Sunshine and rainbows

Building a startup is so damn hard.

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.

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 to 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 post or know someone who may find it useful, please share it with them and encourage them to subscribe:

Credit: Cameron Armstrong

Shoutout to Cameron for the reader submission. Had this one in my back pocket for a while now, but with the eclipse yesterday it felt like a good time to get a little intergalactic.

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Turn on, tune in, drop out. Click on any of the tracks below to get in a groove — each selected from the full Big Desk Energy playlist.

Some of my favorite content I found on the internet this week…

  • Yahoo launches and also acquires Artifact, the company started by the Instagram founders (The Verge)

  • Our friends at Course Studio dropped an awesome case study on our other friends, Colin & Samir (Course Studio)

  • UK man runs the full length of Africa in just under a year (AP)

  • A look back on what made Larry David so Larry David (New York Times)

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