Close this search box.

9 August 2023

A PhD project was the launch pad – now the research team is heading toward an international breakthrough  

“This can go far” a team of researchers from Aarhus University realized when a PhD project turned out to have great application potential. The project became the launch pad for the company Coana, which is now heading toward an international breakthrough in JavaScript and open source technology.

It all began as a research project when Martin Torp and Benjamin Barslev, both PhD graduates from the Department of Computer Science at Aarhus University, laid the foundation for the software company Coana.

Soon, the team realized they were onto something significant, says Anders Møller, professor at Aarhus University and co-founder of the Aarhus-based startup.

Anders Møller is one of the world’s leading experts in program analysis for JavaScript/TypeScript and has worked closely with the two PhD students for several years.

Research team had the ‘key’

Coana’s program analysis reveals how companies are affected by changes and security vulnerabilities in open-source technologies, identifies vulnerabilities in JavaScript code, and filters out false warnings. This means that IT departments can focus on critical security issues, saving time and resources by sorting out unnecessary noise and false warnings, he explains.

As Benjamin and Martin approached the end of the PhD project, we realized that it had the potential for something even bigger, and that we actually had the key to solving some of the most challenging issues in open source and dependency management that companies worldwide struggle with.
– Anders Møller, Professor, Aarhus University

Recently, the trio expanded their team by hiring a strong strategic profile, Anders Søndergaard as CEO.

Søndergaard is responsible for an ambitious sales strategy and ensuring close contact with customers, while the developers continue working on a prototype and maintain close contact with software developers from companies worldwide.

– We already have an early prototype ready and are aiming for a launch in the fall. Our ambition is for the technology we are building to become the standard in dependency management.

The company is still in the early stages of market analysis and further product development, but Coana has a unique prototype, and no one in the world does the same as Coana’s program analysis for open-source troubleshooting, he elaborates.

It’s one thing to have a promising product and a solid research background – another to create a business. What did you know in advance about running a business?

– Very little. This is the first time for me, and it’s a new world for several of us. There is a lot of business knowledge that you don’t have when coming from the university and research world – what to pay attention to when establishing a company, how to develop a market strategy, etc. It’s time-consuming and simultaneously super exciting. My own primary focus remains on the research part, while the rest of the team is fully engaged in Coana.

How can it be an advantage that you have roots in the research world, and that you are both involved in research and now also in a business?

– There is a lot of synergy between the research at the university and what is happening here. What we arrived at with this research project turned out to have far more practical potential than the research I have otherwise worked on.

– There is a lot of research from universities that gets published, and people read it, and then it stays in the academic world but doesn’t go further. Now we have this special combination of a solid foundation in the form of many years of research – and real-world problems that need to be solved in companies.

Do you have any good advice to pass on to other university researchers considering starting a business?

– Aarhus University has a strong entrepreneurial environment, including around The Kitchen and the university’s Technology Transfer Office, which can help with networking and advice on funding and business development. They have been a fantastic help to us in the initial phase, so I can only recommend others to take advantage of the opportunities they provide.

– It can require a massive effort to achieve “product-market fit.” It is necessary that your initial conception of what can have commercial value is tested and adjusted through in-depth market analysis. You can advantageously – in good academic style – formulate hypotheses and conduct experiments to investigate how best to address customers’ most significant “pain points.”

– Make sure to establish the right team from the beginning, especially to cover the skills you lack if you do not have previous experience in building a business, says Anders Møller.


The software company Coana was founded in 2022 by Professor Anders Møller from the Department of Computer Science at Aarhus University along with Martin Torp and Benjamin Barslev, both PhD graduates from the Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University, and Anders Søndergaard. Martin and Benjamin’s PhD work has formed the foundation for Coana. With the appointment of Anders Søndergaard as CEO, the startup has been strengthened in strategy and market analysis, and Anders Søndergaard has a strong international network. The company currently has six employees.

With grants from the Innovation Fund Denmark, Aarhus University’s entrepreneurial environment ‘The Kitchen,’ and the European ERC scheme, which grants EU funds for proof-of-concept projects, Coana has proven its growth potential.