BLACKBERRY is not a product, it is a status symbol. To own a BlackBerry is to belong to a club, well, that is the niche the phone has earned for itself since it was launched in 1999 in the US. A book BlackBerry: The Inside Story of Research in Motion by veteran business journalist Rod McQueen takes one on a guided tour through the conception, evolution and birth of this machine, of which President Obama was so possessive.
The story of the maker of BlackBerry, Research in Motion (RIM) a Canadian company is fascinating to say the least. Doggedly pursuing the research path on wireless technology, it achieved the “incredible Smartphone.” The book carries a short foreword by the Co-CEOs of the company Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. Mike is the founder of the company. Launched in 1984 as a student start-up, the company today has 12,000 employees. Its growth can be gauged by the fact that at $43 billion, the company is three times bigger than Motorola, founded more than half a century ago. According to the author, RIM began in 1984 “as a two-man shop on borrowed money.” Today it operates in 170 countries.
When RIM went public with its IPO, it got super response. When the first money came in, Balsillie and Dennis Kavelman (the finance guy of RIM) brought the “cheque for C$108,612,309 to Waterloo, the main office. They gathered as many employees as possible and passed the cheque around so everyone had a chance to feel their good fortune. Some employees had their picture taken with the document, all grinning and in the green.” Balsillie gave a speech. “We’re public,” he told them. All that means is that we needed money to grow and this is the way we did it. The stock’s going to go up; the stock’s going to go down. You’re going to work your ass off all day and the stock’ll go down a buck. You could not show up for work one day and the stock’ll go up two bucks. Over the long term, we’re going to grow. Day to day don’t pay attention to it. Let Dennis and I pay attention, you don’t have to.” He also said any employee caught so much as talking about the share price would buy donuts for everyone. This sent a message, not to be bothered on short-term but focus on long-term.
The idea of the name BlackBerry came from a Californian consultant. Several, including strawberry were considered. The second capitalisation was done to create symmetry, the book says. The book goes into the minutest of details of the making of the phone. The enthusiasm of the men at the helm comes through the pages, as does their fierce nationalism.
It is a book every entrepreneur must read, because RIM’s success did not come overnight. It was a relentless pursuit to better oneself that led the company to what it is today. A success story that had its own moments of anxiety for survival. Moments which were overcome by sheer grit and determination. The author obviously had unhindered access to people and documents to write this book, which is what makes it sound absolutely authentic. An inspiring story and a must read.
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