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The Invisible Gold Mine: Former RIM CEO Jim Balsillie on the Importance of IP Assets

Research In Motion (RIM) may be one of Canada’s greatest commercial success stories, but former CEO Jim Balsillie will tell you that the only wheel they re-invented was on a Blackberry.

“When RIM came out with Blackberry, there were 35 companies doing wireless messaging. We didn’t invent it, we outfoxed them in the commercialization and in the continued innovation of the space.” 

Balsillie, a CPA by training, says that while Canada is a great country for invention, our policies simply do not encourage innovation. In his view, entrepreneurs in Canada succeed “in spite of our [policy] ecosystem, not because of it.” 

Instead, Balsillie believes that a firm’s real source of riches lies in its IP, including patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights, and even its contracts. In RIM’s earliest days, the company’s first hire was an IP lawyer, so that they could aggressively protect their intangible assets. 

While we have brilliant creative minds in Canada, other countries are far more stringent in their policies to protect their intellectual property, and Canada needs to build an infrastructure that will help us catch up. “We do what makes America rich,” Balsillie says. “Why don’t we take a page out of their playbook?”

While accountants are traditionally valued for their ability to protect tangible assets, Balsillie says that intangible assets in the marketplace of ideas can be treated the same way. For young accountants, the ability to protect those assets to help a company grow is what will bring accountants successfully into the 21st century. 

“You’re helping to generate intangible stock assets into the firm that you’re with. You become an engine in the market cap of the firm, and if you’re an engine in the market cap of the firm, you’re into the C-Suite”

 

Interested in how Jim went on to become one of Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs, and earn himself a net worth of close to $1 billion? Listen to the rest of the conversation on the LumiQ app. Because it’s time to enjoy CPD!

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