Software maker Mxi moving to new west-end office

After years of flying under the radar – metaphorically speaking – local aviation software company Mxi Technologies is hoping a change of scenery will help raise its profile.

The firm, which was founded in 1996, is getting set to vacate its east-end headquarters on Blair Road and head west to Kanata. Its chief financial officer Scott Helmer told OBJ in a recent interview the company has always been “somewhat of a well-kept secret” in the city’s tech scene.

“That’s partly, I think, because we’re a bit of an outlier just where we exist geographically,” he said. “When people think of software innovation, they don’t think of east-end Ottawa very much. They think either Kanata or downtown.”

Mxi makes a software maintenance platform for aircraft, aviation equipment such as engines and in-flight entertainment systems. The company’s 200 employees are currently spread out over four floors in three separate buildings at Blair Place.

The firm’s new office at 175 Terence Matthews Cres. will actually be slightly smaller than its current space, at about 45,000 square feet. But the layout – Mxi will occupy two floors in a single building in Kanata – will make it easier for groups of workers to collaborate on projects, Mr. Helmer said.

“That’s always been somewhat of a challenge,” he said.

Mxi spent 18 months looking at locations across the city before deciding on the west-end property that was the former home of BlackBerry subsidiary QNX. Mr. Helmer said being located in the heart of the Kanata technology hub will serve the dual purposes of helping the company raise its profile and attract top talent.

“You get some exposure and some level of attention just by being closer to other successful companies,” he said. “Just being where people would expect to find a company where they can have a great career helps us be discovered and it helps us discover those people.”

The company, whose client list includes Qantas, Air France, KLM, Boeing and the U.S. Navy, is poised for major growth over the course of 2015, he added. Buoyed by a number of high-profile customer wins over the past six months, including the likes of Southwest Airlines and Saab, Mxi expects to boost its head count at least 15 per cent by the end of the year, Mr. Helmer said.

Annual revenues are “well north of eight figures” and the firm hopes to keep gaining altitude in the aviation software space, he said. 

Still, he cautioned it can be a fickle business.

“Aviation always will remain a challenging industry,” said Mr. Helmer, who joined Mxi about four years ago. “In the first five months I was here, there were earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, oil shocks, a volcano in Iceland – all of those things have an impact on airline traffic as well as our customers’ ability to operate effectively.”

For much of its existence, the firm has also been dogged by legal wrangling.

In 2012, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered Mxi to pay more than $12 million in damages to local competitor GasTOPS after several Mxi employees who previously worked for GasTOPS were found in breach of fiduciary duty, breach of confidence and breach of employment contract.

The judgment ended years of litigation between the two rivals. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in 2009 that after several employees left GasTOPS to start Mxi Technologies, their former employer lost tens of millions of dollars in business, partly because Mxi’s founding executives used insider information to solicit the older company’s customers.

Later in 2012, the firm’s original founders sold it to New York-based Moelis Capital Partners.

Now, Mxi hopes new customers and a new product launch – the company recently introduced a new suite of maintenance, repair and overhaul software – will keep it in the headlines for all the right reasons.