St. Boniface Cyberwarriors on the Leading Edge

by: Gabrielle Piché

Winnipeg Free Press

Boredom drove Mathieu Manaigre to entrepreneurship. Now, Avenir IT is repeatedly recognized as one of Canada’s best managed information technology businesses.

Manaigre’s organization made TechnoPlanet’s list of Canada’s 50 Best Managed IT Companies for a fifth consecutive year. The St. Boniface-based crew accepted the award earlier this month.

“I don’t think we’re done,” Manaigre said. “We’re nowhere near what the vision is.”

“We’ve always wanted to be the most loved IT company in Canada, and we want to be the best place to work in Canada. Those kind of both go hand in hand.”

Manaigre studied IT in post-secondary and, in the late 2000s, ended up working in a company’s IT department.

“Once everything was fixed, I was kind of bored,” Manaigre said.

So, he went to his employer and asked if he could start his own IT business and take them on as a client. They said yes.

“I got lucky, I suppose,” he said. “I really had no clue what I was doing business-wise – I was just a tech.”

Avenir IT was a one-man show in 2008. Manaigre, who speaks French and English fluently, set up in St. Boniface and catered to small (mainly French) businesses.

The focus was on automation and monitoring of systems, Manaigre said.

“(I) always had the mentality of trying to make tech more simple and fun,” he said. “People always saw IT (workers) as being these techies stuck in their bubbles with no people skills. I really kind of wanted to change that image.”

The company recently ballooned: over the past five years, Avenir IT went from a staff of three to 23, Manaigre said.

“Part of it, I think, is because of all these cybersecurity threats out there. It’s kind of become impossible for an IT team of two or three to do everything,” he said. “(Companies) need to outsource.”

Avenir IT will still run small businesses’ entire information technology systems. Lately, however, Manaigre is seeing larger companies looking to share IT responsibilities. Cybersecurity is often their top concern, he said.

Manitoba saw 1,973 reports of cybercrime in 2020, up from 565 in 2016, according to Statistics Canada data.

Acclaim has come hand-in-hand with Avenir IT’s company growth. Winnipeg Consumer Choice Awards and an entrepreneurship award from the St. Boniface Chamber of Commerce are on its resume.

“One hundred per cent… it’s because of our team,” Manaigre said. “We’re selective, as far as who we are and the people that we work for.”

Interpersonal skills are crucial, Manaigre said.

Avenir IT was recently successful in its bid to once again be named a top company in its field by TechnoPlanet, a North American channel marketing company.

Artificial intelligence processes evaluate applicants in 12 areas, including operations, financial management and customer satisfaction.

A spokeswoman for TechnoPlanet wouldn’t divulge how many companies threw their name in this year but said hundreds of Canadian businesses participate annually. Some besides Avenir IT have won for five or six consecutive years, she said.

“It’s been a really great thing for our morale,” Manaigre said of the recent win.

Ferd Klassen, the president of Niverville Autobody, has used Avenir IT’s services for over seven years.

“They’ve actually stayed ahead of the industry,” he said, adding they blocked potential hackers from getting into Niverville Autobody’s Microsoft printer systems before software providers did.

Klassen said he’s noticed an increase in online scams and finds it necessary to have protection in place.

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