Kara Swisher

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CloudFlare Reveals $50 Million “Secret” Funding — From One Year Ago

CloudFlare co-founders, left to right, Michelle Zatlyn, Lee Holloway and Matthew Prince

CloudFlare, the Web security and performance company, said yesterday that it had raised $50 million in a Series C round, with new investors Union Square Ventures and Greenspring. Existing investors — NEA, Pelion Venture Partners and Venrock — also participated.

But here’s the catch: Although the San Francisco-based firm got the money a full year ago, it kept the investment a “secret,” using the funding to quadruple its network capacity across 23 global data centers and to open an engineering office in London.

CloudFlare’s total funding to date is $77 million, and sources said the new round values the company at just under $1 billion.

So why the secrecy? “We’ve been on a mission to build a better Internet, and we did not feel we needed to make a big deal of the funding to do that,” said co-founder Michelle Zatlyn.

(Anti-hype in tech? It’s unnatural!)

It was via Zatlyn’s service on a Federal Communications Committee advisory panel about the open Internet that she met USV partner Brad Burnham.

“What we were talking about on the panel was what CloudFlare was about, a kind of outsourcing of the sysadmin role, but in an open format,” said Burham. “A lot of the big players like Google and Amazon are getting to this space, but I felt there was a need for there to be a big independent player.”

CloudFlare offers a wide range of services for its customers, including protecting sites from malware, denial of service and other forms of attack, and also helping speed up site performance.

The company said it sees five percent of all Web requests, and “sits in front of one in every 20 sites that you visit on the Web today.” It added that it now has 1.5 million customers, from several governments around the world to e-commerce sites to popular online photo services like Imgur.

CloudFlare also said its revenue increased 450 percent, although it did not specify sales numbers. It will become profitable in January, co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince said in an interview.

“The Web is about to turn 25 years old, and it’s beginning to show its age,” he said. “It will be very important, as it becomes more complex and it rebuilds itself, that there is someone who can maximize trust in the ecosystem.”

Prince said that much of the money CloudFlare raised was still in the bank, but that it plans to use some to continue its network expansion in 2014 with dozens of new data centers across the globe.

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