Not every cofounder is acknowledged at the companies that they help to launch. Sometimes, they quit or they’re elbowed out. Often, they’re conveniently written out the company’s history.
In the case of Cloudflare, a third cofounder who began the company with CEO Matthew Prince and COO Michele Zatlyn is little known outside the company for a very different reason. As Cloudflare states in an S-1 filing IPO filing that it made public today, “Tragically, Lee stepped down from Cloudflare in 2015, suffering the debilitating effects of Frontotemporal Dementia, a rare neurological disease.”
Frontotemporal dementia impacts between 50,000 and 60,000 Americans, according to a rough estimate cited by the Alzheimer’s Association, and it tends to impact younger people, beginning at age 45. Though the cause isn’t known, a person’s risk for developing frontotemporal dementia — wherein the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain shrink — is higher if there’s a family history of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Cloudflare did not respond today to questions about Holloway, but Prince and Zatlyn, in a section of the filing addressed to potential shareholders, credit Holloway as the “genius who architected our platform and recruited and led our early technical team. In fact, they write, when picking a code name for the company’s IPO, they chose “Project Holloway” to honor his contribution because the “technical decisions Lee made, and the engineering team he built, are fundamental to the business we have become.”
Holloway’s beneficiaries will benefit from that work. According to the S-1, trusts affiliated with him own 18% of the company’s Series A shares (or common shares) and 3.2% of the company’s total outstanding shares.
Prince meanwhile owns 20.2% of the company’s class B shares (and 16.6% of all outstanding shares) and Zatlyn has 6.8% (and 5.6% of the overall shares outstanding).
If Cloudflare goes public at the $3.2 billion valuation it was last assigned by its private investors, Holloway’s family and other trust recipients could see upwards of $100 million. Of course, if the company is valued at more than $3.2 billion, their stake will also be valued higher (and the converse will be true if Cloudflare’s value sinks on the public market).
That’s none too shabby for a computer geek who attended Monte Vista High School in Danville, before working as an engineer at the bubble-era home improvement site HomeWarehouse.com, whose assets were sold in 2000 to Wal-mart.com. Though an apparent fire sale, then-CEO Jeanne Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle of the company, “We are very impressed with the commerce platform developed by the Homewarehouse.com team.”
Holloway later headed to UC Santa Cruz, where he studied computer science and was introduced through a professor to Prince, with whom he built Unspam Technologies, an anti-spam startup where Holloway says on LinkedIn that he was chief software architect, and where Prince continues to serve as chairman. They two also co-created Project Honey Pot, an open source community that still tracks online fraud and abuse.
Zatlyn would enter the picture soon after. According to Cloudflare, in 2009, Prince had taken a sabbatical from work to get his MBA from Harvard Business School and it was when he began telling Zatlyn, a classmate, about Project Honey Pot and its community of users, she helped him recognize a related opportunity in not just tracking internet threats but also stopping them. While they worked on the business plan as part of their studies, Holloway built the first working prototype.
By 2010, they were pitching investors at a TechCrunch Disrupt as one of the event’s “battlefield” participants.
Holloway wasn’t on stage for that demonstration. He might have preferred to operate in the background given the nature of his work. Indeed, in the first of just three tweets he has ever published, he wrote simply, “Pondering the nature of web exploits.”
Pictured above: Cloudflare cofounders Zatlyn, Holloway, and Prince.