BlackBerry's floundering founders fled the fight two years ago today

By Adam Zeis on 22 Jan 2014 02:44 pm EST

Today marks the two-year anniversary of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie leaving BlackBerry. There was certainly plenty of news over the course of their tenure at BlackBerry, but there was arguably more that went down at BlackBerry in just the two short years after they left the company than all of the previous years combined. 

The two stepped down from their positions as co-CEO in January 2012 and Thorsten Heins took the wheel for what would be a bumpy road. During his time as CEO we saw the company rebranded from RIM to BlackBerry, new execs appointed, the addition of Frank Boulben as CMO (and of course Alicia Keys), the launch of BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry's "strategic review" and the company nearly going private. Sadly things didn't go quite as planned under Thorsten Heins' watch and in November of last year he too stepped down from BlackBerry as John Chen was named the new BlackBerry CEO. 

Here's a look at the biggest stories to come from BlackBerry over the past two years:




John Chen is now a few months into his role at CEO of BlackBerry. He's already hard at work behind the scenes — changing up some of the executive team, sorting out a partnership with Foxconn and going full-steam ahead with his new strategy for BlackBerry. So far, so good. The stock price is up on the news of the Pentagon activating 80,000 devices and it doesn't look like things are slowing down. Chen knows what he wants and will do whatever he needs to in order to execute his plan. 

We'll see how things pan out over the next few months, but looking back it's crazy to see just how much has gone down with BlackBerry since Mike and Jim stepped down. 

Any BIG stories we missed? Hit up the comments and discuss!

Topics: BBRY Editorial

Adam Zeis Adam Zeis "Mobile Nations Content Strategist" 3740 (articles) 2892 (forum posts)

Reader comments

BlackBerry's floundering founders fled the fight two years ago today


Way off topic but, why is it that when most of the other mobile nations writers comment, their comment appears in blue, but yours appears in standard white. Is something wrong with my browser?

Adam! At first glance it looked like you called Kevin the "C" word!

Posted via CB10 with my T-Mobile USA  ‎BlackBerry Q10...SON!

It seems fashionable to have catchy titles these days?
And it's nice you posted the first comment Kevin, now the trolls can't say "first"!

I guess if I really wanted to, I could win every FIRST contest. Pretty easy to do when you hit the publish button. Heck, technically you could leave the comment before the post was even publicly viewable. Inception commenting!

I have to agree with you guys. Except for the fact that the comments had little added value for the article, they were all good. :( shame.

Weird though... this was probably my least informative comment ever, but also the one that received the most replies, even one from our Fearless Leader.

But I guess I should say something on-topic? I'm convinced that John Chen is the right man in the right place, so I'm actually glad Mike and Jim stepped down. I'm pretty sure blackberry would be in a worse state if they were still in charge.

Yes, we love Quickie that way. Civil conversations along with a few jokes.

What else could you ask for in a good thread. Goodonya, mate.

My name is Prem, I'm using BBM ... from my QuZe10 ...whatarhyme...

Good observation, junkie! ;-)

Thanks for making us aware. I would have missed that.

My name is Prem, I'm using BBM ... from my QuZe10 ...whatarhyme...

Nice title :)
Given that blackberry would never have existed without these guys, there would be no blackberry, crackberry and blackberry & crackberry addicts like me.

History has shown many founders lost vision at one point or another in time. Also never kept ahead of the competition.

Catapulted from my Z10.

So is this title thing a competition now among you guys. LOL :)

Check out my AZ MTB Channel C0006F5EB

Actually, since you ask, I wrote this one too. Lol. Not nearly as good as the BlackBerry knocks Knox, reminds customers that Samsung's vaults have faults.

But we do have a 2014 CB resolution to do more funner titles! :)

Someone seemingly forgot to mention when BlackBerry ditched the consumer totally, by promising the PlayBook would get an update to BB10 on the news (the best of it) , and lied about it the whole time, turning around to the consumer and saying "ahh, we changed our minds, we will not be offering the update to the PlayBook ".

Only a great company does this to the consumer.....more like only a company who doesn't care about the consumer does this....

Mention this....

