In The Room with Michelle Zatlyn

In this week’s episode of The Room Podcast, Madison and Claudia sit down with Michelle Zatlyn, Co-Founder, President, and COO of Cloudflare. Cloudflare is a web performance and security company keeping millions of businesses and, by association, consumers safe online through their cybersecurity infrastructure. Cloudflare was founded by Michelle, along with her co-founders Matthew Prince and Lee Holloway who met at Harvard Business School. Stopping 70 billion attacks a day, Cloudflare has become a category defining company. Valued at over $24 billion today, after their 2019 IPO, Cloudflare continues to innovate and challenge the status quo. Michelle generously sat down with us on today’s episode to unpack her personal journey as a founder and some behind the scenes insights about Cloudflare’s story that can help all founders.

In today’s conversation, we explore themes and insights such as diversity of thought in co-founding teams, the power of changing your own framing of a problem, and only needing to get a few things right. Let’s open the door.

Season 3 is sponsored by our friends at SVB and Cooley.

Key Takeaway 1: Diversity of thought in co-founding teams

Michelle met one of her co-founders, Matthew Prince, while the two were classmates at Harvard Business School. After class, Matthew and Michelle would often brainstorm on various ideas — enter Cloudflare! How might they build a faster, more secure, and more reliable online experience? While Matthew and Michelle were different people in terms of skill sets and perspectives, they had mutual respect and a shared vision for what could happen with this ideal. Along with their third co-founder Lee Holloway, the three had an impressive range of strengths. When they empowered each other to go after their strong suits, and built a company which allowed others to lean into their strengths too, Cloudflare thrived! We love how Michelle framed these complementary skill sets as a venn diagram for unlocking thriving company leaderhsip and culture.

Key Takeaway 2: The power of changing your own framing of a problem

When founding a company, sh** hits the fan! This can be exasperating, frustrating and down right discouraging with a certain attitude. Michelle highlighted a personal decision to stop and reframe her internal dialogue when she found herself going down a negative rabbit hole. Embracing the ambiguity and leaning into the questions for what they were helped Michelle better enjoy the experience of being a founder. Michelle’s story highlighted that attitudes matter and the truism, “glass half full” still rings true!

Key Takeaway 3: Finding product market-fit can mean only getting a few ideas right

Cloudflare has fundamentally changed the way we stay safe online, eliminating 70 billion attacks a day through their international fortress of cybersecurity. Cloudflare found product market-fit amongst companies like our co-founder Claudia’s and large enterprise businesses as well. Being able to solve for this range of customers in a unique strength of Cloudflare and their infrastructure. Michelle specifically called out however, that finding this product market-fit came from getting only a “few things right.”

Within every company, there are always features and products that aren’t quite right for one reason or the next. As a founder, or leader in a start-up, you can focus on what is working (and congratulate yourself!) and start to fix the things that aren’t. Michelle advises that as soon as you acknowledge the aspects of the business or product that aren’t working you have a way higher chance of succeeding and making progress.

Thank you so much to Cloudflare’s Michelle Zatlyn for joining us on The Room Podcast. We will see you next week for another new episode.

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