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Alumnus Interview with Kresten Krab Thorup

Karsten Krab Thorup
Kresten Krab Thorup completed his PhD at Department of Computer Science in 2000. Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Foto

Kresten Krab Thorup is co-founder of the IT company Humio, which has just been bought for an astronomical sum. Meet the Aarhus University alumnus as he explains why Humio’s head office will be staying in Aarhus.

By Jacob Staehelin

In a world of ever-increasing complexity, the three Humio founders saw an opportunity.

‘There was a market and there were providers, but we just thought we could do it better and faster ourselves,’ Kresten Krab Thorup says.

As networks grow ever larger, overwhelming amounts of data are produced. If you can read this, you will be ahead of the game.  Put simply, the basic idea behind Humio was that previously each machine or server had to be accessed to read the event analysis. Thorup and his partners decided to find a way to read the whole picture instantaneously and extract it in real-time in order to monitor highly complex networks.

Thorup founded Humio with his long-time colleagues Geeta Schmidt and Christian Hvitved just five years ago.  All three had a background in Trifork – also based in Aarhus – which specialises in IT consultancy in the health, finance and smart building sectors.  All three were top specialists in their field, and together they found the key and built the complex IT system that has just been sold to the American company Crowdstrike for 2.4 billion DKK.

From five people working in a borrowed office at Trifork, Humio has grown to a staff of eighty. Thirty of those work in the company head office in Aarhus, the rest are based worldwide, but concentrated in London and the San Francisco area.

Accessing Aarhus University master’s graduates

The company’s rapid expansion meant that they were reliant on access to the right expertise – and that is one reason why the company will remain based in Aarhus.  The Aarhus location brings with it seamless access to highly skilled data scientists who can match the high-level coding requirements of a world-leading company. Two-thirds of the employees in the Aarhus headquarters have an Aarhus University master’s degree. In a world of intense competition for the best data scientists, that close connection to potential future employees is essential to Humio.

‘Companies are working hard to profile themselves. Trifork would hold conferences where students could rub shoulders with the stars in their field. There are Friday bars, events and an open house, because – obviously – we want to make ourselves visible.  We want to tell the students that we are a company where they will have the chance to work with huge amounts of data. This kind of analysis is a major challenge in data science, and the university here has departments focusing on just that.  It’s been a real help to us,’ says Thorup.

The combination of these master’s graduates’ high-level skills and a very specific demand means that the connection between Aarhus University and Humio works well for both.

‘Historically the department already had the advantage, because the students are working on existing platforms rather than having to build everything themselves. That gives you the kind of experience that many won’t have available to them until they are in a job. It’s a synergy that should be encouraged.  Learning to be part of a larger system while you are still a student is a huge advantage,’ Thorup says. He encourages students to do relevant work during their studies, for the same reason.

‘Sure, it could be a drawback if a student job takes time from your studies. But work experience gives you a feel for how to use the knowledge you’ve gained through study in a way that will have business value,’ says Thorup, who moved to the IT mecca in California at the end of the nineties.  As the internet grew from its earliest beginnings, he connected with people in Next, the company created by Steve Jobs after falling out with the management of Apple. Thorup was offered a job working on developing the programming language that Jobs then took back with him to Apple – the language today’s iPhones are based on.

That experience gave Thorup the opportunity to test out his theoretical knowledge in practice before starting on his PhD. He sees the combination of the academic approach and the real world of business as a real strength.

‘We need the academic world, we need the big quantum leaps. Not just within my little reality, but in every field.  The quantum leaps frequently come from the universities.’


Facts

  • Age: 51 year
  • Private: Married to Helene Simoni Thorup, three children.
  • Lives in Stjær outside of Aarhus.
  • Education
    • Bachelor in Computer Science, Aalborg University, 1993
    • PhD in Computer Science, Aarhus University, 2000
  • Karriere
    • Co-Founder and CTO, Trifork, 1999-2016
    • Co-Founder and CTO, Humio, 2016-

Humio customers

  • Founded in 2016 by Kresten Krab Thorup, Christian Hvidtved and Geeta Schmidt.
  • Offices in Aarhus and London, as well as employees in a large number of American cities. 80 employees.
  • Specializes in handling large amounts of logging data that provides access to real-time analytics in complex IT systems, and thus can identify performance challenges, cyber attacks and user behavior.
  • Today, customers include large companies such as Microsoft, Bloomberg, IT suppliers and financial institutions.
  • Has raised investments for approx. DKK 220 million since 2016.
  • Sold in 2021 for DKK 2.4 billion to American company CrowdStrike.
Visninger
AU DIF2019 Talk - Real Time Log Analytics At Scale Kresten Krab Thorups talk 'Real Time Log Analytics At Scale' fra AU Digital Innovation Festival 2019 www.digitalinnovationfestival.dk​