Don't forget to mention the seemingly never ending patterns created by BlackBerry on every front.

Starting something, not finishing it, sending out half baked attempts of a product to consumers, all the while patting them on the back and saying "Don't worry, we got this....won't be long now, should be soon, in the next days, weeks, months years to come".

Remember all those patterns and trends? Yeah, let's mention them to Chen too.

Posted Via Z10

Dont forget Jim Ballsile cuts all ties with blackberry pulls a pout that he cant be on board of directors, takes hi bag of cash and wants nothing to do with Blackberry ever again!

Posted via CB10

Come on man, without these guys there'd be no BlackBerry - that sort of legacy gives you a lifetime pass in my book

Posted via the Android CrackBerry App!

The company just out grew them and they were too proud to ask for help

Posted via CB10


Regardless of what happened at the end, they can always say that they built a multi billion dollar corporation from nothing. This is something a lot of their critics can't correspondingly claim to have done. :-)

too bad they couldn't see eye to eye WATSA knew where to go ,and has an incredible wallet to back up his vision.I guess you can say he has a hard head,

Let's not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it but at the same time let's focus our energy on the here on out of what BlackBerry is to be!

Keep The Faith  BlackBerry Q10 

@ John Kastnes. Don't forget Premium Watsa is an investor, he believed in the guys... and eventually he just wanted to protect his investment. is just about money.

These guys don't invent anything. However, that's not to take the credit from him bringing John Chen on board.

Catapulted from my Z10.

I take it some of you didnt listen the the quarterly Q&A when they should have been been actually working on a product that would leapfrog the competition instead of just answering every question with. Its in the Roadmap.. or what till you see the roadmap which the only thing in there roadmap was the 9850! This went on for about 5 Quarters so no i wont cut them slack

Posted via CB10

When did the development for BlackBerry 10 start?
I guess maybe or maybe not that it started under these guys.

What was the turn around time from design to launch, maybe 1-2 years or so?

Catapulted from my Z10.

Leapfrog the competition,
wasn't that their talk?

My name is Prem, I'm using BBM ... from my QuZe10 ...whatarhyme...

Glad for those guys and what they contributed, but I'm looking forward. I'm using the best BlackBerry phone with the best OS that I've ever owned.

Waitin' on the 28th...

Posted via CB10

Ellos son los unicos culpables de toda esta catastrofe por la que toda la comunidad Blackberry a nivel mundial esta pasando!!

They are the only ones to blame for all this catastrophe for the entire global community Blackberry happening!

I expect better from Crackberry than to engage in headline trolling. Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are two people I have a lot of respect for, and gratitude for their indispensable work and vision in making Blackberry something worth investing in and hoping for, not as a day trader, but as someone who has used and enjoyed their devices and services since I first came online. The concentrated competitive market is such that maybe getting back on top isn't quite as easy as getting rid of guys at the top. We talk, and less so as time goes by, about legacy devices and legacy OS but in the larger sense, the Z10, Q10 and Z30 (and tomorrow's devices) are part of the legacy of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.

What encourages me most about Blackberry's future is that my BB10 devices are different than Old School Blackberries, but still identifiably Blackberry in the way they can be used productively.

For a point when Mike L. and Jim B. ran the show, BlackBerry sold almost 7,000 devices an hour. They built BlackBerry into the largest company in Canada. Almost all the BB10 acquisitions occurred under Mike L. Thorstein was executing a strategic vision for BlackBerry to play with the big boys in the platform game... and maybe win. That's making things happen and not just acting busy and talking a lot.

Contrast that with John Chen. Chen has publicly trashed BlackBerry's largest technical advantage over consumer electronics companies -- namely, unified software and hardware development -- by partnering with Foxconn, a partnership that has already caused Apple no end of grief in first world countries. BlackBerry will now be using the same slave labor. He has withdrawn from the platform race entirely in an effort to focus on selling to enterprise customers. Right now, we have no indication that BlackBerry will release a touchscreen form factor at all in 2014. His vision -- if there is a vision, at all -- is to tell us that SaaS and MDM and embedded systems can make BlackBerry profitable again if he just focuses on selling to business customers who are only BlackBerry customers because of the work that Mike L. and Jim B. put in making systems that enterprise needed and selling like mad. Today, the only reason why the businesses buy BlackBerry is because they did in the past and they still need to support BlackBerry devices. Chen can talk, but he's not really addressing any of these fundamental problems. The DoD sales and probably initial outreach to companies like Foxconn began under Thorstein.

