Sunshine and rainbows

Behind the scenes of Beehiiv 400% YoY growth

In partnership with

About 10 months ago, we interviewed Tyler Denk, the founder and CEO of beehiiv (the newsletter platform we use to write and publish Founder Secrets). At the time, beehiiv was roughly 18 months old and it was already generating $2.5M in annual recurring revenue.

Less than a year since that interview, beehiiv is now doing north of $13M in annual recurring revenue. That's an astonishing 400% growth. The newsletter community loves beehiiv, their growth is insane, and things couldn't be going better for the company.

But have you ever wondered what it's like to be the CEO of such a fast growing startup? What it's like to handle the pressure, the stress, the intense rhythms? How it can affect your relationships and turn your life upside down?

Tyler Denk from Beehiiv

*Tyler originally wrote this piece for his newsletter, Big Desk Energy. I usually write the articles from scratch after interviewing the founder, but this was so deep, thoughtful and well-written that this time I’ll just let Tyler take it from here. And if you haven’t already, I highly recommend subscribing to Big Desk Energy. Tyler is literally an open book about everything that goes into building beehiiv — growth strategies, challenges, fundraising, etc. You’ll rarely find another place on the internet where you can learn so much about startups directly from a founder building something great.

Building a startup is so fucking hard

This past week, beehiiv co-hosted a dinner in LA with an amazing group of creators and founders. I sat next to two insanely impressive founders whose companies are just crushing it.

LA Creator Dinner

Despite their young startups making millions of dollars per month, they both kept talking about how many times they’ve considered quitting lately.

The ups and downs of building a startup are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve experienced manic-like highs that I used to only dream about, and the lowest of lows… all within the same day. And that’s just a normal Tuesday.

I read Adam Dunn’s book, Burn Rate, and nearly convinced myself I too was bipolar. I’ve never been happier in my life. I’m genuinely having a ton of fun building this and am so proud of the team for what we’ve been able to accomplish.

But I’ve also made so many sacrifices in my life to make this possible. I live day-to-day with the weight of the world on my shoulders (or so it feels), as I sit alone in my room working for ~14 hours at a time, 6 or so days per week.

We have 60+ employees now (which is wild) and just a never ending backlog of things to build, bugs to fix, initiatives to launch, customers to please, people to hire, and partnerships to nurture.

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I try to carve out the time to work alongside and build relationships with as many employees as I can. But in any given week I’m also leading and juggling a handful of product and growth initiatives, and on the frontlines engaging with our users. There just simply isn’t enough time in the day.

But it’s not without trying.

I wake up at 5:30am every day, Monday through Friday. I do my morning routine, hit the gym, and am back in my room, showered and plugged in by 8:00am.

As I’ve shared previously — Tuesdays and Thursdays are focus days at beehiiv, and they’re euphoric.

Which makes the others days of the week anything but.

  • Usually 6-8 hours straight of meetings starting at 8:00am.

  • Watching my inbox and Slack climb to hundreds of unread messages while I’m helplessly stuck in meetings.

  • Squeezing in a quick lunch before “beginning” my day of actual work around 4:00pm.

When I finally find the time to pickup my phone, I’m usually 50+ text messages behind and just default to being dismissive. It’s led me to become a pretty terrible communicator with my friends and family.

Whereas my top priority on any given day is just finishing work before 10:00pm so I can get enough sleep before another 5:30am wakeup.

And that’s a good day.

But in true startup fashion, our days usually contain a bit more excitement…

  • Scaling issues

  • Critical bugs

  • Bot attacks

  • User complaints

  • Vendor outages

  • Legal issues

  • Negotiating compensation

  • Renegotiating contracts

  • Handling user escalations

  • Course correcting off track projects

  • Getting pulled into hiring processes

  • And tons of unexpected p0 issues

It’s literally a startup bingo card. And on any given day you can bet on a few of those.

But there are moments amidst the chaos that make it all worth it:

  • Launching a massive new feature

  • Celebrating milestones with the team

  • Landing a phenomenal new hire

  • Watching employees accomplish their goals

  • Closing huge enterprise deals

  • Making fun of everyone during all-hands

  • Users sharing milestones and thanking us

The types of moments and accomplishments that almost make you forget all the difficult things the team had to overcome to achieve them. The types of wins that make it all worth it.

But being able to scale the company and execute at this pace doesn’t just happen by clocking a normal 9 to 5.

Friday nights have become my safe haven. Staying in and working while everyone else is out is one of the few opportunities I have to really focus and do deep work.

And weekends, which used to be an opportunity to unplug and let loose. Lately, they’ve become the only time I have to finish tasks from the week or relax and catch up on sleep.

You’re probably reading this and thinking—dude just chill the fuck out. And I get that.

But why would I?

Taking my foot off the gas would likely just result in less things getting done, which means less progress and ultimately more stress.

We launched just over two years ago and are doing nearly $1.25M per month in revenue. And we haven’t even turned on the jets yet, trust me. It’s coming, and I think we have a clear path to doing $3M+ per month by the end of this year.

I’m not a moron — I know there’s a lot more to life than MRR (I enjoyed writing that line). But building a massively successful company is at the top of my list of to-do’s, and I’m aware of the trade offs.

Believe it or not, I didn’t just write this post to bitch and complain (although it feels pretty good to do so). I wrote it because when I chose to build in public, I promised and share the ups and the downs of this journey.

I’m one of the most optimistic and happy people you’ll come across, and 90% of what I’ve shared publicly is overwhelmingly positive. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows to make this thing work. It’s really hard; even miserable at times.

But to transition this post into something useful for anyone considering building a company — I’d recommend being extremely diligent with who you choose to work with.

I am so fortunate to have two incredible cofounders, and a team of remarkably passionate and talented people to lean on. I couldn’t do this alone, nor would I want to.

Do whatever it takes to get the right people on your side. It’s worth it.

If you enjoyed this piece and want to continue reading from Tyler, you can subscribe to Big Desk Energy with one click. And if you want to follow along, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.