Rewiring the Internet: How Matthew Prince Built Cloudflare From Curiosity and Innovation

Prince's narrative is not just about technological triumphs but also about the human spirit's ability to adapt, innovate, and inspire

In 1980, a young Matthew Prince received an Apple II Plus from his grandmother, igniting a lifelong passion for technology. “I took to it like a duck to water,” he says. Unlike other kids who loved playing video games, Prince was more interested in creating them. His early experiences at computer camp and reprogramming his high school’s lab computers to remove frivolous programs demonstrated his budding talent and problem-solving skills. These formative experiences laid the groundwork for his future endeavors.


Despite his evident talent, Prince initially veered away from technology, opting to pursue a career in law. Reflecting on his decision, he humorously recalls turning down offers from Microsoft and Yahoo!, thinking they wouldn’t succeed: “I remember thinking, oh, those companies are never going to go anywhere,” he says. However, his detour through law school couldn’t extinguish his technological flame. The allure of solving intricate puzzles through coding eventually drew him back, leading him to embrace his true passion. “I tried my darndest to run in any other direction and yet ended up spending time with computer networks and security,” he says.

Prince speaking at the CloudTech Summit


The inception of Cloudflare was a serendipitous blend of chance and innovation. Prince and his team developed Project Honey Pot, a side project to track spam activities. This project unexpectedly garnered significant interest, with thousands of users signing up. Recognizing the potential, they transformed it into Cloudflare. The journey wasn’t easy: The 2009 financial crisis posed severe challenges. “If we hadn’t raised money in November of 2009, I don’t know how I would have paid my rent at all,” he says. Yet, their strategic planning and resilience paid off, enabling them to secure crucial funding and launch their vision.


One of Cloudflare’s most impactful decisions came in 2014 when the team opted to provide free encryption. Initially seen as a financial risk, this move doubled the amount of encrypted internet traffic within a week. “We doubled the amount of the internet that was encrypted in effectively a week,” Prince says. This decision not only showcased Cloudflare’s commitment to enhancing internet security but also highlighted its innovative spirit. The move was driven by a belief in the importance of encryption for the future of the internet, a vision passionately advocated by its engineering team.

Cloudflare’s founders, Michelle Zatlyn and Matthew Prince


Prince emphasizes the importance of relationships and continuous learning. “It’s amazing how many people you meet along the way and the relationships pay off,” he says. His journey is a testament to the value of perseverance and strategic thinking. Looking ahead, he remains dedicated to Cloudflare’s mission of building a better internet. “If we can help make sure that the internet continues to be a viable global network … I can’t imagine anything more important to do with the rest of my life.”

Prince’s narrative is not just about technological triumphs but also about the human spirit’s ability to adapt, innovate, and inspire. From a curious child to a pioneering entrepreneur, his journey encapsulates the essence of pursuing one’s dreams against all odds, underpinned by the conviction that hard times can indeed lead to exceptional outcomes.

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CEO & Founder Erik Huberman launched Hawke Media in 2014. Now valued at over $150 million, Hawke Media is the fastest growing marketing consultancy agency in the United States.