$33M just hit the bank

What is going to happen next?

TechCrunch may have published first, but you all are the first to get the news directly from the source. 

Today we announced our $33M Series B led by NEA, with a handful of other investors like Lightspeed Venture Partners (who led our Series A), Sapphire Sport, Social Leverage, and others. 

So what does this mean for the future of beehiiv? And how did we get here? 

Let’s break it all down… 

Actually, first this.

hype train GIF

Alright, now let's dig in. 

Why are we building beehiiv in the first place?

I have worked first-hand with dozens of content creators, publishers, and businesses who have struggled to really unlock the value of email. Whether it’s overpaying for clunky software, or trying to piece together a handful of different solutions… building a successful newsletter has been far too difficult and expensive. 

But if you can crack the code, it can be incredibly rewarding. 

I should know. I was the 2nd employee at Morning Brew and helped build the infrastructure and growth tools to help the company scale to a $75M acquisition by Business Insider. 

And newsletters are having a real moment. 

  • There have been a handful of high profile acquisitions in addition to Morning Brew like Politico, The Hustle, Axios, and Chartr. 

  • More companies are launching as email-first like Puck, Workweek, and Punchbowl News. 

  • Dozens of high profile talent and creators are launching newsletters like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Josh Richards, Dr. Jen Ashton, Robin Arzón, and others. 

  • And more established publishers like The New York Times, Vox Media, The Atlantic, and The Information are all shifting more focus into email.

We launched beehiiv to create more of these success stories. And it’s working…

  • Milk Road launched on beehiiv and was acquired for millions of dollars less than a year later.

  • Other acquisitions of beehiiv newsletters include Big Brain, Psychology of Marketing, Practical AI, and many many more. 

  • That list of high profile talent above all recently launched their newsletters on beehiiv

  • Our growth tools have led to tens of millions of new subscribers for users.

  • Our monetization tools have paid out millions of dollars to our users as well.

Email is one of the last remaining channels to truly own your audience and distribution. It’s also a remarkably efficient channel to generate revenue.

beehiiv exists to make this all possible.

Take me back to the beginning. 

I left Morning Brew in 2020 right around the time of the acquisition. Literally a week later, while I had nothing to do in-between jobs and isolated with COVID, I called Ben and tried convincing him there was a real opportunity to build something here. Ben was the first engineer I hired at Morning Brew and was an absolute joy to work with.

We both acknowledged how tall of a task it was to build something like this. The industry was so competitive, and the roadmap was so daunting, it’d be nearly a year before we’d have something remotely usable. So he suggested bringing on his best friend, Jake, as a third cofounder. He was also a software engineer at Morning Brew, and would provide some additional engineering firepower into the mix.

And so it began — the most stressful period of our lives. Spending every single night and weekend building beehiiv as a side project while balancing our full-time jobs.

I’ll never forget the pit of anxiety I woke up with every morning. We were pouring endless hours into building this thing, but knew at any moment, one of the dozens of competitors could launch something to render our work entirely useless.

We were overly excited and incredibly burnt out… all while grappling with the reality that this could all lead to absolutely nothing.

Random Saturday in Brooklyn building stuff

Fast forward to the summer of 2021 and the app was beginning to take shape.

Ben and Jake were both just 24, each married, and had a family to support. Going all in on beehiiv took a little bit of convincing, and the only path forward was to raise a bit of money. Not only to pay ourselves a salary, but there were a handful of vendors we needed to pay to get the company off the ground. Plus, we weren’t going to be able to do this alone — we needed to hire some extremely talented people to come along for the ride.

I spent all of July 2021 networking and pitching investors. I lost count at how many thought we had a 0% chance of competing with Substack, Mailchimp, Revue (RIP), and Bulletin (RIP x2). 

But Howard Lindzon and the team at Social Leverage believed in us — they led our $2.6M seed round. The day that wire hit the bank we quit our jobs and were off to the races.

Building in public

I love startups, and wish I had the opportunity to follow along and learn from some of my favorite entrepreneurs as they built their businesses in real-time. So I made the decision from the very beginning to share this journey publicly — the ups and the downs. 

