Cloudflare TV

Yes We Can

Presented by Michelle Zatlyn, Saumya Manohar
Originally aired on 

Saumya has spent the last dozen years as a legal and strategic advisor to hypergrowth consumer technology startups. Currently she is the Head of Legal at Public, the social investing app. Members of Public can use the app to buy stocks and ETFs, learn about the markets and personal finance, and discuss the companies that they love within a fun and inclusive community of investors. Public is building a vibrant and diverse community that is roughly 40% women and 45% people of color – opening the markets to a broader set of Americans, so more can benefit from the growth engine that is the US stock market.

Prior to that, she was General Counsel at The Wing, a network of coworking spaces built for women, and VP Legal at Casper, where she helped take the company public and scale the business from small startup to global sleep brand.

To watch more episodes of Yes We Can — and submit suggestions for future guests — visit

Women in Tech

Transcript (Beta)

All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week's episode of Yes We Can. We were just having a great chat offline, so I'm kind of laughing from our last conversation.

Really excited to have Saumya here today.

Hi, how are you? I'm great. How are you? Thank you so much for having me here.

Oh, I can't wait to talk about retail investing and everything that's going on.

You can tell us whether meme stocks are here to stay or not, and what it's like being a lawyer at growth companies.

You've had such an interesting career, so we're going to dig in.

But just some housekeeping items.

Thanks, everyone, to the audience for joining Yes We Can this week.

If you have any recommendations for people you'd like to see on the show, you can email yeswecan at

I always love your ideas. And today, I want to introduce my wonderful guest.

It's Saumya Manohar. Did I get that right? Nailed it.

Got it. Perfect. Okay. Thank you. Appreciate that. And so you've been a lawyer at many growth companies.

The Wing, which is a space for women to get together, currently at Public, which is a retail investing helping get all of us more connected to retail investing, which I'm excited to talk about that.

And so thank you so much for joining us today.

And you're calling in from New York, right?

Yep. Calling in from Brooklyn from my daughter's bedroom, actually, which I've dressed up as my office.

I'm so glad to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Like you said, I'm head of legal at Public. Public is the social investing app.

And so I handle everything legal, everything compliance at Public, my team handles.

And I've been in the law for, I guess, about 10 years working for venture -backed startups.

I was at Casper, the sleep company, helped take them Public, and then previously was at the Wing, a co -working space.

So this is my first fintech company.

And I've been here for about six months. And it's been a real learning curve.

And it's a really exciting company. And I'm excited to talk to you about it.

Amazing. That's great. I love that. And to physical spaces, to fintech and social investing, it's really a broad portfolio of experiences you've had, which is amazing.

I think that says a lot about you as a person. So let's start with Public.

Why don't you tell us a little bit about Public? It's a newer company, and you said social investing.

So tell us a little bit more about the company and the product.

Sure. So like I said, I've been here for about six months. Public is the social investing app.

So it is a mobile app. And there's really two sides to the platform.

First is the investing side of the platform, where our users and members can buy stocks and ETFs, including fractional shares.

So you can buy a slice of Apple or Amazon for as little as $5.

You don't need to buy one full share that might be hundreds of dollars.

And we've seen a lot of people with a lot of interest in the fractional share investing.

And then what really distinguishes Public and makes it really fun, in my opinion, is the community side of our app, which is a really engaged, really vibrant and diverse community of both new and old and more experienced investors that's centered around personal finance and investing.

So it's where you can go to talk about the companies that you're interested in, that you really care about, shout out the companies that you love, ask questions to a really interesting group.

And what our founders, I think, have done really well is create a culture of buy and hold investing about really educating yourself and helping educate others about the companies that you love.

And it's, last we checked, it was like 40% women, 45% folks of color. So it really looks different than sort of the suit and tie investor that you might have imagined in pre-FinTech revolution.

I love this. This is, you're kind of taking what we used to do around our couch or at the bar, and you're bringing it online where people can go and talk about brands or companies they like or something they saw and figuring out whether it's an investment they want to make.

And when you talk about the community, sometimes I'm surprised, like people really do talk about companies and stocks that they like.

