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Harvard MBA Grads' Cyber Security Start-Up Raises $110M In Venture Capital

Harvard Business School class project becomes billion dollar business

Tue Sep 22 2015

A cyber security start-up that started as a Harvard Business School classroom projected has raised $110 million in venture capital from investors including Fidelity, Google, and Microsoft.

Silicon Valley based CloudFlare, which specializes in making websites faster and more secure from cyber attacks, was founded by Harvard MBA graduates Matthew Prince and Michelle Zatlyn.

They sparked the idea during a five-day Silicon Valley Immersion trip organized by Harvard and co-founded CloudFlare with Lee Holloway in 2009, the same year they graduated from the MBA.

After winning Harvard’s Business Plan Contest six years ago, CloudFlare has grown to become a reported “unicorn” — Silicon Valley jargon for ventures valued at $1 billion dollars — having raised $50 million in December 2013.

Its latest funding round, which was led by investors including Chinese search giant Baidu and Qualcomm, the UK chip maker, brings the total funds raised by the start-up to $182 million, according to Crunchbase data.

“Traditional on-premise solutions such as firewalls, load balancers, and DDoS mitigation appliances are becoming obsolete as organizations distribute their applications across geographies and cloud environments,” said Matthew Prince, the venture’s chief executive.

“CloudFlare offers these edge functions as a service without any additional hardware or software.”

CloudFlare claims that 5% of all internet requests go through the company’s network, with more than four million people across 30 countries using the service.

CloudFlare turned profitable in 2014 and is expected hit a $100 million revenue run rate by the end of this year, according to CEO Matthew.

The founders join the growing ranks of successful Harvard start-ups, as the 107-year-old MBA program begins to send more of its students into tech ventures and away from investment banks.

Harvard b-school successes include Kolltan Pharmaceuticals, an early-stage biotechnology company led by alumnus Michael Schmertzler, which recently pulled a planned $86 million IPO.

Another Harvard business, e-commerce company Dafiti, has raised about $249 million in venture funding since its launch in 2010.

Over a five-year period, 352 Harvard MBA graduates raised more than $4.2 billion for their 312 start-up companies, according to data from PitchBook, a private equity and venture capital research firm.