Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
- Known For:
Co-founder of Cloudflare
About Michelle Zatlyn
Zatlyn was born in 1979 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. She was raised in Prince Albert with her sisters by her father, a lawyer, and her mother, a teacher. She went to school at Prince Albert’s Ecole Holy Cross before attending Carlton Comprehensive High School, where she was the captain of the basketball team. As a teenager, Zatlyn worked in her father’s law office. She also spent a summer as a camp counselor at a special needs summer camp.
Zatlyn commented on her childhood, saying, “I was a very ambitious student and really lucky to have great teachers who supported me and parents and siblings who were cheerleaders along the way.”
She says being ambitious and pursuing opportunities is a part of her DNA. When asked about her first-ever business idea, Zatlyn says, “I created a board game in my junior achievement class, which was my first exposure to learning to create something that people wanted.”
In 2011, Zatlyn married Jamie Sutherland, an entrepreneur from Oakville, Ontario. They now have two children.
Education and Career
After high school, Zatlyn earned a bachelor’s degree from McGill University in 2001, majoring in chemistry and minoring in business. Though her initial intention was to go to medical school, she instead became fascinated by business. She took a job as a research analyst and consultant at Investor Analytics. She then spent time at I Love Rewards and Toshiba before enrolling in Harvard Business School in 2007 to pursue her Master of Business Administration.
Zatlyn explained the value of her time in business school, saying, “The program taught me how to have a point of view and make a decision—something you need to do many times a day as a founder. It also taught me how to listen to a diverse group of viewpoints. This is something that I value every day.”
While working on her MBA, Zatlyn interned at Google. Though she expected an offer to stay on at Google after she graduated with her MBA in 2009, due to the economic recession, Google did not extend an offer. Instead, she connected with her MBA classmate Matthew Prince to work on a business plan that would become Cloudflare.
While Zatlyn is best known for her career at CloudFlare, she has also served on the board of directors for Australian software company Atlassian since 2021. Additionally, she is a regular speaker at C100’s early-stage mentorship event, 48 Hours in the Valley.
In 2009, Zatlyn teamed up with Matthew Price and Lee Holloway to create CloudFlare. Zatlyn explains, “While I was at Harvard Business School, I knew I wanted to be part of the next Google before it was Google, or Starbucks before it was Starbucks. And life has a funny way of presenting opportunities. It was then that I met Matthew Prince (co-founder). He was a serial entrepreneur and had all sorts of amazing ideas.”
When Zatlyn met her co-founders, Price and Holloway had been working on a project called Honey Pot, which tracked email spam and internet threats. After teaming up with Zatlyn, the group built a business plan to expand on Honey Pot to provide a service that blocked internet threats instead of just tracking them.
Zatlyn, Price, and Holloway presented their business plan at a Harvard pitch competition in 2009. When they won the competition, the team received some minimal funding, introductions to venture capitalists, and some free office space for the summer. The group launched their product in 2010, and it grew into a major success.
By 2015, CloudFlare saw over 5% of all web traffic run through its network. Five thousand new customers were signing up for Cloudflare each day. Their clients include Canva, Etsy, Walmart, and Best Buy, among many other major companies.
In September 2019, CloudFlare went public, with shares priced at $15. The stock’s value rose 20% on its opening day, and the company’s value was placed at around $5.57 billion. CloudFlare’s stock price continued to rise over the next two years.
The year CloudFlare went public, Zatlyn explained the success the company had seen, saying, “When we came up with Cloudflare, I knew nothing about internet security, but I care a lot about liking what I’m doing. I knew if I could help create internet security, that’s something I could work hard for and be proud [of]; 10 years later, we have 165 data centers, 12 million domains, and more than 800 employees.”
In November 2021, CloudFlare reached its peak market capitalization at $67.9 billion, but its value declined throughout 2022. As of May 2023, the company’s value is estimated at $15.37 billion.
Zatlyn has served as chief operating officer at CloudFlare since its founding. She described her responsibilities as COO, saying, “I’m responsible for the go-to-market functions or sales or marketing or customer support teams as well as our people and places.”
Zatlyn has also held the position of president of CloudFlare since 2020.
Zatlyn’s accomplishments have been recognized several times by many different organizations and publications. The following is a list of her accolades:
- Inc. Magazine’s “Top 50 Women to Watch” 2013
- Forbes’ “Top 50 Women in Tech” 2018
- Fortune’s “40 Under 40” 2017
- ELLE’s “Women in Tech” 2015
- World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader
- Marie Claire’s 7th Annual New Guard
- Forbes’ “Richest Self-Made Women” 2022
- C100’s “Icon of Canadian Entrepreneurship” 2019
Michelle Zatlyn Today
Zatlyn continues to serve as a COO, co-founder, and president of CloudFlare as well as as a board member at Atlassian. She is also a regular speaker at Cloudflare Connect, the company’s flagship event that connects business leaders in the cybersecurity and technology industries.
Zatlyn is a frequent podcast guest, appearing recently on podcasts like Panic with Friends, Founders Field Guide, Afternoon T, Traction Podcast, and The Decibel Podcast.
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