I'm surprised that there is a huge community aspect to investing.

Did that surprise you at all? I think, as I mentioned earlier, I'm coming from Casper and the wing and consumer goods and services is my background.

And so I knew from my retail experience that on the retail side, consumers want to buy brands that sort of represent who they are.

They're not just looking for value in terms of like a bang for your buck anymore.

People really want to see themselves and the brands that you buy really say something about yourself.

So it's not that shocking now that more retail customers are sort of, there's more retail participation in the stock market that you also are investing with your heart as much as your head.

Like if you don't, if you might be an environmentalist, you might build a portfolio that's focused on solar as opposed to oil and gas.

If you're focused on tech, maybe like many of your employees are, I'm sure, like maybe you do invest in tech companies that align with what you believe around privacy or sort of social responsibility.

We very much see that. So it's not that, it doesn't surprise me that much that people are really sort of rallying around companies that align with their interests and want to like talk about them with their friends.

That's great.

I think that's great. I think I want more people to talk about investing and personal wealth and wealth creation because equity investing in stocks is one really great way to do that.

And obviously you work at public, so you believe that as well, I'm sure.

So you recently published, public put out this great document called The Outsiders.

That's what the title is. So maybe you can tell the audience, it just came out on Monday and we'll tell everyone how to find it.

It's on the website under The Outsiders.

But maybe start a little bit and tell the audience, what is this declaration from the, this body of research called The Outsiders?

Yeah. So let me tell you a little bit about why we commissioned this study first.

I think we had this retail investing revolution in 2020 where a bunch of new entrants came into the market.

Stock investing used to be something for like suit and tie, briefcase type people.

And then in 2020, something happened in the fall where it just like clicked and everyone was turned onto the market and everyone started dipping a toe and that really came to a head in sort of early 2021 with the GameStop.

And it was like all you could read about on the news, GameStop and AMC and all of that.

And lots of new folks came into the market. What we weren't seeing though at public was like a really thoughtful examination of who these new investors were.

Like maybe people in Congress or more established investors all thought they were kind of Wall Street bets kind of folks.

And based on what we were seeing in our community, that didn't really resonate with us.

So we commissioned this study to look at, you know, about a few thousand new investors, people who are investing through public and other mobile apps, just to take a look at, okay, who are these people who are, have now like so much more power in the market, frankly, and are so much more involved.

And it turns out that it's a really diverse group.

It is, you know, disproportionately folks of color. It's about 15% African-American, about 15% Hispanic, which is lines up with the larger American population.

And it's different than the class of investors that came before.

It's disproportionately women. They tend to be younger. They tend to have a lower income.

And so you're seeing like a real mix of folks. And it is true, you know, a lot of these people, I think about a third of them came in through these quote unquote, meme stocks.

Meme stocks are the ones that you hear about online, like AMC and GameStop, Nokia, there's a sort of a few of them, a handful of them out there.

And they do that because that's what their friends are talking about around the water cooler or, you know, at the bar, what have you.

But then they build a really, they intend to build a really full, diverse portfolio around that, which is really cool.

It's like, it's a way to meet people where they are, you know, and around popular stocks that people are talking about, their friends are talking about, and then encourage them to really get savvy about how to build a portfolio and, you know, make their money work hard for them.

So I think, I thought that was a pretty cool finding in the report.

I think so too. It's pretty amazing that, I mean, GameStop, the AMC, these are stocks that all of a sudden accrued a lot of value, went up in value very, very short period of time.

And people were confused why, and it's because there was a lot of investors going to buy it.

And I think what you're saying is kind of this moment, this fad, maybe this cultural moment actually is leading to more people, a bigger, diverse group of people getting into investing.

Maybe it's a way that they kind of first discovered it.

It was like the hot new thing. And now they're like, oh, wow, I can actually build real wealth around this, invest in others.

And a mobile app like Public made that accessible, which is pretty cool.

I feel like that's a way how technology is making this more accessible to more people.

As you said, women and people of color, I think that's great.

Yeah. And I should say that Cloudflare is one of the, you know, top 25 companies on our platform.