But, in CrackBerry's world view, Mike L. was floundering, while John Chen is on track with the stock around $9 after (1) the market was pleased with Zipperstein (Thor's appointment) rattling sabers and (2) the Pentagon deployed devices sold under Thor. Aside from talking with Thor and agreeing with industry consensus and BGR on BlackBerry's prospects in the consumer race, what had Chen done right?

Posted via CB10


So good, some got even deleted. Whatashame!


My name is Prem, I'm using BBM ... from my QuZe10 ...whatarhyme...

Chen is picking up the pieces from Thor's disaster. I agree he is no Jesus Christ but just give him a chance.

Correction to my comment above: We don't know whether BlackBerry will release a good touchscreen device in 2014. We do have indication that it'll soon release a cheap, crappy, Chen phone for the Indonesian market...

Posted via CB10

Not necessarily true, Chen did say premium phone design was being retained in Canada.

I take it as an indication that there will be an upper range device also being released. Will be interested to see if it's a keyboard or touch screen

Catapulted from my Z10.

I think there will always be a premium qwerty. Its the companies identity. That's something you really don't want to mess with. Top end business users and enthusiasts alike just won't use anything else. That includes me!

Posted via CB10

I think his comments in Vegas at CES indicated it was a physical keyboard phone. I think there should be a premium touchscreen device as well.

In fairness, nothing has been announced and, you're correct, Chen has not definitively said that there won't be a premium touchscreen device in 2014. It just bothers me that I don't know. Apple users have no reason to doubt a premium touchscreen iPhone will be released in 2014. I think we should have the same kind of stability and certainty... with better devices... :-)

Posted via CB10

The release of devices is too fragmented. If nothing... apple has proved people like order. it gains confidence!

Posted via CB10

Would I be right, there will be 2 premium phones and 2 lower end devices?

The 2 upper end may be a full touch screen and a qwerty device?

Catapulted from my Z10.

That's what I have read. Cheap is first on the agenda and that will be touch firstly I believe.

Posted via CB10

I really hope blackberry enjoys an Apple type come back. Love or hate these guys, they gave us something special. Yes it did start to go down the pan with them at the top later on. Another way you could look at this is, Only on the bring does a company like this truly start to push the boundaries. Only in the last 2 years has blackberry had a real thirst and passion ( none more so illustrated then by TH ). Only now does blackberry really seem alive Rather then just coasting along on previous success. Even though the stakes are really high they still refuse to make devices for the sheep. Without a shadow of doubt, they are the most charismatic of the major mobile device and software producers. Totally original..... and let's not forget..... they did it all first!!!!!

Posted via CB10

I'm curious. The most charismatic is what way? They only make phones yet you say mobile devices. No tablets of any size and the last few products they've released have run right into a brick wall. So please explain "most charismatic". If you can.

They have always had a unique style of hardware. They have always been unique in security. They are not so much concerned with giving people tech rubbish like samsung. They are humble and really do care about the people that choose blackberry. In this world today they are apart from the crowd. Times are very hard but they are staying true to their identity. Point is..... Apple are good... and winning. samsung sell lots of hardware but have no really committed users.... they may always jump ship. And Nokia..... well..... it sold it's soul to Microsoft. The sea is awash with android and ios but blackberry are still fighting. I think on all those points that gives them the most character of them all. I have nearly always used BlackBerry, and will continue untill otherwise.

Posted via CB10

Starting to become ancient history. It's important to know where you came from, but more important to know where you're going. Look forward.

Posted via CB10

@junkie - regardless of why Watsa first joined the board, he brought along an investment philosophy that rewards shareholders, not executives. Chen will be rewarded for accomplishments, not by giving himself options below market price.

Watsa is a self-made billionaire; he watches every $.


Rewarding shareholders, but who creates the value, the visionary engineers, then the consumers who then buys the products?

