BlackBerry founder launches $100m quantum physics investment fund

One of BlackBerry's former CEOs, along with its ex-COO, have teamed up in a bid to make the company's hometown the Silicon Valley of quantum information science.

The co-founders of BlackBerry maker RIM, which changed its name to BlackBerry earlier this year, have launched a $100m private investment fund to help commercialise "quantum information science" breakthroughs.

Mike Lazaridis and Doug Feigin yesterday announced they were teaming up to establish Quantum Valley Investments, a fund the pair say can do for the Waterloo, Ontario — the Canadian town that plays home to BlackBerry's headquarters — what Bell Labs did for Silicon Valley.

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"Nothing you see in the classical technology world can prepare you for what you will see in the quantum technology revolution," said Lazaridis in a statement.

"Our belief in the power of quantum physics to transform society inspired us to develop a strategy some 12 years ago that led to the world-class quantum research capability that exists in Waterloo today. This combination of technology and business experience has given us a unique understanding and deep commitment that we believe will be instrumental to the success of both this Fund and the 'Quantum Valley'."

Lazaridis, who founded RIM in 1984, and fellow co-CEO Jim Balsillie were replaced by current BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins in January 2012 amid delays in bringing its new QNX-based operating system and smartphones to market.

Lazaridis, who remains a non-executive chairman of BlackBerry and one of its largest shareholders, told the Wall Street Journal that Quantum Valley Investments had signed its first deal, but did not provide any details of the investment. 

Feigin was RIM's COO until 2007 and helped design the first circuit boards used in RIM's early wireless technology, according to his Forbes profile

Since 2007, shares held by Feigin, Lazaridis and Balsillie in RIM made them regulars in Forbes' Billionaires List, but all three had dropped off after 2011 as the BlackBerry maker's shares tumbled due to declining revenues and profits, as Apple's iOS smartphones emerged as a force in the enterprise.

Lazaridis has made several large donations to quantum physics research in Canada over the past decade. Last year, donations made over several years amounting to over $100m helped create the Quantum-Nano Centre at the Institute of Quantum Computing University of Waterloo in Canada.

Since 2000, Lazaridis has also in donated $170m to the Premier Institute for Theoretical Physics.