Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

An entrepreneur extraordinaire

IT firm founder legendary for mentoring others

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It's almost not fair to the other nominees that Michael Legary is one of the finalists in the BDC's Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Not only was the 32-year-old founder of Winnipeg information-technology security firm Securis Inc. named one of the eight finalists in that award program this week, he was also named Manitoba patron for a new national private-sector support program for entrepreneurs called Startup Canada.

Legary is also becoming legendary in the city for helping other entrepreneurs through a community innovation space, or "makerspace," called AssentWorks he funded and helped found.

With plenty of Legary's own cash and sweat equity from him and AssentWorks co-founders David Bernhardt and Kerry Stevenson, they have put together a facility in a warehouse space on Adelaide Street with industrial machinery such as plasma cutters, CNC (computer numerical control) machines, 3D printers and a shop full of tools donated by Princess Auto and the Tallman Foundation. It's there for folks to build their ideas into a prototype reality (a small membership fee is required).

On a higher level, what they have created is a community of entrepreneurs and inventors -- numbering about 75 members -- who use the facility and the equipment with the help of Legary and a growing crew of super-skilled volunteers.

"I couldn't be happier with how it's gone," Legary said about AssentWorks, which has only been open since last fall. "There are such amazing folks who are using it."

Even though he's running an IT security firm with about 85 employees, offices across the country and high-end customers as far away as South Africa, the indefatigable Legary is at AssentWorks almost every day, providing advice and encouragement.

"Every time I'm there, someone blows my mind with an amazing idea or an amazing skill, or something I have never thought of before," he said.

For instance, AssentWorks has helped a couple of young snowboard manufacturers in Winnipeg save thousands of dollars and months of time to develop prototypes.

Matthew Olson, 21, one of the partners of Home Snowboards, said, "Since the day we got in there, Mike has pushed us along. He's been great. The most awesome thing about Mike is that he gets things done. He makes sure we see things through to the end."

Despite the fact Legary is so much more accomplished and successful, he may be more impressed with Olson than the other way around.

In his pitch for the BDC award, Legary is proposing cash investments to help form community innovation spaces across the country.

(This year, finalists in the BDC award program submit a one- to two-minute video explaining an innovation project and how it will help their business grow. Online voting at https://www.bdcyoungentrepreneuraward.ca/ will decide the winner of the $100,000 prize.)

It's that sincere effort to help other entrepreneurs that Jan Lederman, chairwoman of Innovate Manitoba, says sets Legary apart: "Mike is a young entrepreneur who is creative, innovative, started a company with positive growth and is already at a point where he's giving back to the province and the city."

Innovate Manitoba is the local partner for Startup Canada that will hold a number of launch events in Winnipeg during the second week of June.

Innovate Manitoba made Legary the Manitoba patron for the organization where he will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Brett Wilson from Dragon's Den and Heather Reisman of Indigo Books.

Legary's interest in getting entrepreneurs to help other entrepreneurs is almost unprecedented in that there is virtually no public-sector support in sight at AssentWorks.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 31, 2012 B5

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About Martin Cash

Martin Cash joined the Free Press in 1987 as the paper’s business columnist.

He has spent two decades chronicling the city’s business affairs.

Martin won a citation of merit from the National Newspaper Awards in 2001 for his coverage of the strike and subsequent multi-million-dollar union settlement at the Versatile tractor plant. He has also received honours and awards for his work on agriculture and technology development in Manitoba.

Martin has written a coffee-table book about the commercial and industrial make-up of the city, called Winnipeg: A Prairie Portrait.

Martin Cash on Twitter: @martycash

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

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