So, you know, it's an entry to even learn about companies like your own company.

I think, you know, a lot of people looked at GameStop and AMC and they sort of sniffed their nose, I think, about all these like crazy young folks getting in the market and like trying to make a mess of things.

But I sort of see it a little bit differently. I see it that, you know, there's this new cohort of investors.

It's not all young people, but it is sort of disproportionately that way who represent more of America.

And it just goes to show you the power of the new retail investor.

It used to be all these like institutional investors that companies answered to.

Now we have sort of a more mix between retail and institutional investors.

And retail is showing its power in that, you know, companies really have to take their interests seriously, which I think is a positive development in the market.

That's great.

Well, so again, the study that Public published just this week called The Outsiders.

Some of the other things that were really interesting is, like you said, it's opening up the number of investors, retailers, like everyday people who are investing their money in these stocks.

And that once that was at 56% of the people who participated in your study said that they were the first in their family to ever own a stock.

Yeah. Isn't that incredible? That is incredible because there's also, I often read, I read a lot on Twitter.

And there's a lot of, there's kind of this like old age advice of, you know, actually it's not salary that makes you wealthy.

It's really equity that makes you wealthy. It's owning ownership in something else that is how you accrue value.

And, you know, I've seen that many times online.

And I think back to my own upbringing and my dad did invest in stocks.

You know, he ran his own law firm, but he also invested in equities on the side.

And that's what we use to go pay for family vacations or whatnot. So I thought 56% of these people didn't have a parents who were showing them that that was, that, that, that was important is again, I think democratizing access is, is one of tech's great assets.

And I love that you and public are doing that. I learned about investing the same way I, you know, from my dad and I, and I see now in hindsight, how privileged that was.

I think in politics and, you know, you hear a lot about the generational wealth gap and how, you know, we see that gap widening now.

And we've, I really do believe that, you know, retail investing, these new financial tech apps can help sort of bring people on the edges who might have been overlooked by more, you know, legacy financial companies, bring those people into the market so that they can take advantage of this huge growth engine.

That is the U S stock market.

Like the market exists for all Americans and, you know, historically all Americans have not profited equally from it.

And I do think that companies like public is a way to kind of close that gap.

We're not going to solve it by any means, but I think, you know, we can do our part to help close the generational wealth gap.

I think that's great. Okay. So let's say someone's listening and they're like, wow, this sounds really cool.

Where do I start? So let's say somebody wants to sign up for public, like how easy is that?

How hard is that?

Maybe give us a sense of, of how, if there's someone listening and saying, wow, I really, I I'm not investing, but I want to get into it.

What advice would you have for them?

Sure. I would say that it's really easy. I think you should download any of the, you know, self-directed investing apps that are in the app store or in the Google play store.

I'll put it a plug for public. I do think it's the best of the best, but you know, there's, there's definitely, you have your choice out there.

And all of these, these products make it very easy to start a brokerage app.

You have to put in some information because we do have like, know your customer requirements.

So you, it's a little like opening a bank account, except much more straightforward.

You have to put your name and your address and, and bank account information.

So people can know who you are, but that process can take really five minutes and then you're good to go.

I think, you know, with the dawn of new retail investing apps, the barrier to participating in the market is, is no longer not having the tools.

Now the tools are easily at hand. It's on your, it's on your phone.

What the barrier really is, is knowledge and this sort of cultural thing, which makes someone like someone like me, or maybe on the phone is thinking investing is not for me.

It's for like other people like who understand it better, but that's not the case.

And I think really what public does well is through the community helps people get up to speed.

So I would encourage you to download the app, participate in the community, see what folks are talking about, ask a question, nothing, no question is a bad question to see what kind of responses you get.

And you are an investor. We all are investors and you should definitely be participating in the stock market.

I think, you know, another thing that you can do that is, is possible on, but also other apps is there's now fractional, fractional investing available.

So it used to be that to get, one share of Amazon, you would need a thousand dollars, which is really prohibitive for a lot of people.

Like, you know, there's a lot of different places that money could go, but now you could own a slice of Amazon for as little as a dollar or $5.

