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  • feedwordpress 13:56:53 on 2018/09/27 Permalink
    Tags: , infrastructure, , , leadership, , technology leadership   

    Cloudflare and the Art of Breaching Moats 

    Cloudflare founders Matthew Prince and Michelle Zatlyn (image)

    The company could seek rent. Instead, it finds false market barriers and merrily breaches them.

    (Cross posted from NewCo Shift)

    We don’t usually cover news here at NewCo Shift, this is more of a place for analysis and Thinking Out Loud. And it’s rare that one company appears more than once here in any given year. But today – again – Cloudflare has upended an important piece of Internet’s real estate, and it’s just too rich to not note the why of it.

    So first the news. To celebrate the company’s eight birthday, Cloudflare is announcing the launch of a domain registrar. And because the company operates at massive scale, and can afford to do things most companies simply can’t (or won’t – looking at you, Google, Amazon, Facebook) – the company is offering domains *at cost.* In other words, Cloudflare isn’t making one red cent when you register a domain with them. What they pay to register a domain (and yes, that number is fixed, and the same for all domain registrars), is what you pay to register a domain.

    Go ahead, go sell (or short) your GoDaddy stock. I’ll wait.

    OK, you back? Look, I’m not writing this post because I think the news is *that* exciting, though I’ll tell you, I’ve not found many folks who love their domain registrar. I certainly don’t. Most of them are experts at confusing you, at upcharging you, and at scaring you that you’re about to either lose your domain or miss some important feature you didn’t know you want or need. I pay an average of about 15-20 bucks for each of the domains I own each year. Cloudflare’s price is about eight dollars.

    I own close to 50 domains. That means I’ll save nearly $400 a year when I move all my domains to Cloudflare. That’s real cheddar.

    But the real reason I’m writing this post is to point out what a merry market discombobulator Cloudflare has become. This is a company that operates at Google scale, is independent (it’s on a path to an IPO and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars), has a core business model that drives profitable growth (it’s a content distribution network and secure infrastructure vendor), and most importantly, a philosophy which is utterly unique in today’s venal, steroidal capital markets (more on that in a second).

    Cloudflare’s scale and financial power (it’s privately valued at what I am told is well past $5 billion) allow it to do things most companies simply can’t. Things like…rolling out a Domain Name System that protects your data from prying ISP eyes, for free, because it can. Or leading an alliance of bandwidth providers dedicated to eliminate markups on peering (it’s complicated, but net net, it means less costs for everyone).  Or totally upending the sclerotic economics of Over the Top (OTT) streaming.

    With every one of these steps, Cloudflare is doing two things: First, it’s refusing to view the Internet as property to be cornered, as real estate where infrastructure owners can camp out and collect rent. That’s utterly unheard of in a world where Amazon has cornered commerce and hosting, Facebook has cornered social attention, Google has cornered search, and AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are competing to be as walled as a garden can possibly be. Secondly, Cloudflare is actively exercising a core philosophy which can be honestly described as embracing the best (and most earnest) values of Internet 1.0: The web should be open, freely accessible, and an equal playing field upon which anyone can frolic.

    Companies like this are very, very hard to find at scale. At some point, most firms with a “make the world a better place” philosophy succumb to the reality of Peter Theil’s maxim: Every world-beating company must be a rent-extracting monopoly.   Maybe I’m missing something, so please, name me one (in the tech space anyway) that isn’t operating under this assumption?

    Cloudflare is proof that great companies can also be forces for good, down to the molecules of their DNA. This is a company that defines what I mean when I use the word “NewCo.” I can’t wait to see what they do next. And, of course, they’re not perfect, and sure, this post might look naive in a few years.

    But gosh, I sure hope it won’t. The world needs more Cloudflares, if only to remind us that it’s possible to move past the exhaustingly brutalist architecture we’ve managed to build around ourselves. Perhaps in fact we can trust ourselves to do what’s right for more than just us, more than just our company, more than just our shareholders. Perhaps our industry can dream to reach just a bit further, and imagine we are agents of larger purpose; and that, if we practice enough, we might earn the right to become what we’ve always imagined we could be, over these so many years: A force for good.

    Lord knows it’s been a while since that’s been true. Right?

     
  • feedwordpress 21:44:20 on 2016/03/07 Permalink
    Tags: , technology leadership   

    On Tech Leadership 

    The post On Tech Leadership appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    I’ve written a piece over on NewCo that I wanted to also post it here. See below…

    If your business focus is in technology or the Internet, as mine has been for nearly three decades, it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of the GLOBE Series, a global conference dedicated to sustainability in business. Until I was invited to participate this year, due in large part to NewCo’s core mission, I certainly hadn’t. What I saw opened my eyes and left me pondering the role of tech in the future of our planet.

    The longest-running event dedicated to global environment and business, GLOBE draws more than 9,000 delegates to Vancouver from more than 50 countries around the world. There’s no shortage of government ministers, nonprofit leaders, and sustainability officers from huge companies like Nestlé, Lowe’s, and Citi. But if you peruse the speaker and sponsor lists, it’d be fair to conclude that sustainability simply isn’t a core issue for technology companies. They’re pretty much no-shows.

    You’d be wrong, of course  – Google, for example, is the largest purchaser of renewable energy on the planet, and has been carbon neutral for nearly a decade. So why aren’t Larry Page or Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg keynoting GLOBE?

    Events like GLOBE, which according to its organizers is growing so fast they plan to double the number of conferences starting next year, are a natural outgrowth of our business ecosystem’s need to address complex social issues like resource stewardship and climate change. If you’re Nestlé, for example, you need a platform to engage with all constituents in core markets (Nestlé is the world’s largest producer of bottled water). But if you’re Google or Facebook? Your products are digital and ephemeral in nature ;  your environmental impact is negligible in comparison to other industries. Facebookcompares the impact of its average user’s carbon footprint to that of “three bananas.”

    Multiply that by billions, however, and you realize it takes a lot of bananas to spin all those servers (the Internet consumes the energy of a major nation-state). You wouldn’t know it from wandering the halls at GLOBE, but the biggest tech companies arecommitted leaders in green energy and have a strong story to tell. These same companies also leading the way in doing well by doing good. It’s built into the mission-driven ethos of nearly all leading tech companies.

    Even if sometimes those young companies’ efforts seem self-serving or tone-deaf, their fresh, purpose-driven approach to business should inform our most urgent social issue: how we retool our economic engines toward sustainability. It’s not enough that Google is carbon-neutral, or that Amazon has committed to using 100% renewable energy. It’s time for our tech leaders to take the global stage and start to engage with the rest of the business world. The world needs their vision and their influence – before it’s too late.

    Want to follow the biggest story in business? Get our NewCo Daily newsletter.

    The post On Tech Leadership appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
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