Mike Lazaridis pledges $20M for WLU program on tech management
Long before BlackBerry was the darling of Canada’s tech sector, Research in Motion was a fledgling startup – not all that different from the hundreds of young tech companies currently dotting the local landscape.
But getting from point A to point B wasn’t easy. It took years of effort, lots of funding, and skillful management from the likes of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.
While Waterloo Region might have a healthy ecosystem of startups, the matter of turning them into massive tech giants is much more difficult.
Kik, a chat app developer, recently claimed a market value of $1 billion – making it only the fifth local tech firm to hit that milestone.
Experts on the local tech industry say the problem is in large part because there is little being done to develop the next wave of Lazaridis-like figures – people who can turn startups into something bigger.
Lazaridis himself is putting up $20 million to help fix the problem and develop a new generation of techj leaders.
Along with several ministers from the provincial government, Lazaridis was on-hand Tuesday morning for a pair of big announcements at Wilfrid Laurier University.
One of the announcements concerned the university renaming its business school after Lazaridis.
The school, which is one year away from opening a $103-million campus on the north side of University Avenue, will now be known as the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics.
The second announcement regarded the creation of the Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises.
In addition to the BlackBerry co-founder’s $20 million, $15 million for the project will be provided by the province.
“Our startup companies … are not growing (and) becoming billion-dollar companies,” Reza Moridi, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, told reporters.
“We need to train business leaders, excellent managers who can take our startup companies from startup level to a billion-dollar level.”
For his part, Laurier president Max Blouw called the announcement an “extraordinary investment” in both his school and the wider community.
“This is a highly strategic … investment that reflects the key roles that private citizens and government can play together in advancing our economy, our quality of life, and our national and provincial prosperity,” he said.