In 2004, Matthew Prince and Lee Holloway set out to answer the basic question: "Where does email spam come from?" The two of them built a system that allowed anyone with a website to track how spammers harvested email addresses. Project Honey Pot was born.
Project Honey Pot quietly grew over the years. Lee's flexible architecture adapted to track more of the threats that web administrators faced. Thousands of websites, from more than 185 countries, signed up to participate in the project. While users loved Project Honey Pot's ability to track online malicious behavior, they had one repeated request: don't just track the bad guys, stop them.
In 2009, Matthew had taken a sabbatical from his full time work to get his MBA from the Harvard Business School. There he met Michelle Zatlyn, now CloudFlare's head of user experience. The two were talking one day when Matthew mentioned Project Honey Pot and its amazing community of users. Michelle immediately recognized the opportunity to create a service that would take Project Honey Pot to the next level: not just tracking Internet threats, but stopping them too. The classmates started to work on a business plan.
One of the first orders of business was coming up with a name. The first business plan was titled "Project Web Wall," but that hardly resonated. A friend of Matthew's suggested that they were creating a "firewall in the cloud," so it should be known as CloudFlare. The name immediately felt right and stuck. Matthew and Michelle worked with the faculty at the Harvard Business School to refine the business plan. In the meantime, Lee built the first working prototype in his spare time. In April 2009, CloudFlare won the prestigious Harvard Business School Business Plan competition.