CloudFlare Co-Founder Michelle Zatlyn Shares Case Study With Tips On How To Grow To Billions Of Users

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Today’s Women 2.0 Conference on February 14, 2013 is being livestreamed here today and video will be available post-event.

By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0)

CloudFlare processes 3% of all the Internet traffic, states CloudFlare co-founder Michelle Zatlyn at the Women 2.0 Conference 2013. She presents a case study about going to billions as a startup founder. How did she do this? “No silver bullet” she admits, concluding that it’s a combination of many different things.

She advises entrepreneurs to ask yourself four main things.

“Are you going after a big market?” she asks. “Ask yourself is what you are working on going to impact 100 million people… it’s the exact same amount of work. A big idea is easier than a small idea.”

The second thing is to have a small team of valuable individuals who share your vision. CloudFlare has under 40 people to achieve what they have today. They need to be willing to work really hard because they believe in what they are doing.

“Average product cycle is 14 months, so you have to execute faster than anyone else. Always ask yourself, ‘are you pushing the ball forward?’” Startups must be speedy. She shares a slide (pictured, above) where she reveals CloudFlare has saved “891 lifetimes”. They saved people from waiting for pages to load slowly.

Michelle’s final tip is to solve the user experience and make it easy to use. “This lowers the barrier for people to use your product… this is magic if you do it right,” says Michelle.

CloudFlare co-founder Michelle Zatlyn shares the five things she’d do again:

  1. Choose partners wisely. You want to hire people who are different in terms of skill sets.
  2. Hold people accountable. You can use a grid on a wall with tape, and post-its, with the lean or agile or scrum method. “Just pick something and hold your team accountable,” she advises.
  3. Get your own space early. “This is not a frat house. This is not a sorority house. Build your own culture.”
  4. Start blogging. “The Women 2.0 blog is always looking for contributors. Hacker News – great place to submit your blog post to try to get product. Even without a product, you can build your presence early so when you want to build momentum, you have an audience that is already listening.”
  5. Launch at an event. Early on, you need partners, investors, etc… and you will get it by going out there. Best of all – “Nothing motivates a team like a deadline you can’t change,” she quips, referring to startup competition pitches and deadlines.

What she wishes she had done differently? She wishes she had taken more photos of her startup journey along the way. She only has three pictures of “the journey” and wishes she had more.

Michelle’s biggest takeaway for entrepreneurs is to think big and dare to think big. You may just surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.

“Trust yourself and go for it. Good luck!” she concluded.

Follow the conversation on Twitter with hash tag #w2conf today and shout out to Women 2.0 at @women2!

Angie Chang is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Women 2.0, a media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Our mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with inspiration, information and education through our platform. Previously, Angie held roles in product management and web UI design. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.