So, you know, those barriers have definitely been lowered and even having a slice just to sort of see how it works track, you know, the stock chart to see how it's going up and down, I think is really valuable experience.

That's great. Okay.

Thank you. This is good. It makes me want to go and, and, and spend more time on this as well.

So it's, it's a good reminder for all of us. So thank you so much for the push and the nudge and for helping making it easy.

I think that you, like you said, it's the tools are available.

I think that there has been a huge push forward and innovation on the tooling front, and now it's the knowledge and actually doing it.

It's almost creating the habit. And so just starting it, and then you start to get into the habit is a little bit of step one.

So it's good.

Great. Love that. Okay. So we can talk about retail investing all day. Cause there's so much more to talk about.

But I also want to talk about what it's like being a lawyer at a company like Casper and the Wang.

I mean, you've been at three really amazing growth companies in different stages.

So maybe you can tell us a little bit about just briefly, all three companies I'm familiar with all three, but maybe the audience isn't.

And then we'll talk a little bit about what it's like to be an in-house lawyer at a growth company and what you love about your job and things that people, the audience should hear from you, but maybe start by a little bit of each company.

Sure. Let me tell you a little bit about sort of how I ended up at public.

So I'm a lawyer. I went to law school and then I ended up at a law firm, which is sort of the traditional path.

That's where I got my training. And then I went in-house to Casper was my first stop.

Casper is the sleep company. When I joined, it was about, I think 150 people.

We sold one mattress online, delivered on your box, and then you can unbox it and explodes magically in your apartment.

And then, you know, three years later, fast forward, we were selling sort of a whole suite of products for the bedroom sheets and pillows and an alarm clock and, you know, all sorts of, and furniture.

And we had expanded to Asia and Europe and I had, I helped take Casper public.

And so that was a really fun place to really cut my teeth on what it meant to be an in-house generalist from Casper.

I went to the wing, which is a co-working company based out of New York.

We had about 11 locations and I really liked the wing.

It was a great company. It's, it was a place really where you can work and get together with women and sort of chat about, you know, issues that are common to us.

It was really just like a cool place to hang out with your friends.

And I do think that, you know, co-working was a great bet pre -COVID and post-COVID.

I think like the world is their oyster. Then six months ago, I came to public.

So another New York company, I've really been just swimming in the New York startup ecosystem, which is really vibrant out here.

And, you know, the work that I'm doing, even though they're quite different companies, I think what ties it all together is they're all consumer companies.

I really like products that you can see the ad on your taxi or in the subway and something that your parents can talk about and understand.

I just like to see the impact that I have on, you know, people in the real world.

I think that's pretty cool. Definitely very cool. And the fact that you've been at these three growth companies is like, again, you've just had such a collection of experiences.

So maybe share with the audience, what does an in-house general counsel do?

We have about 11 minutes left, so you don't just talk for a few minutes, but just give us a sense of what are some of your responsibilities on a day-to-day basis?

So one of the reasons I really like my job is that it's so varied day-to-day, but generally speaking, there's three categories of work.

First is like negotiating deals. So like Michelle has a new customer that she wants to onboard.

So I'll negotiate the deal for you. And I can do that with, you know, for HR, negotiate with HR vendors or finance with, you know, a software company that they want.

So that part is just like getting the best deal possible for your business team.

Then the second bucket is really compliance. You know, we're all living in a world with a lot of laws and regulations on tech and privacy and data security and HR.

And so my work is really working with the product and engineering team to make sure that all the public products are sort of meeting the requirements in our case, because we are a highly regulated company of the SEC and FINRA, where there's like just a myriad of rules that we need to comply with.

And then finally, which is like the smallest bucket at any startup is really litigation and dispute resolution in case, like hopefully we try and avoid this, but if it does come to blows with someone and someone wants to sue us, that also falls to legal to handle.

So that's like the bread and butter of an in-house job. But what I like about being an in-house lawyer is like, there's also this strategic sort of advisory piece to it where, and, you know, I'm curious how you work with legal at Cloudfair, Michelle, but because in -house lawyers sort of see a whole range of business issues and circumstances at the company and get to know the company really well, I like working with product and engineering to really help them navigate business issues because they, you know, you can bring the whole enterprise perspective, you can see the whole chessboard and help them navigate business issues as well as legal ones.

