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2017 CT Hall of Fame: Mike Lazaridis and Charles Tandy

Mike Lazaridis and Charles Tandy will be inducted along with 10 other industry leaders at an awards dinner on Tuesday evening, November 7, at the Rainbow Room in New York.

The Consumer Technology Hall of Fame honors visionaries who have made a significant impact on the consumer technology industry. These leaders and entrepreneurs have laid the foundation for the technologies, products, services and apps that are improving lives around the world.

Mike Lazaridis and Charles Tandy will be inducted along with 10 other industry leaders at an awards dinner next week, on Tuesday evening, November 7, at the Rainbow Room in New York. Over the last month, i3 has highlighted this prestigious class. Please join us for the awards dinner as we celebrate this extraordinary group of honorees. Register for the dinner today.

Mike Lazaridis

In March 2013, Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin established the Quantum Valley Investment Fund in Waterloo, Canada, to provide financial and intellectual capital for the development and commercialization of quantum physics and quantum computing breakthroughs. The initial size of the fund, which is backed by Lazaridis and Fregin, is $100 million.

For more than a decade, Lazaridis and Fregin have worked to bring together in Waterloo the best and brightest minds from around the world in physics, engineering, mathematics, computer science and materials science to collaborate on cutting-edge quantum research. The Quantum Valley Investment Fund is designed to provide the financial and intellectual capital needed to transform ideas and early-stage breakthroughs into commercially viable products, technologies and services.

“The technologies that are being developed in Waterloo will shape the 21st Century even more than the digital revolution changed the world in the 20th Century,” Lazaridis said. “And just as the discoveries and innovations at Bell Labs led to the companies that created Silicon Valley, so will the discoveries and innovations at research centers in Waterloo transform the region into an area known as ‘The Quantum Valley.’”

Lazaridis is not alone in his belief that work being undertaken on quantum technologies in Waterloo will have a wide-ranging impact. During the dedication in fall 2012 of the new Quantum-Nano Centre at the University of Waterloo, funded by Michael and Ophelia Lazaridis, Stephen Hawking said, “This institution will advance our understanding of matter and movement, illuminating deep mysteries with the light of scientific discovery.” Dr. Hawking is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a position first held by Sir Isaac Newton, and regarded as the leading theoretical physicist of our time.

In addition to founding the Quantum-Nano Centre, Lazaridis established in 2000 the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI), where he serves as Board Chair. PI has been widely recognized as a leading international centre for Physics research, training and outreach. His efforts have also helped generate important private and public sector funding in support of the Institute. Lazaridis also founded The Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo. He has donated more than $170 million to Perimeter, and more than $100 million to IQC.

In 1984, Lazaridis and Fregin co-founded BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion). They invented the BlackBerry device, created the smartphone industry, and built Canada’s largest global tech business. Lazaridis served in various positions including co-chairman and co-CEO of RIM from 1984 to 2012 and board vice chair and chair of the Innovation Committee from 2012 to May 1st, 2013. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Societies of London and Canada, and has been named to both the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada. He was awarded Canada’s most prestigious innovation prize – the Ernest C. Manning Principal Award – listed on Maclean’s Honour Roll as a distinguished Canadian in 2000 after opening Perimeter, named as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, and honored as a Globe and Mail Nation-Builder of the Year.

Lazaridis holds honorary doctoral degree in Engineering from the University of Waterloo (where he formerly served as Chancellor), as well as a doctor of Laws McMaster University, University of Windsor and Université Laval. In addition to his many professional and personal accomplishments, Lazaridis also won an Academy Award and an Emmy Award for technical achievements in the movie and TV industries for developing a high-speed bar-code reader that greatly increased the speed of editing film.

Charles Tandy

"Are you crazy?" That was the obvious question Charles Tandy faced from his board on November 15, 1963. Tandy proposed spending $300,000 to buy a controlling share of a failing nine-store Boston-area consumer electronics retailer called RadioShack. But Tandy wasn't crazy. Tandy proceeded to grow RadioShack from nine debt-ridden stores to more than 7,000 outlets worldwide, generating annual sales of more than $1.2 billion, making it the largest and most successful consumer electronics retailer of all time.

Charles David Tandy was born May 15, 1918, in Fort Worth, to David (Dave) and Carmen Tandy. His father was co-founder and partner in Hinkley-Tandy Leather, a shoe findings business which grew into a large, nationally-known specialty leather supplier. In spite of his father's business success, at age 10 Tandy was determined to display his own business acumen. Throughout the Depression, Tandy supplemented a meager allowance via several adolescent entrepreneurial efforts.

After graduating from Texas Christian University in 1940, Tandy joined the Navy, rising to ensign. After the war, Tandy officially joined his father's business, which soon began a rapid expansion. In May of 1950, the father and son bought out their partner, and the company became the Tandy Leather Company. Charles opened two retail leather locations as part of a pilot chain program that succeeded largely because of a complementary direct mail catalog program. Charles took complete charge of the company in 1954. By 1960, Tandy was operating 119 craft stores, and in November, the company went public.

In 1962, Tandy was looking to broaden his portfolio by entering what he saw as a dynamic, emerging industry – consumer electronics. Tandy viewed RadioShack as a victim of bad management and a promising turnaround opportunity. But it wouldn’t be easy: the retailer reported losses of $4.5 million and owed $57 million with a negative net worth of $2.5 million.

Tandy closed RadioShack's larger stores and opened smaller 2,500-square-foot locations that he leased so he could quickly close locations that underperformed. He decimated the number of stock keeping units each store sold, concentrating on the 20 percent of items that represented 80 percent of sales. He used the company's mail order list to determine the most fertile retail locations. He sourced all the chain's products from Japan and championed private label, resulting in the Realistic, Archer, Micronta and Optimus brands. He then fired all the chiefs and promoted the Indians, as Tandy put it, by elevating Bernie Appel (CTA Hall Of Fame, 2002) to be the chain's chief buyer.

By the end of 1964, RadioShack had expanded to 43 locations in 13 states. By the end of 1965, there were 74 stores in 20 states and 130 stores a year later. Tandy continued to add more than 100 stores a year. In June, 1967, Tandy hired John Roach (CTA Hall Of Fame, 2006), who would eventually rise to RadioShack president and Tandy chairman. After suffering a heart attack in October 1968, Tandy moved RadioShack's HQ from Boston to Tandy's home base in Fort Worth. Tandy's purchase of Allied Radio expanded RadioShack's retail base to 1,000 locations by spring 1971.

In 1973, Tandy began opening hundreds of locations around the world. By the time Tandy died at age 60 on November 4, 1978, he had transformed RadioShack into the most dominant and influential consumer electronics retailer of all time.

Stewart Wolpin