Mike Lazaridis is a Champion of Intelligent
In mid-April 2019, Mike Lazaridis, the champion of intelligent philanthropy, with his business partner and child hood friend Doug Fregin, advanced yet another not-for-profit venture.
Their creation, the Quantum Valley Ideas Lab, a not-for-profit, private public partnership (P3), announced some significant funding.
The funding announcement, came a week after Lazaridis’s first major not-for-profit, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, was globally recognized for it’s contribution to the production of the first images of a black hole. That moment was a global milestone, clearly enabled by the passion of Mike Lazaridis, a passion to attract smart people to the municipality of Waterloo Region.
His contribution is undeniable, his investments continue to permit advanced level job creation. A economic development achievement major communities, many times our size, envy. Thus, maintaining Waterloo’s position as a contributor, collaborator and significant player in the development of commercialized products and services growing the advanced world economy.
“To me it’s all about people,” said Lazaridis. “Attract and retain the most promising people and enable their success, and big things will happen.”
In a recent comment, Mike Lazaridis explained his reasons for creating and supporting quantum innovation: “With the support of industry, and private philanthropy on the one side, and the government on the other, today we celebrate the direct application of our public private partnership, for the commercialization of Quantum technologies.”
It's been 20 years since Lazaridis founded Perimeter Institute For Theoretical Physics. It’s been 20 years since he established its mission “to advance their understanding of the Universe at the most fundamental level, in an effort to stimulate breakthroughs that could transform our future.” A mission that has been a tremendous philanthropic success.
To accomplish his dream, Lazaridis re-imaged a funding model, by establishing an endowment fund, based on contributions by his three top business partners of Research In Motion, now known as Blackberry. Since it’s inception, Mike Lazaridis has put up $170 million, with Doug Fregin $25M and ex co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, $10M.
Lazaridis’ fundraising model extended beyond that raised from the initial endowment, as local family businesses, value-driven foundations, and a host of vested individuals have given generously since its founding. Twenty years later, they continually see the results of their contributions and are continually recognized for their generosity for doing so. The Perimeter Institute recognizes all private donations, on their website with permission; you can find them listed on the PI website.
Private donations are one source of funding; on the public side, both the Government of Canada ($142.4M) and the Ontario Government ($136.8M) have contributed to the Institute. The last contribution by either government occurred in 2011.
These numbers are significant. “Perimeter is philanthropy re-imagined: philanthropy as a long-range strategic investment,” says Lazaridis, who remains Perimeter’s Founder and Board Chair. The institute is “deeply grateful to all our supporters”.
Business’s get that you have to earn the money before you can give it away. The world economy offers no realistic alternatives. Lazardis was able to re-imagined a funding model, as a result he generated some perpetual sustainability.
Like the PI, Lazaridis’ passion for the Quantum Valley Ideas Lab comes after he and Fregin uncovered a needed gap. They “discovered that there was a role for a dedicated laboratory, that could help researchers get their quantum breakthroughs ready for industry.” Founded with that realization, the Quantum Valley Idea’s Lab was created in 2017. Designed as a not-for-profit, this quantum technology laboratory parallels that of Bell Labs. The only difference, says Lazaridis, is that it’s "focused exclusively on quantum technology”.
Its mission is to “establish dedicated research teams, to develop new transformative technologies that will be the basis for new products and new businesses in Canada. The ultimate goal of the ideas lab is to accelerate the path to commercializations and the fundamental advances in quantum information, quantum material and quantum sensors”. It also aims to “increase the funnel of breakthrough quantum technologies that new Canadian start-ups and industry can take to global markets.”
The Quantum Valley Ideas Labs first project started in January 2018. It is being led by a global leader in the field, past Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone. During the mid-April address, Lazaridis announced that the laboratory has “developed a breakthrough quantum sensor technology with applications for millimeter wave uses,” citing such applications as “5G mobile, radar and autonomies vehicles”.
