From Employee to Founder: Building Beehiiv – an Industry-Leading Platform for Creators

Tyler Denk

Being transparent about your actions and values creates a powerful shift in perception.

While some may find it exposes differences, it ultimately portrays you as someone genuine and trustworthy, unafraid to be authentic.

The same goes for companies as well.

Transparency will connect your business with the right customers who resonate with your brand’s values and mission.

It also demonstrates reliability, trustworthiness, and a commitment to exceeding your customer expectations.

Whatever you build, build in public

While some founders prefer private development, companies that share their struggles and successes with employees, customers, investors, and families reap significant benefits.

Even the smallest thing like posting on social media can be incredibly impactful.

Users who read your posts will feel appreciated, valued, and connected to the people behind your brand, creating a sense of community and loyalty. 

This connection encourages them to share positive experiences directly, serving as free, unbiased marketing. 

And reposting these positive experiences, especially by CEOs and brand accounts, provides powerful social proof, demonstrating real people enjoy your product, building trust and credibility.

Plus, building in public benefits more than just your customers. 

Investors appreciate transparency, and Tyler Denk, CEO of beehiiv, raised $12.5M funds in just six days through constant social media and newsletter updates.

So never underestimate the power of building in public. 

By embracing transparency and sharing your journey, you unlock a multitude of benefits for your business and build a foundation for long-term success.

Who is Tyler Denk?

Tyler is the CEO of beehiiv, a newsletter platform that helps creators and publishers to create, monetize, and grow their audiences.

Long before co-founding beehiiv, while he was an undergrad at University of Maryland, Tyler taught himself software development and launched his first startup called VentureStorm.

VentureStorm was a web application that connected entrepreneurs and startups to talented software developers.

He exited his startup and continued to work with startups by building and integrating innovative technology solutions to stimulate growth.

Tyler was part of Morning Brew, being the second employee in the company in a role that spanned engineering, product, and growth.

He was responsible for building the renowned referral program and bespoke tech ecosystem that facilitated the company to scale to a successful $75m exit in 2020. 

He also worked for almost a year at Google as a Product Lead at YouTube Music.

After everything he learned at Google and Morning Brew, he took the know-how and built beehiiv and launched it in October 2021 together with Benjamin Hargett and Jake Hurd.

Tyler realized the potential of growth of building in public and that is exactly what he does with his company.

Now he’s leading by example, documenting his journey and building his personal brand on LinkedIn where he grew an audience of almost 20,000 followers.

Besides beehiiv, he likes to spend his time building projects such as Big Desk Energy which is a popular Spotify playlist and also a web destination.

How does he X and why is he a B2B creator?

  1. Working at Morning Brew
  2. Co-founding beehiiv
  3. Building in public
  4. Doing things that don’t scale

A. Working at Morning Brew

Tyler was the second employee hired by Morning Brew back in 2017 and wore a lot of hats working in product, growth, and engineering.

At the time he was hired, Morning Brew was a daily newsletter that covered business, news, and finance for the millennial generation.

When he first joined, the newsletter was sent to 15,000 people daily from Monday to Friday, and when he left in 2020 the newsletter was sent to 3.5 million subscribers seven days a week. 

Tyler said the story on The Prof G Show Podcast of how he ended up working for Morning Brew. 

His friend Austin Rief, who was his college friend, called him and asked if he could build a referral program.

Tyler lied and said he could because he was young and had little money at the time.

He wanted to quit like five times thinking he cannot build the program.

He eventually figured things out and the program worked, so he ended up spending the following months building more since he was the first engineer they had on the team.

He worked at the website, the referral, social share icons, and a lot more.

He was on a contract basis but since it was a startup, he had access to all the information, feedback, and the company inbox where he could see what others were saying about Morning Brew.

That was his “Aha” moment realizing that what they were doing at Morning Brew was something that people were interested about since they presented the news in a more conversational and funny style.

B. Co-founding beehiiv

Tyler left Morning Brew right before it was acquired in 2020 by The Business Insider.

He didn’t know at the time that it would be acquired.

What made him consider building a newsletter platform was the feedback they received at Morning Brew.

People had a big appetite for newsletters and they had an entire appetite for the software Morning Brew had.

They wanted to know how their emails look so great, how to make a team work so smoothly, how to integrate advertisements so well, and how to integrate growth and analytics tools to understand the audience better.

Since Tyler worked a lot on the website and software, he had to deal with a lot of tools and integrations and saw what worked and what didn’t.

He then thought how could he help everyone who has a newsletter to run things more smoothly?

At the same time he saw companies like Substack raising $65M valuation at the time.

And that made him think that with his knowledge base and what he learned at Morning Brew he could launch a company around newsletters. 

This only after Morning Brew didn’t say anything about him building a white-label newsletter software for them. 

But why did he think he can compete with Substrack or ConvertKit?

