Cloudflare is planning to list on the NYSE on September 12th 2019. It is a provider of cloud software solutions that span security (firewalls, bot management, DDoS, infrastructure protection, etc), performance (content delivery, intelligent routing, content optimization, etc), and reliability (load balancing, virtual backbone, DNS network and resolver, website caching), platform (serverless applications solutions) and other consumer offerings (DNS resolver and VPN solutions). See Figure 1 form full product stack taken from the S-1.
Phew, ok – that was a lot of technical jargon. The takeaway is that the company is a provider of cloud software solutions that enable customers to run online businesses and services designed for global scale. Cloudflare’s network spans 193 cities in over 90 countries with 8,000+ networks globally, and they stop about 44 billion cyber threats per day. Services are offered through the freemium model, where basic services are available for free, with the option to pay for additional services.
How do the numbers look?
The company is gaining leverage on its revenue. This means that revenue is growing at a faster rate than cost of revenue. In the time frame shown below, Cloudflare’s revenue increased by 247%, while the cost of revenue increased 146%.
There are several reasons for this increased efficiency. First, the dollar-based net retention rate has averaged around 110% in the past 8 quarters. This means that existing customers who spent 1 dollar a year ago, would spend 1.1 dollar today. This is significant for Cloudlfare’s business, as the company does not have to spend sales and marketing dollars to acquire this revenue.
Second, the data advantage. Cloudflare’s product gets better with more users and more data. They consider their application to be similar to an internet-wide immune system, where Cloudflare learns from all the traffic that flows through its network, and can therefore better mitigate and stop attacks carried out by bad actors, but also better optimize its products for good actors.
And third, the company has established itself as the leader in this space and is making ground growing its “large customer” base (customers who spend more than US $100,000 per year with Cloudflare). This segment grew from 95 customers in December 31st 2016, to 313 in December 31st 2018 and 408 as of June 2019 -an increase of 70% year over year. Growth in this segment can increase efficiency as the total revenue generated per customer acquired is larger.
How does Cloudflare stack up against its competitors?
Given the wide range of products that Cloudflare provides, it faces competitors from multiple technology planes (other CDN provides, HW makers, point solution vendors). Due to differences in maturity, size, and business models, it is difficult to compare revenue of these competitors with Cloudflare. However, one metric we can use to compare the businesses across different verticals is the sales efficiency metric.
Sales efficiency is calculated by comparing the amount of revenue gained to the amount spent on sales and marketing (in other words, how efficient the company’s sales efforts are in bringing more revenue. The higher the number, the more efficient). Figure 3 summarizes the average sale efficiency of different companies across the three technology planes over the past year. As you can see, Cloudflare comes out on top across the different planes, with an average of 0.74 (orange line) (Tweet this!).
From this list, Fastly (FSLY), is probably the closest competitor to Cloudflare. But it is smaller in revenue (Q2 2019: US $46.17 million vs. Cloudflare’s US $67.4 million) and has slower year over year revenue growth (34% vs. Cloudflare’s 49%).
Since Cloudflare is still not profitable, public investors will likely value the company based on its revenue growth, and therefore its sales efficiency number will be an important number to keep an eye on.
Thanks for reading!
This article is meant to be informative and not to be taken as an investment advice, and may contain certain “forward-looking statements,” which may be identified by the use of such words as “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, without limitation, estimates with respect to financial condition, market developments, and the success or lack of success of particular investments (and may include such words as “crash” or “collapse”). All are subject to various factors, including, without limitation, general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results.
Our team members at Vested may own investments in some of the aforementioned companies. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment or strategy will be suitable or profitable for an investor’s portfolio. Note that past performance is not indicative of future returns. Investing in the stock market carries risk; the value of your investment can go up, or down, returning less than your original investment. Tax laws are subject to change and may vary depending on your circumstances.