I think that, you know, everything you said, I do all of that on a daily basis.

There's a contract that we need to find a resolution to and there's, you know, how do we find a path forward, partnering with our legal organization, absolutely strategic nature discussions, hey, I'm thinking about this, what would be the gotchas, help me think and be a thought partner about this and doing it early versus at the end, I think is something that I've learned as I've worked, partnered with our legal organization over time is actually going to your in-house lawyer early and giving them an early heads up of a new product you're thinking about building or a new market you want to enter or an idea you have and kind of saying, hey, yeah, that sounds good, but this is the tricky part, be careful, like, think about that or we have to be, get on top of that or chase that down.

It's better to do it early versus later, so. Yeah, exactly. I have our general counsel on speed dial.

I'm always happy to talk to, like, in a positive way, it's like a positive.

Yeah, exactly. I think, you know, a lot of people think of in-house lawyers as the police, as someone who's going to stop them and so don't want to bring them on until late in the process, but I find myself, I think of myself as an accelerant, like I, my job is to make Michelle more awesome at her job and so to get you the best deal so that you structure whatever new partnership in the most efficient way so you can go as fast as possible and, you know, make the best impact on the company.

So I really think that, you know, you should work with your lawyer as early as possible and give them as much information as possible because at the end of the day, that'll help you look better and sort of really realize your business goals.

That's my pitch. I love it.

All right, good. Well, that's been my experience, but, you know, now I've been at a growth company for 11 years, so it's a good reminder that not everyone sees it that way.

So thank you for sharing that. That's a good, good reminder for all of us.

Okay, so you've worked at all these great companies, maybe, and you talked about kind of the three big buckets of types of work you do, but maybe, can you give us some, maybe two projects that you're really proud of that you got to work on just to help contextualize it for the audience?

Yeah, sure. So maybe I'll think about, so one project, you know, that was really the golden ring for me is I helped take Casper public.

That's, as a startup lawyer, it's one of the things that you look forward to most is ringing the bell.

I really liked that because, you know, it was a team.

I think by the time that we went public, it was about closer to 500 people, split between retail employees and, you know, office employees and headquarters employees.

And they, I had just seen everyone, you know, pull so many late nights and work so hard and to help drive the IPO to completion and like get everyone aligned across all the teams.

It was really a cross-functional effort that was led by legal and finance and to help bring everyone across the finish line and get them and allow them to sort of realize the rewards of their hard work was really fulfilling and was sort of one of the best days of my life.

I think it was really a great day and a great project to work on.

And it was also cool, you know, to work with, you know, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and have sort of be, have all of these really incredible, you know, consultants to sort of guide you along the way.

And it was also a really cool way to learn about the public markets and building a sort of our book of investors.

It was definitely, you know, a little peek behind the curtain.

Another project that I'm working on. I want to hear the next one just before you do, I just wanted to say, I'm like getting a little teary-eyed because we went public two years ago and we just had our two-year anniversary going public at Cloudflare two years, like two weeks or last week.

And I'm getting goosebumps reliving because I also had a great experience.

It's just, it's, we were a bit bigger.

We had about 1100 people when we went public. And but just how much, how much everyone's sweating the details and everyone's contributions added up to something that's something that was bigger than any one person.

It was a really great experience to go through as an adult in your career.

And like you said, it was like a team effort.

It wasn't one person making that happen. It was a plural team effort between finance, legal, and probably your IT teams.

And just like saying, we're going to do this.

And then being able to celebrate that all together is a really special experience that I hope other people who are interested in joining a growth company get to go through.

Because it really was a very fun, uplifting experience for me too.

Yeah, I totally agree. And it's one of those unique moments where the whole team is working towards one shared goal.

And you like feel that when it's working well, like everything like vibrates on the same frequency.

It's really cool. Yeah, that's a good, that's a good analogy. I love that.

Okay, good. We feel like we need some music going off right now. But yes, okay.

