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Cloudflare’s Annual Founders’ Letter


6 min read

This week we celebrate Cloudflare's birthday. We launched the company 11 years ago tomorrow: September 27, 2010. It has been our tradition, since our first birthday, to use this week to launch innovative new products that we think of as our gift back to the Internet.

Since going public, it's also been an opportunity for us to update our Annual Founders' Letter and share what's on our mind. Recently we've been thinking about three things: team, the Internet, and innovation.


When anyone asks us the key to Cloudflare's success, we always say the same thing: the team we've been able to attract to help us achieve our mission of helping build a better Internet. In the last year we've had more than 250,000 people apply to work for us and extended offers to less than one half of one percent of them. We continue to attract great people.

It's incredible to realize that more than half of Cloudflare's team today started since March 13, 2020, when we closed all our physical offices due to the pandemic. In the last several months, as we've started to see a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, we've been hosting what we called Summer Socials with our team. Getting together outside, often over a picnic lunch, it's been fun to meet face-to-face people we'd only video conferenced with before. And even more fun to watch people from across the team get to know each other outside the confines of a Brady Bunch-like on-screen box.

In the last several months, as we've started to see a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, we've been hosting what we called Summer Socials with our team. Getting together outside, often over a picnic lunch, it's been fun to meet face-to-face people we'd only video conferenced with before.

As a company that was very much a work-from-office culture before the pandemic, we were terrified of what would happen to our culture when we switched to fully remote work. Eighteen months into this forced experiment on a new way of working we're happy to report: it's working. Really well.

It turns out what we all suspected is in fact true. Culture has little to do with fun offices, plentiful snacks, or adjustable desks. Instead, for us, it starts with hiring people who are relentlessly curious and, at the same time, empathetic. Curious people want to learn. Empathetic people love to teach. And if you put a group of them together, whether in a swanky office or on Zoom, great things will happen.

As we come out the other side of COVID, we have an opportunity to help build a better way to work. It would be naive to insist that we go back to the way we did things before. We've been more productive, and on average our team has been happier in their jobs, than any time in the company's history. At the same time, we know there can be considerable value in coming together in person to solve hard problems, brainstorm about the future, and build relationships that make the company stronger.

We don't have all the answers on what the future of work looks like, but we've begun to formulate a place to start our experiments as people come back. We hope we can use the times we get together as ways to better collaborate and learn. But, at the same time, give our team the flexibility to work how and wherever they are the most productive.

The Internet

Cloudflare's mission is to help build a better Internet. We always capitalize the I in Internet, in spite of what the AP style guide has said since 2016, because it's a proper noun, we believe there is and only should be one, and we have an enduring respect for what a miracle it is that it exists.

Right around the same time that the AP started to say that you needn't capitalize the I in Internet anymore, something seemed to change. The world shifted from seeing the Internet and what it enabled as an irreproachable good to a source of great danger.

We've watched the same thing. Since 2016 it's often felt like a connection to the Internet only brings cyberattacks, toxic social media, threats to democracy, increasing polarization, and a declining disdainful discourse.

We have real challenges ahead as some of the technologies that ride on top of the Internet have broken down traditional gatekeepers without sufficient concern for addressing the harms they previously protected against. But, at the same time, the Internet itself remains a miracle.

A mere 11 years before Cloudflare's founding, long distance phone calls still cost a fortune, sharing a photograph with someone in another country took weeks, and the idea that you could access the sum total of human knowledge from a device in your pocket was beyond even the fantasies of science fiction.

The last 18 months of the pandemic have reaffirmed our faith in the miracle that is the Internet. Imagine just how much worse it would have been had the pandemic happened just 11 years ago, let alone 22. The Internet allowed many of us to continue to work, connect with our loved ones, exercise our creativity, and stay connected to the world.

We're proud of what we've done to live up to our mission and help build a better Internet during this time. And, as we come out the other side, we will continue to engage with policy makers to address the new harms an interconnected world has brought while preserving the miracle that is the Internet itself.


The Internet may seem static, but it is not. 11 years ago, watching a video online was an exercise in frustration. Today, it seems almost automatic that you can push play on your TV and access nearly any movie ever made instantly. That's possible because the Internet isn't static; it gets better through innovation.

At Cloudflare, we're optimized to catalyze exactly that innovation. It starts with our mission: to help build a better Internet. The word "help" is important, because we know we can't do it alone. So, wherever we can, we work with others across the Internet ecosystem to push it forward and make it better.

Sometimes people outside the company are surprised by the products we build. In fact, predicting our roadmap is pretty easy. We look at all the steps that are required to load a web page, send an email, stream a video, login to a workstation, or anything else you do online and ask: can we make that more secure, more reliable, or faster?

What's exciting is that the pace at which the Internet is getting better is accelerating. And, in turn, the pace at which we are able to launch innovative new products is accelerating along with it. As the Internet grows and acquires more capabilities, we believe we will continue to grow with it. An investment in Cloudflare is, fundamentally, we feel an investment in the Internet itself.

And so, this week, we have an incredible series of announcements that are designed to help build a better Internet. We're entering a new area to close one of the last network security risks that we haven't historically protected our customers from, driving down costs of core cloud services, pushing the boundary of our network to our customers' doorsteps, and investing in new technologies that may someday disrupt the web as we know it today.

Thank you to our team, our customers, and our investors. Happy 11th birthday to Cloudflare. And, even as we pick up steam, we continue to believe: we're just getting started.

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Matthew Prince|@eastdakota
Michelle Zatlyn|@zatlyn

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