The ups…

And the downs…

And while I genuinely do want to provide value and inspire others, building in public can also be a real super power (I wrote a whole post about it here). It’s helped us reach new audiences, users, and investors.

As I continued to publicly share the progress of the business and the success stories from our users… dozens of investors would reach out each week. And I ignored all of them.

At the time, we didn’t need the money. And truthfully, I didn’t care to bullshit on Zoom for 30 minutes about our vision and traction. My time was better spent executing and building the business.

So building and executing is what we did. And trust me, if you can continue to scale revenue, those same investors you ignored will gladly take your call when the right time comes.

And the time came…

About a year ago, back in May 2023, I was up past midnight doing my nightly sweep of escalated support tickets.

We had just experienced our first marginally profitable month and were growing revenues ~30% MoM. It felt like we had all the momentum in the world, but it also felt like we were at a real breaking point.

  • I was absolutely drained, routinely working past midnight 7 days a week.

  • Our engineering team was running on fumes, relentlessly launching new features and putting out fires all the same.

  • Every team from support to growth felt understaffed and overworked.

At the time we were spending about $300k each month and only had $1.2M in the bank.

Ultimately, my primary job is to ensure the business continues to exist, plan for the unexpected, and live to fight another day. That night back in May 2023, it just sort of smacked me in the face — we were flying a little too close to the sun.

So I reached out to one of those investors who had relentlessly been emailing me for months, Faraz Fatemi at Lightspeed. He also happened to sit me next to Jessica Alba at one of their hosted dinners in LA, but that’s a different story. 

I told him we were down to explore what a Series A would look like.

And as for the benefits of building in public — Faraz and Lightspeed already had all of the numbers they needed as they had been following along for months. No pitch deck, no rounds of diligence calls, no bullshit. We had a term sheet in hand less than a week later. 

Funding secured. 

After the Series A money hit the bank, we executed like I’ve never seen a team execute before. 

In Q3 alone last year, we…

  • More than doubled the team from 20 to 40+ employees.

  • Launched more features than most companies do in a full year.

  • Acquired Swapstack, a newsletter advertising marketplace.

  • Launched our own beehiiv Ad Network. 

  • Rebranded the entire company. 

And it didn’t stop there — we’ve been in a real groove the past six months. beehiiv currently…

  • Employs over 60 people across 8 countries. 

  • Generates over $1M in revenue per month.

  • Sends more than 1B emails per month (with a B). 

  • Is home to thousands of the most popular newsletters in the world.

  • And continues to launch features at a breakneck pace.

In fact, in just the past two weeks we’ve launched two absolutely massive new features:

  1. A brand new website builder to better compete with Carrd, Webflow, and Wordpress.

  2. The ability to offer multiple paid subscription tiers at different prices to better compete with Substack, Ghost, and Patreon. 

Translation: we are not slowing down. 

Not only have we been able to accomplish all of this in just over two short years, but we have done it in such an incredibly efficient manner. In fact, we burned less than $2M in all of 2023 and have continued to scale the business at near breakeven. 

How? 

We have been fairly conservative in hiring. We haven’t really invested in top of funnel marketing. We haven’t really turned on the jets yet.

But something changed for us in Q1. I think collectively our mindset shifted…

  • from: “can we compete in this hyper-competitive market?”

  • to: “can we OWN this market and also define new categories?”

And now, with over $40M in the bank and the company really beginning to hit its stride — it’s time to turn on the jets. 

For users that means…

  • More quality features that continue to deliver value.

  • Increased reliability to ensure the platform is always running smoothly.

  • Faster premium support available to everyone.

  • Continuing to push the boundaries of what’s possible with email.

Today, I think beehiiv is the most robust, user-friendly, and affordable platform in the industry. But I also don’t think we have realized even a fraction of its full potential. 

I have never had more conviction in anything than the conviction I have in this team. From top to bottom, everyone is so remarkably talented and passionate about helping our users succeed. We have a long way to go, but I can’t overstate how motivated this team is to deliver. 

The money hit the bank, but rent is still due baby.

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Credit: Alex Berk

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