“Perimeter is philanthropy re-imagined: philanthropy as a long-range strategic investment”
“Doug and I started the Ideas Lab with a commitment of 20 million dollars,” and in 2017 the province matched that contribution of $20 million with a pledge of support over the next five years. In mid-April of this year, federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bain, who by the way is also responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), made an equal $20 million commitment. This investment will create up to 167 new skilled jobs, while maintaining 75 jobs, all in Waterloo.
Lazaridis thanked the government of Canada for their commitment, stating that “Our mission for Quantum Valley was to not only build state of the art Canadian labs, with world class researchers that can develop new and transformative quantum technologies, but to also help establish and grow exciting new Canadian businesses that will take these technologies to global markets. Our success over the past 20 years, and our traction in the commercial markets in recent years, demonstrate that this is beginning to happen. Sustained investment by the government of Canada, through efforts like these being announced today, plays a critical role in making this vision for Canada a reality.”
He added, “This new capital comes at a critical time, as these companies seek to fine-tune products and technologies, close strategic customer relationships, and attract the traditional capital required for their long term success. Strategic Investment Funding (SIF) also represents an endorsement by the Government of Canada, for these companies and their technologies that helps theses companies as they continued their efforts to scale their businesses.”
This is an extreme and amazing example of perpetual intelligent philanthropy given in Waterloo Region. But remember, the scale of these magnificent gifts by highly successful entrepreneurs is not designed to discourage the many of us that are less than billionaires. You don’t have to be a billionaire, millionaire or have a great pension to make a difference in your community.
In reality, not every cause has a Mike Lazaridis to drive its mission. Lazaridis's philanthropy is both very calculated and very personal, and very much, doing what it set out to do, making it intelligent.
There are many other ways to give. Over the many years Exchange has been published in Waterloo Region, we have reported on a plethora of ways people have made a difference in their community. Certainly up for further discussion is the possibility that, in the world of personal and corporate philanthropy, a simple sharing of care, given at a needed time, may be more valuable to someone than the money donations made by 100 Mike Lazaridises.
There is nothing stopping you from finding your cause, and becoming that driven force to make change happen. Certainly the realization after you’ve earned the money, that you still have the will and that you still have the time to make-a-difference is important. Significant moments occur when an individual is triggered by a deep and transformational moment. It could have been a moment that took place some years back. In Lazaridis’ situation, he says it occurred in 1982, and took place when he first read a published article, that cited "reliable proof that the world of quantum was real".
That moment occurred when he was an electrical and computing engineering student at the University of Waterloo, and in that moment his “world view was transformed”. As he says, “no longer was technology and engineering limited by the rules of classical physics; what was impossible to do in classical physics suddenly became possible with quantum entanglement and superposition.”
In that moment, Lazaridis path became destiny, as that moment opened a door, an put him on the path to becoming a business and financial success. This was the trigger that led to the success of RIM and the creation of Blackberry, it lead to the establishment of the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics in 1999, and a host of many other QVW entities throughout the Quantum Valley area.
This area is highlighted by the buildings that now house some of the best thinkers of the world. Waterloo doesn't have to look far to see just how one man's philanthropy changed a community, for the good of the community.
We attract the world’s best minds to these advanced jobs, and that’s more than simply attracting the money, which is a significant part of the model. The community is attractive, and it continues to provide support for ideas, in a ever growing entrepreneurial way. We have it, we attract it, an we’re thankful for it, to a whole lot of corporations and philanthropists that continually call Waterloo Region home and benefit from it’s mindfulness.
Intelligent Philanthropy is a good thing for the community, when turned into reality, smart money attracts smart people. With the community getting behind and supporting these jobs you see an increase in mission based worked that is outside the scope of religion. These grand gestures are measurable. “To me it’s all about people,” said Lazaridis. “Attract and retain the most promising people and enable their success, and big things will happen.”
Mike Lazaridis, along with Doug Fregin, both families are exemplary examples of what it means to be an intelligent philanthropist. As Waterloo Region grows, equally important become the daily organizations working hard to provide services to the expanding number of community needs. You'll read about many of them in this issue of Exchange. In building a smart community, all groups function with a fundamental acceptance that if we are to grow and prosper as a community, we need to find creative ways to make it work. This can come in the form of money, ideas and re-imagined models. It’s really limitless.
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