone.
For Balsillie, who has been something of a recluse in the years since he left the company formerly known as Research in Motion, it was the second time he went public in the span of weeks, and he continued on a theme he raised in a May 8 editorial for the Globe and Mail. Balsillie said Canada was producing world class tech talent, but not fostering an environment for its entrepreneurs to succeed.
“I remember meeting Mark (Zuckerberg) when he was itty-bitty, really small, all these guys..and these guys are no smarter or better than our people,” he said. “But there is something missing in the infrastructure and we have to fix it.”
Balsillie says the Canadian business community, its universities and government are essentially setting tech entrepreneurs up to fail.
“I have a real issue on sending our great entrepreneurs into battle under resourced and under supported and nothing bothers me more than those that have not fulfilled their public policy obligations, blaming entrepreneurs for an absence of fire in the belly,” said Balsillie.
Balsillie May editorial, called “Canadians can innovate, but we’re not equipped to win” displayed the tenacious, combative manner that he chided to McNish was only mentioned “every other page” in “Losing the Signal”.
“More than 16 years after RIM launched BlackBerry, it remains the only Canadian company listed among the world’s top innovators because it owns one of the most valuable technology portfolios in the world,” he said. “My business experience is unique in Canada, but I do not claim to have all the answers. I am certain, however, that Canada’s innovation performance will not improve unless the country’s business, university and political leadership comes together to consider radically different policies, programs and tools. Canadian taxpayers deserve better returns on their enormous investments in innovation.”
Balsillie had praise for the “Losing the Signal” saying that “80 or 90 RIM People” emailed him about the book. “They said wow, it’s the true story, and everybody has said it’s the truth.”