Helping to Build a Better Internet with Michelle Zatlyn, COO of Cloudflare

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“Cloudflare’s mission is to help build a better Internet. People ask though, what does that mean? Our customers are Internet property. Anything connected online can use Cloudflare and we help make sure we protect our customers from cybersecurity attacks.” — Michelle Zatlyn

Michelle Zatlyn, COO of Cloudflare, founded Cloudflare in 2009 and has since grown the company from start-up to multi-billion-dollar public company in just 10 years.

“The Cloudflare story is almost like a fairy tale in many ways. It’s what Silicon Valley is made out of. The Cloudflare origin story goes back to being students.”

Michelle’s story is in many ways a model of success. She graduated from Harvard in 2009, where she met fellow co-founders, Lee Holloway and Matthew Prince. Together, they started Cloudflare using the Project Honey Pot model they created. Fast forward a decade and the company has a valuation of over $4 billion, thousands of users, and recently IPO’d. But like any startup story, the founding and growth of Cloudflare has had its ups and downs.

On today’s episode, Michelle shares that very origin story, and dives into the importance — really, the necessity — of building a better Internet.

Quotes from Michelle:

“If you have anything connected to the Internet, which many, many people and businesses do, you are very exposed to different cybersecurity threats. And it’s not just the big companies or the governments that are getting attacked. It’s small businesses, it’s individuals.”

“I’m a big Twitter fan. I find that there’s some really great content on Twitter if people agree. It’s one thing to meet people in person, but people also share their thoughts online and these people almost become your mentors. You don’t even need to know them.”

“First we had this idea and you have to decide, is there actually a company around with this idea? Are you solving a meaningful problem that people care about? I remember early on, it was so hard to get our first 10 customers and even harder to get at our first hundred customers.”

“I think San Francisco needs to come together and say, we want to compete, we want to continue to be the place where companies come to build these amazing innovative solutions, and we have to make it work as a city. And I think there is a path forward. Just that conversation is not quite happening yet. There’s still a lot of finger-pointing.”


The Trevor Project

The Women’s Global March


Melinda Gates

Michelle Obama

Project Honey Pot


Episode 361