At the Myrna Loy
Once upon a time I spotted geniuses hiding out in a basement.
Around 1980 in Seattle I would sometimes pick up my wife Sue at a home where four friends played string quartets. I would sit on the couch and listen until they were done.
Through a kitchen door, I noticed men coming up from the basement, raiding the fridge and disappearing again.
Week after week, the pattern never changed. Mysterious men up and down from the basement.
Finally, one day as we were leaving, I walked into the kitchen to innocently ask them who they were and what they were up to? Their answer was vague and intriguing:
“We’re working on a computer program. I’m doing the marketing, and the two geniuses are programming.”
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I found out years later these guys became multi-millionaires overnight when they sold their ideas to Bill Gates, which I was told contributed to Microsoft Word.
Did I mention they all dropped their good boring jobs? They went broke to go for broke.
The rise of tech is filled with stories of geeks dropping out of Harvard and inventing Facebook. “BlackBerry” gives us an up-close-and-personal view of nerd minds in motion.
“BlackBerry” traces the rise and fall of the BlackBerry smartphone.
The two geniuses were Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin. The marketer was Jim Balsillie.
Balsillie watched Mike and Doug get rejected after making an embarrassing sales pitch. Recognizing the genius behind the awkwardness, Balsillie quit his high-paying job to market the world’s first smartphone.
The Canadian creators were variations of the geeks who play e games all night every night during college. They think – and dress - outside the box. Business attire includes untucked T-shirts, accented by scruffy beards.
On weekly movie night the laptops were closed so nerdy friends could huddle up to watch a flick together.
Mike, fellow boy genius, was wise enough not to try to normalize his brothers’ hard drives.
Meanwhile, Jim is blazing a scorched earth marketing path.
His first mistake was seeing the workplace chaos as dysfunctional and hiring a drill-sergeant boss to “restore order.” Jim is also greedy, and spends his fortune buying flashy toys and hockey teams.
We worry as the BlackBerry bubble bloats.
A needle shaped like an iPhone pops BlackBerry’s dream.
The fall of BlackBerry is painful to watch.
We are glad to see Captain Balsillie get his comeuppance, but we grieve for lovable geeks who play on their e-strings as their cybership sinks.
Wanna fly to the moon? You need two geniuses and a marketer.
But you might wish to install a safety net under the highwire.
Just in case.