He thought that the Morning Brew internal tech team had a lot more flexibility and customization for their writers.

What Tyler thinks is that Substrack wants to help their writers earn a living similar to Patreon where you monetize your clients and charge a subscription.

He thinks that there is a small niche of people willing to pay for a newsletter subscription.

And what he does at beehiiv is make it as easy as possible to create good looking content where writers can engage with their audiences.

And if they want to monetize, rather than having to insert all types of ads from B2C brands, beehiiv can facilitate that transaction and place premium ads in their newsletter without having a sales team to do this for you.

C. Building in public

At the beginning of beehiiv, Tyler used to ask each of the users before using their platform for X and LinkedIn.

It was a precious thing to do to ensure users were legit and not spam.

But it was also a growth hack.

He connected with each one of them on social media, and most of them followed him back.

This helped when he started building in public.

Now people feel they are being invested in what he was building, they are part of the journey.

When beehiiv launches new features, Tyler posts on his social accounts and his followers react, repost and send their feedback to him.

This also is a great way to see if what you’re building is what people want, but also a growth multiplier because the reshares reach new audiences.

And if someone has a question about beehiiv, they instantly jump to help.

Tyler also reshares posts from their users who show appreciation for their platform and what they’re building.

This is also social proof for beehiiv, but it also shows that the company’s CEO cares about making his customers happy.

One of Tyler’s pieces of advice if you’re an entrepreneur or startup founder is to send a monthly investor update.

Tyler used to send one to his investors, employees, friends, and family.

It was not something mandatory, but it was something that made others gain more trust in him.

It’s also what helped him raise $12.5M Series A in just 6 days.

Since he’s building in public, he created a monthly Investor Journey newsletter sharing with everyone the company updates.

But building in public is not all about money isn’t it?

Tyler created a playbook about their shipping velocity, about their productivity, and team culture.

He included everything from the software they use, the meetings they have, and the processes they put into place.

Tyler believes that people like to see and hear how someone creates that way, he wrote in Big Desk Energy that

It’s human nature to want stories and follow narratives. It’s the reason we watch movies and read books. People want to follow people (not brands).

D. Doing things that don’t scale

This sounds counterintuitive, right?

There is a startup philosophy written by Paul Graham in one of his essays and he says “do things that don’t scale”.

Scaling is crucial for success, but in a start-up there are so many early stage activities that are not scalable but are essential for growth.

Successful companies may appear as large, optimized entities dealing in millions or billions.

Tyler strongly believes in the early stages founders need to invest time and effort in non-scalable activities such as reaching out to individual users personally, responding to their needs, and addressing issues on a one-on-one basis (similar to how he did when he reached out to each one of beehiiv’s new customer).

Engaging directly with users and tackling laborious tasks helps them gain a deeper understanding of their market, build meaningful connections with users, develop the discipline to take action, and make progress.

In one of his newsletter issues, Tyler says that “The “good enough” solution may not scale, but progress beats perfection.”

It may seem that investing in such activities is a waste of time and may seem inefficient in the short term but it will contribute to a foundation of learning and building relationships.

And no matter how small the progress, it will compound over time.

What can B2B creators learn from Tyler?

1. Build in public

Tyler’s emphasis on building in public has proven beneficial for beehiiv.

So it’s important to understand that transparency and sharing your journey with others such as customers, potential buyers, and investors can create a sense of community and loyalty. 

If you’re a founder, sending updates on social media and newsletters will make customers feel appreciated.

This appreciation may later come back to you as a powerful social proof, enhancing trust and credibility. 

Tyler’s example at beehiiv demonstrates building in public can contribute to customer engagement, more buyers, and fundraising success.

Not to mention it will also help you build a personal brand as someone who cares about their business and most importantly, its users.

2. Use social media for growth

No need to say again that Tyler’s approach of personally connecting with users on social media was a growth multiplier for beehiiv. 

Engaging with users individually can help you build a closer relationship with the audience because they’ll get to know a piece of you, and most likely if they like you the chances of liking what you sell are high. 

So they’ll be more eager to share their experiences and feedback with you.

Again, this will act like a social proof for your company showing how you solve issues, how you appreciate your customers.

3. Invest Time in Non-Scalable Activities

Tyler’s belief in doing things that don’t scale, especially in the early stages of a startup, carries an important lesson for future entrepreneurs.

Investing time and effort in non-scalable activities, such as personally reaching out to users, addressing individual needs, and providing hands-on support, can lay the foundation for long-term success.

Bit by bit, these non-scalable activities will contribute to a deeper understanding of the market and building lasting relationships.

Final Thoughts

Tyler’s ambition resonates as a guiding force in beehiiv.

And adding being authentic and and transparent with everything they do at beehiiv made the business successful.

So remember that whatever you build, build it in public and show others your values and what you stand for.