Can corporates be good matchmakers for startups and VCs?

Cloudflare last week announced a $1.25 billion funding program for startups building on their software, Cloudflare Workers. But this is not a corporate venture fund and that amount is not corporate money.

Rather, it’s an initiative where the cloud infrastructure company assembles a group of its startup clients and presents them to venture capitalists, who have each pledged $50 million to support companies building on Cloudflare Workers. The list of 26 venture capital funds includes major players such as NEA and Boldstart and smaller companies such as Pear VC. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told me this number has continued to grow since the project was announced in September.

The reason this is interesting is that while public companies have dramatically increased their presence in startup financing in recent years, it has largely gone through one of two playbooks: companies are either putting a shell of capital on their balance sheets to fund startups in adjacent or complementary sectors to their own, or they launched an accelerator program.

This strategy from Cloudflare feels fresh. And if it works out, it could turn out to be a pretty smart bet. The program essentially helps funnel money to its customers, ensuring their need for the platform, while also attracting startups to consider building on Cloudflare over other platforms — without having to spend Cloudflare. It is worth noting that companies that participate in this program, whether or not they are pitched to VCs, get multiple software features for free for a year.

But will a company like Cloudflare be a good matchmaker? Prince seems to think so — he told me the idea for the program came from the company’s conversations with venture capitalists.

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