Jim Balsillie

In addition to his commitment to CIGI, Jim Balsillie is also the founder of the Balsillie School of International Affairs and was founding chair of the Canadian International Council. 
Photo of Jim Balsillie


Jim Balsillie’s career is unique in Canadian business. After earning his B.Com. from Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1984, he became a chartered accountant and joined the firm of Clarkson Gordon (now Ernst & Young). Jim left the accounting world in 1987 to earn an M.B.A. at Harvard. Upon completion, he became the executive vice-president of a contracting and technology products firm, Sutherland-Schultz. In 1992, he became Chairman and co-CEO of Research In Motion, the wireless technology firm that revolutionized the communications industry with the development of the BlackBerry. Under his leadership, the company grew from an idea into a company with over $20 billion in global sales.

Jim founded the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Balsillie School of International Affairs, the Arctic Research Foundation and the Canadian International Council. He is also a co-founder of Communitech, and Council of Canadian Innovators where he currently serves as organization’s first Chair. He served on the Brookings Institution Global Advisory Board and, along with George Soros, co-founded the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

In 2011, Jim was appointed as the private sector representative on the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel for Global Sustainability. In 2010-2011, he served on the European Commission’s Digital Agenda Advisory Committee. He testified before the US Congress on patent reform in 2006, and in recent years, he has spoken frequently on global intellectual property rights and regimes, and the need for Canada to improve its capacity for commercializing ideas and scaling innovative technology companies.

Jim’s commitment to his community and his leadership in the world of business have been recognized widely. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Waterloo, University of Toronto (Trinity College), Trent University and Dalhousie University. In 2003, he was elected a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (FCA), the highest designation that the institute confers. He is an Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy. His other awards and distinctions include: Mobile World Congress Lifetime Achievement Award, India’s Priyadarshni Academy Global Award, Time Magazine World’s 100 Most Influential People, Canadian Business Hall of Fame, US National Security Association 50th Anniversary Medal, Canadian Wireless Telecom Lifetime Achievement Award, Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year, Ontario Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business Achievement Award, Laurier Outstanding Business Leader Award, International Distinguished Entrepreneur Award from the University of Manitoba, and three times on Barron’s list of “World’s Top CEOs”.