Visionaries: Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie

Mike Lazaridis, president/co-CEO, and Jim Balsillie, chairman/co-CEO, Research in Motion (co-inductees)

Mike Lazaridis, president/co-CEO, and Jim Balsillie, chairman/co-CEO, Research in Motion (co-inductees)

Lazaridis, the engineering dynamo, and Balsillie, the business guru, kept their heads through the ’90s tech bubble, and emerged to dominate the mobile communications market. How dominant are their BlackBerries? In November, the world’s superpower, our neighbours to the south, admitted in a court submission public services would be in jeopardy if the Waterloo, Ont. company lost its market dominance due to an intractable patent dispute. And even more telling, like Kleenex, Xerox and Vaseline, BlackBerry has entered the everyday lexicon as a synonym for an entire category of PDAs.

‘It’s now so identifiable and such an innovation – it’s one of the world’s greatest in the last 20 years. [As an industry], we should be very proud of a company from Waterloo, Ont. that has been able to achieve such breakthroughs around the world and really give the Silicon Valley a run for its money.’

Andrew Black, president/CEO, Virgin Mobile Canada and award judge

‘[Their strategy] was both modest and relentless in that it didn’t appear to come at you as a marketing effort – it appeared to be the kind of product that allowed you to discover it and therefore love it and champion it on your own. That is a very cool way to do business; I bet the people who are footing million-dollar mass-media bills are wishing they could do that.’

Philippe Garneau, partner, GWP Brand Engineering