I see your points as well.

Catapulted from my Z10.

I can't communicate enough the immense amount of respect I have for John Chen, his team and the moves we've seen in just the past 2 months, but these 2 guys are also an important part of the BlackBerry story as well. We should never underestimate or trivialize their contributions to RIM.

Sent from my BlackBerry Z30

The rapid always seems to win the first heat or the feist few metres of the race. I want to see the tortoise - maintain and steady as she goes. Continued progress!!

I have more respect from Lazarillo thus far and may have for the foreseeable future.
He built this company, an industry, a staple of technology standards from scratch! He quarter backed the purchase of QNX From the start and immediately saw the synergy with Dan Dodge another entrepreneur.

If BlackBerry gets lifted up to another height only to be sold like Chen did with Sybase to SAP, I'm sure you wouldn't have the same feeling of respect then.

Waiting for  BlackBerry Q10  & Full Metal CB10!

'November of this year', Kevin!! It's already 2014, that should be written 'last year' instead lol

Remember; BlackBerry keep moving ;]

Posted via CB10

Love all the commentary on this post.  Also, that wasn't a trolling headline. Lol, if we're ever going to TROLL a headline, you'll really know it. This was just a little clever, arguably a little mean but not unjustified, and it's created a lot of great discussion on both sides. What's better than that?! #purewin.

Funny because Lazarillo stepped down from BlackBerry he didn't leave. He remained on the bird for quite some time after.

Adam is your data accurate?

Waiting for  BlackBerry Q10  & Full Metal CB10!

Did you notice that RIM logo on stage? How faded it was and how dated it looks? So nineties.

Strongly prefer the fresh BlackBerry blue on Thor's or Chen's stage now. And don't forget the yummy berry logo.

My name is Prem, I'm using BBM ... from my QuZe10 ...whatarhyme...

Good work,
And looking at history, it was quite obvious both Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer completely messed up the BB10 launch.

The more I look into the past of Rim, the more I feel I have been overly harsh on TH. These guys did a lot of good.... but WOW didn't they make mess too. TH really was up against the wall. Long story short, it was like being asked to fix a friends car but not letting you use any tools. A very stale mentality was aloud to prevail. That was probably the one biggest single thing TH changed...... and maybe the most important thing for blackberry full stop.

Posted via CB10

I don't think that's 100% accurate. TH spent more time cost cutting and downsizing rather than finding value and building on it. This is what Chen is doing. I give TH some credit that the Z10 and Q10 was released, but they were priced too high compared to the competition. Also the Q5 was priced out of reach for an entry level device, and there was no Z5 which put tremendous downward pressure on the Z10 pricing. It turned helped the Z10 into disaster, which it was certain not! The Z30 came without any fanfare at all. No one even knows it exists.

Your points are valid and that's why I initially thought badly off him. My comment more relates to the other role a CEO plays within a company. He bought forward thinking, a new platform and devices. Chen has some solid ingredients to make the cake with now. Whatever people might say about TH, he brought a breath of fresh air. Changing the mood within a company is a very hard thing to achieve indeed. Amongst the employees, he was very well thought off.

Posted via CB10

Chen is what's needed now but I believe TH did the best he could. We don't know what was really going on with the board or what they were pushing for with him. He looked very constrained by the board.

Posted via CB10

Indeed, it is a rather derogatory title. I think the founder (not founders!) - that is, Mike L - was forced to give up control because of the bad press they were getting. Jim B needed to move on as the company needed to go in different directions.

BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 was launched 1 year ago today in 2013 as Mobile Fusion, and is in my mind the most important piece to their road to success.

Posted via CB10

Love them or hate them, the fact remains that they did launch BlackBerry and I respect them for this huge step forward in mobile communications.

Posted via CB10

It's a shame Jim B was a no-show CEO and Mike L was in total denial. Both conducted themselves in this fashion for many years. Yes, they both achieved greatness, but decided to dig in when it was clear they were in way over their heads. It's awful to think how many people lost their jobs, lives ruined due to their incompetence and arrogance. BB, Mike and Jim years will be studied for years in business schools. Amazing what they squandered.