Untold Stories Behind the $20B Business That Runs the Internet
EP 81 of The Logan Bartlett Show: Untold stories from tech's inner circle
Matthew Prince is the Co-Founder and CEO of Cloudflare. In the episode, we discuss fascinating anecdotes from Cloudflare’s (um) eclectic early customers, the founding team’s dynamics, and the best lessons he has for entrepreneurs from building Cloudflare to a $20B public company.
✉️ Episode Memo
On choosing a strong founding team:
Matthew previously started a company with his best friends, and their similarities led to constant fights and problems. He realized the entrepreneurial dream isn’t about starting something with your buddies but rather with diverse people who have different skills than you. Matthew emphasizes, “if you need to talk about how you divide responsibilities among a founding team, it means you have the wrong founding team.”
On making tough decisions:
In the early days of Cloudflare, the team would constantly ask themselves “if Cloudflare ran the entire Internet, What would the right decision be?” The question pushed them to make technical decisions that allowed Cloudflare to scale, and it helped with hiring and conflict resolution. The mindset worked, as roughly 20% of the internet’s traffic flows through Cloudflare today.
On ignoring revenue:
Cloudflare ignored revenue metrics for the four years of the company’s life. Instead, the team focused on reducing costs and signing up as many customers as possible. They gathered tons of data from their strange early customers (including a slew of Turkish escorts and other risque websites). Eventually, Cloudflare shifted their focus toward revenue, but only when they started to sign up enterprise customers that would drive the revenue story further.
On hiring mission-aligned candidates:
Matthew attributes Cloudflare's success in attracting top-tier talent to its strong mission. The mission of building a better internet is more than a marketing ploy; it's authentic and has put Cloudflare on track to receive over a million applications for just over a thousand job openings. During the selection process, the company prioritizes candidates who view the mission as the most important thing they could possibly work on, resulting in a highly motivated and dedicated team.
On keeping job offers consistent:
When you hire someone, you initially know very little about how they will perform, but over time, you gain more insight. Matthew believes that in the absence of information, it's important to prioritize fairness and consistency. So, Cloudflare implemented a (barely-negotiable) formula for salary offers and kept job titles flexible. 6 months after a hire, the team would reevaluate the employee’s compensation plan and typically offer a raise based on performance.
Matthew acknowledges that this approach becomes more challenging with scale, but it is very effective in rewarding actual achievements in early stages.
⭐ Highlight: Why Cloudflare doesn’t sell customer data
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