What's your second? What's another great project that you work on? One thing that I'm working on now is introducing crypto on the public platform.

You know, I'm a pretty conservative investor.

So I was like, Bitcoin, I don't know about this.

Like, is it really consistent with public? But, you know, kind of, as we said at the top, you know, we have to meet our investors where they are, people are really interested in crypto.

And the more I learn about it, the more I come to understand that it's really, it has to be a part of any diverse portfolio.

Now crypto is, there's so much money in crypto.

It represents a growing share of the overall, you know, investment market out there.

And so any sort of responsible investor really does need that to be a part of it.

And so learning about crypto, which is like totally legally complicated and tricky, and the laws are changing on a day to day basis has been an incredible learning experience.

It's like, I guess, an old dog still can learn new tricks.

I feel like I'm learning something new every day, which is, you know, one of those cool things about being an in-house lawyer is you're always sort of at the edge of, and working in kind of ambiguous circumstances.

So crypto definitely falls into that bucket. Amazing. So maybe for, for the audience who aren't as familiar with crypto and who haven't gone down the rabbit hole, like you have, which I think is, which is, it is this new thing that feels like it's gaining steam, not going away.

Maybe a quick one minute summary of how to think about crypto for this audience, just to maybe get them excited to dip their toe in.

Yeah. So crypto is like Ethereum and Bitcoin are the most popular, they're decentralized digital currency.

So instead of being, you know, run by the Fed or by the US government, like the US dollar, for example, it's run by a decentralized network of computers, which is like kind of mind exploding if you think about it, but it's been working for a while.

And so Bitcoin is sort of an asset that's held and it's, there's a fixed amount of Bitcoin that are out there in the world and it will be capped at a certain amount, you know, in a few years from now.

And so you can easily trade, buy and sell Bitcoin because it's all digital. You don't need to clear like we do, for example, we clear through the stock exchanges.

You don't need to do that. It's all direct because it's all on this decentralized exchange.

And so, you know, the future of Bitcoin is a security. Is it a currency?

Is it a commodity that is all being worked out now, but it definitely is an asset and worth investing in.

And so I would encourage folks to dip their toe in if they can.

And again, it's one of those things that you can sort of start with as little as $1.

So why not? That's great. That was a really good explanation. Thanks for that.

It was good. It's good. It's good. I love it. Okay. What do you, what do you think, sorry?

Oh, sorry. What do you think about crypto? Yeah, no, I mean, I, it's, it's interesting and it's, it's super interesting.

And we, my husband and I also have a, have a small investment in there more just to, to see what it is.

Cause it's, it's one thing to read about it, but another thing to like, well, how do you set how, if you even wanted to invest, where can you do that from?

And just going through the, the going through it, I feel like you learn a lot by doing.

And so, and I read a lot and I, and I try to learn, but it's not my day to day.

So it's a little bit, one of these things where it's like, wow, it feels like this new thing that's really growing.

People are saying, learn about it. And I'm trying to keep up, but definitely not the expert.

And I think making it more accessible to more people is a really big key.

And so that's why I like how you described it. Cause I'm like, wow, that was really accessible.

Something we can all understand.

And, you know, I think that it's hard to predict the future, but it feels like there's something really there.

Yeah. I'm not sure where the future is going, but whatever future it is, it will probably involve crypto.

So I think I'm sort of, I'm in.

Yeah. There's some, there's some, there's some, there's, there's something there, even if we don't have the words to describe where it's going yet, it feels like there's, it's like that mountain that you know, is behind the fog, but you can't quite see it.

I feel like that's a little bit, and it's not just crypto.

I think there's a lot of innovation right now that is the groundswell and it feels like it's accelerating, not decelerating.

So that's great.

And it's fun to be a part of that movement for sure. Amazing. Well, with that note, we're out of time, unfortunately, but it is a fun part to be at this moment.

Thank you so much for joining. This was wonderful. Thank you so much, Michelle.

Have a great day.

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Yes We Can
Join Cloudflare Co-founder, President, and COO Michelle Zatlyn for a series of interviews with women technology leaders. We hope you will learn, laugh, and be inspired by these conversations.
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