Michael Foreman, MD of AVG UK, tells us about the firm

Personal security

What’s your history with AVG and how has it changed since you joined?

Back in 1998 I was running a shop in Newark, Nottinghamshire, called F1 Services, which specialised in technical support. I began selling AVG in 2001 following a query from a client about helping make their computer more secure. In 2002, I was one of the first companies to join the AVG reseller programme. This meant I was called on to give feedback and support to the AVG business from a local market perspective and was integral to shaping and developing the product for the global organisation.

I started to run AVG UK as the only UK distributor in 2003. At this point the company only consisted of two of us. I concentrated on the technical support side of the business and my colleague operated the front of house service.

It wasn’t until 2004 that I finally opened the first office for AVG UK. At this point I was able to hire two more people, allowing us to concentrate on technical support services. By 2005, we outgrew our office, and with a team of 14 we were able to concentrate on customer service, technical support and recruiting resellers. These three aspects are still the main focus for AVG today.

A huge turning point for the business was in 2007 when AVG UK was acquired by the global organisation AVG Technologies, as it wanted to expand into the UK market. We moved into our new office in 2009 and now employ over 60 people, with a continued focus on growth and expansion of the business.

AVG also appointed a new CEO and expanded the senior management team in that time – what impact has that had on the company?

The current CEO, JR Smith, was appointed three years ago. Since then we have become the leading free provider for anti-virus software in the UK, with over 110 million users. JR’s fresh thinking and strategic approach helped us acquire Sana Security, the leading behavioural security software developer, in January 2009 and Exploit Prevention Labs in December 2007.

AVG acquired Exploit Prevention Labs for its patent-pending LinkScanner technology, which enables safe web surfing and searching by detecting webborne threats in real-time. LinkScanner provides the industry’s most timely, precise and reliable safe search and scan protection because it reports on only the web pages that matter, the ones that computer users are about to visit.

What are the most important things consumers look for in security software these days?

Consumers want to get on with their lives; they don’t want to be sold to by technology companies. A saying of mine is that people just want to download and forget about it. They want solutions that are uncomplicated, won’t slow their PC down and enable them to just carry on enjoying their online experience. This is why, at AVG, we pride ourselves in offering a stress-free security solution that meets everybody’s needs.

Many security vendors are moving towards protection for Macs – is that something AVG would consider?

AVG is always looking at new ways to protect customers; therefore we concentrate on where the dangers come from. AVG believes that everyone has a right to online protection and our R&D teams are always looking at all devices to ensure both consumers and businesses have the best protection available.

What opportunities do new PC form factors such as tablets present for the security market?

As technology evolves and the invention of new devices becomes more prevalent, they become more at risk. Hacking used to be something that techies did to prove they could. Now it has developed into serious organised criminal activity. The growing consumer popularity in devices that have access to the internet leads to an increased number of opportunities for criminals; ultimately this means more diverse protection is needed. AVG is constantly evolving and we’re enhancing our software to ensure our customers are fully protected from the latest threats.

How has business been in the past six months? Has the ‘end of the recession’ had an impact?

Things are going well due to the unique services we offer resellers, such as offering credit and helping with the cash-flow problems that some resellers experience during tough times.

In terms of our reseller community, we have grown significantly in the last year alone and we believe that this is because we offer a more personal experience through hands-on account management and support – something I am passionate about due to my professional background.

In November 2009 we undertook a survey of our reseller base to understand how we were performing and we were rated far higher than any other anti-virus vendor that our resellers work with across all areas, such as account management, marketing support, product margins, training and technical support.

Last time we spoke to you AVG was looking at moving onto the High Street and into supermarkets. Is this something that has happened or is this yet to come?

We have recently done a hugely successful product bundle with Argos and retail still remains a key focus for AVG, so watch this space.

What other plans does AVG have for the forthcoming year and the longer-term future?

AVG will continue to deliver on its ‘all about you’ mantra. This allows us to treat the ‘AVG experience’ in its totality as the reason for resellers to consider us, not simply just the functional advantages of the product.

This new company ethos leverages the strengths we have in infrastructure and our history of being geared up for the independent reseller – but without excluding the wider market – as we can honestly claim to have a culture, an infrastructure and a product range that reflect the real needs of our channel customers and end users alike.

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