Michael Baum’s cybersecurity software company, Splunk, just sold to Cisco for $28 billion. It might have never even existed if Steve Jobs didn’t visit Drexel University in 1983.

At the time, Baum was studying electrical engineering at the Philadelphia-based school. Jobs appeared on campus for business: striking a partnership with Drexel’s leaders to provide students with Apple’s brand-new Macintosh computers, which debuted in January 1984.

In a speech a year later, Jobs reportedly called Drexel “a pioneer for being the first university to fully incorporate the Macintosh” into students’ studies. For Baum, now 61, the experience was eye-opening.

“Steve Jobs convinced our school to become the first one to adopt the Mac for all entering students. As soon as I saw MacPaint and MacDraw, I knew I had to figure out how this worked,” Baum told U.K.-based The Gentleman Magazine in 2022.

Baum’s infatuation was “love at first byte,” he added, inspiring him to switch his major to computer science. “All of a sudden my brain went, ‘How do these work?'” Baum told the BBC in 2020. “So I went headlong into software.”

After graduating in 1985, Baum started working on his first startup, a software business called Reality Online that aimed to predict stock market performance. He sold the business to Reuters for an undisclosed amount in 1987, and went back to school to get an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Baum went on to establish himself as a serial entrepreneur, building and selling multiple software businesses before 2000. He also spent time as a Silicon Valley investor and an e-commerce executive at Walt Disney and Yahoo.

In 2003, Baum and two friends — Rob Das and Erik Swan — co-founded Splunk, a San Francisco-based company that helps companies monitor and analyze large stores of data. More recently, Splunk developed cybersecurity tools that rely on artificial intelligence to monitor machine-generated data for potential threats.

Baum served as the company’s CEO until retiring in 2009. When Splunk went public in 2012, it was valued at roughly $1.6 billion. It’s unknown how much money he made from Cisco’s acquisition of Splunk, but he told the BBC in 2020 that he was, at the time, the company’s largest individual shareholder.

In his retirement, Baum has refashioned himself as a vintner: He moved his family to France’s Burgundy region in 2014 and bought the Château de Pommard winery, where he’s currently the owner and operator.

The “inquisitive nature” that drove him to learn more about Jobs’ Macintosh computers “continues to drive me today,” Baum told The Gentleman Magazine.

“It provides me purpose, joy, and excitement,” he said.

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