“Carl got excited about the same exact stuff we got excited about, which was terrific.”
Matthew Prince, CEO , Cloudflare.
We Started With The Grand Expectation Of Getting School Credit. Who Knew It Would Turn Into Cloudflare?
Matthew Prince is the CEO and Co-founder of Cloudflare, a company that delivers two pretty impressive things: A significant improvement in website performance and a decrease in spam and other attacks. When asked why he was drawn to Pelion, it became clear that he had some pretty strong opinions. Not to mention a pretty good story about one heck of a life-changing school assignment. Here’s the whole story in his own words:
Matthew Prince: In the early days, Cloudflare was not the kind of investment that would normally attract Pelion’s attention. In fact, back in 2009, the investment landscape was anything but welcoming to early seed stage investments.
I began working on it at Harvard as a school project. And eventually, my partners and I won the HBS business plan competition. We didn’t have any plans to start a company, we just thought we were getting school credit. The next thing we knew, venture capitalists were actively seeking us out. It was then that Ben Dahl, a former classmate of Matthew’s, introduced us to Carl. He was sort of challenging, but in a friendly way. And he was gruff, but probing. All while being encouraging and helpful. Despite all the enthusiasm, though, it was pretty clear the timing just wasn’t right.
But looking back now, it’s pretty clear that evaluating potential is one of Pelion’s greatest strengths. They have an innate ability to recognize and accept what makes sense moving forward. What might not be an ideal investment at the present time, might very well prove to be ideal down the road.
Pelion’s ability to anticipate the future is just a small part of their appeal. In fact, what struck a particular cord with us at Cloudflare was their obvious technical know-how. They’re geeks at heart. And it showed. Carl got excited about the same exact stuff we got excited about, which was terrific.
That’s why we considered their counsel so valuable. Unlike some of the other investors we were interviewing at the time, Pelion’s advice rang particularly true. And their honesty was refreshing.
Again, the investment landscape back in 2009 wasn’t particularly receptive to early seed stage investments. Even those with really good ideas. But Pelion, consistent with their promise “to not lead anyone along,” kept in touch. And eventually, along with another vetted investment group, they came to recognize us as a good investment. Not just for 2009, but for the future as well. Which is how Cloudflare came to be.
At every stage of our partnership, we found that the folks at Pelion were extremely well-regarded by other venture capitalists. And by fellow entrepreneurs. They were also mercifully quick with their decision-making. But here’s the part we loved best: Technology came first, financial folks second. Which, as a point of view, remains downright unique.
“Pelion’s ability to anticipate the future is just a small part of their appeal. In fact, what struck a particular cord with us at Cloudflare was their obvious technical know-how. They’re geeks at heart. And it showed.”
Matthew Prince, CEO , Cloudflare.
When all is said and done, though, it’s pretty clear that their overriding strategy is to be easy to work with. They literally find their way into deals by being something totally unconventional: Good guys who do what they say they will.
Which kind of explains their success. Who, other than Pelion, would ever think of something so counterintuitive…? But hey, don’t take our word for it. Ask around. Ask them directly, and while you’re at it, ask them about the deals that they passed on (those stories coming soon).