Reflections of an industry CEO

April 14, 2020
Milestone Systems’ Lars Thinggaard looks back on his career as he bids farewell to the video surveillance market

Seventeen years ago, the video surveillance industry looked much different than it does today. Although Axis Communications had invented the IP camera in 1996, the market during the early 2000s was still dominated by analog technology and migration to network solutions was still a relatively new phenomenon.

And while these newer IP solutions would begin to sow the seeds that would eventually grow into the largely interoperable market we have today, much of the focus then was on maintaining the status quo of having integrators and end-users locked into proprietary system architectures. That would begin to change, however, thanks largely to companies like Milestone Systems and its CEO Lars Thinggaard who began to preach the gospel of “open” to industry.

Last month, Milestone announced that Thinggaard would be resigning after spending the last 17 years of his career with the company. Lars Larsen, Milestone’s CFO, will serve as interim CEO until a replacement is found.  

“Seventeen years is a long time and from a corporate governance point of view, 17 years is a good long time for a CEO to be in the same position and for the company it’s probably a good time also to have some fresh blood for the next growth phase moving forward,” Thinggaard told SecurityInfoWatch in a recent interview about his departure from the company.

Aside from the desire to bring a fresh perspective to the Milestone leadership team, Thinggaard said another reason he wanted to step away now was so he could spend more time  focusing on several of the startup firms he’s invested in across several different industries in recent years. Additionally, Thinggaard is also working on finalizing a new book he’s written called, “Tech for Life,” that focuses on dilemmas that technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), will pose to humans as it becomes more intertwined in our daily lives.        

Company Achieves Record Growth

According to its annual financial report, Milestone Systems for the first time in 2019 surpassed DKK (Danish Krone) 1 billion (approximately $146 million) in net revenue, which Thinggaard says has been one of his longtime goals. Over the last five years, the company has seen an annual growth of 14% and has nearly doubled its number of employees to more than 900.

“It is a company that adheres to high standards, a leader in the industry and with a very strong brand,” Thinggaard says. “It is the company that was bringing open to the security industry and it is a company with a culture so strong that we see, every so often, people are coming back after experiencing other companies’ cultures. When you meet people coming from Milestone you can sense that there is a lot of pride within the company and we have many, many people staying with the company for many years.”

Thinggaard said if there was one thing he would have liked to have done differently during his time with company it would have been to introduce career and leadership development programs for their employees earlier than he did.

“It’s not that I didn’t start early, I started out with leadership and development programs in 2006 or 2007, so we started many years back but coming to think of it, it has been one of our greatest achievements,” he says.  “It’s something we’ve been able to use to attract people coming from very large organizations back before we were owned by Canon. People were actually jumping ship and going to Milestone because they knew that we had strong leadership development programs and were investing much more than people could get from a Microsoft or some of the other big companies out there and the quality of what we were delivering was better and is better.”

Video Evolves

In looking at how the industry has changed since he first joined Milestone, Thinggaard said we would describe the market’s evolution from “a few good men” to “big data” in that the end-users today have now moved well beyond having their video systems monitored by security personnel to converting all of this information into actionable data.

“What I mean by that is there were a few pioneers back then. Milestone was founded in 1998. Axis has been around since 1984 but doing something else until 1996 when they invented the first network camera. And we knew, of course, that was going to transform the industry,” he says.

Along with that, however, Thinggaard says the industry now faces a whole new set of challenges relative to privacy and the security of data.

“There has been a transition where ethics discussions have surfaced big time,” he adds. “There are now loads of dilemmas that weren’t there 20 years ago. Now with big data and the opportunity for applying analytics in all kinds of forms and we’re only seeing the beginning of this.”

Thinggaard added that he’s also proud of the spin-off of cloud VMS firm Arcules from Milestone which he says was somewhat of an “innovator’s dilemma” for the company in that they knew it wanted to focus on something that they knew was growing in importance – cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – in the industry while still adhering to their primary mission of continuing to improve upon their core video management offering.

The IPO That Wasn’t

Beginning in 2012, Thinggaard says Milestone’s leadership team began to turn its attention on taking the company public to help build upon the success it had already achieved in the market as one of the industry’s leading providers of VMS software. In fact, Thinggaard says they were on the precipice of launching an initial public offering when Canon expressed interest in buying the company in 2014. 

“That was really exciting, but it was also a tough challenge because, on the IPO track, we had 75 to 100 advisors providing legal and financial advice, communications advice and whatnot on the IPO. And then, on top of that, when the industry players began consolidating we had another acquisition track that was actually hidden from the IPO track because that was really what we wanted to do, so we had another track with another 50 advisors. We had roughly 150 advisors around us for a good period of time,” he explains. “Having 150 advisors where one side wasn’t allowed to know what the other side was doing and then running the business in parallel is kind of a triangular thing that is really, really tough.”

The Lasting Impact of COVID-19

Though he said he wished he could help navigate Milestone during these uncertain times, Thinggaard said that the coronavirus outbreak and its economic ramifications will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the security industry. 

“The pandemic has already had a huge impact, not only on the security industry but on the world and the economics of the world as we’ve seen,” he says. “On the security industry, in particular, I would say there will be an effect from everything going on in the world right now and there will be a hesitation toward big spending for a period of time and it is matter of how long it will last. The whole world is kind of holding its breath and waiting to see if this is something that lasts a quarter and we are done or is it a year and we’re done? It will have a huge impact on the world, and it will have a huge impact on the security industry as well.”

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected].
About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.