In conversation with Mike Lazaridis

The BlackBerry founder on quantum technology and how it could change the world
FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2011 file photo, Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of Research in Motion gestures at the end of his keynote address to the BlackBerry DevCon Americas conference in San Francisco. Lazaridis and co-founder Douglas Fregin are weighing taking over the distressed smartphone company as it searches for a savior. Lazaridis said Thursday, Oct 10, 2013 in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that he and Fregin are looking to potentially acquire the 92 percent of the shares they don’t currently own, either by themselves or with other interested parties. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

As I wrote in my profile of Blackberry founder Mike Lazaridis, I was permitted to interview him only after accepting not to ask him about Blackberry.

(When the interview was safely done and we were chatting as he waited for photographer Jaime Hogge to take his photo, I broke my promise. Didn’t do me much good. “Why do you want Blackberry back?” I asked. Lazaridis, whom I first met nine years ago, smiled. “I can’t answer that.”)

But we had much to discuss anyway. This year Lazaridis launched Quantum Valley Investments, a $100-million venture-capital firm that invests only in startup companies that use quantum technology. What’s quantum technology? Read the profile. Basically, it’s new, hard to do, and its economic potential over several decades just might be measured in the trillions.

I spoke to Lazaridis in his office in a nondescript building in the University of Waterloo’s industrial research park. On his desk are an oscilloscope, a plastic model of an Avro Arrow jet fighter, and another of a Dalek, the robot from Doctor Who.

We chatted for over an hour about Perimeter Institute, the independent physics think tank Lazaridis founded; the Institute for Quantum Computing, which Lazaridis founded at the University of Waterloo to experiment with practical applications of fundamental physics; and about QVI, which has already invested millions of dollars in… something “big,” Lazaridis says. Along the way he told me why he’s hired an astronaut.

Here’s an edited excerpt from our interview.