Why time is not money, and how founders should spend their time

Some say time is money. It is not. Money is time. And when startup founders run out of money, they run out of time. 

Time is Opportunity. And startups are defined by Opportunity. When Opportunity disappears, so does the startup. But every day the startup lives, Opportunity lives on.

But what exactly is Opportunity?

Opportunity is the freedom to perform actions of your choosing. Some actions will make great use of the time. And some actions will be a waste of the same time. 

Imagine being given chips to a casino valid for one night. One could spend the night posing in the bathroom mirror. Or one could spend the night playing the blackjack table. Or perhaps seducing the waiter.

The chips provide Opportunity. But the value of Opportunity is defined by the actions of the player. 

Great startup founders understand the value of Opportunity. And when startups fail, it is often because the founders wasted Opportunity. Like posing in the bathroom mirror rather than laying down chips on the blackjack table.

In the context of early-stage startups, one use of time is more valuable than anything else. To obtain original insight. Insight about future customers, the psychological makeup of their users, and their future needs.

When Templafy entered Accelerace in 2013, the founders had spent the past year obtaining original insight. And it was this insight that led to the product-market-fit that made them the global leader within template management SaaS. 

The founders knew that enterprises were considering switching from desktop-based Microsoft office to cloud-based versions such as Google Docs and MS 365. But at a more granular level, they knew that this change would leave the brand manager with no chance of controlling templates across the organization. At even further insightfulness, they understood that brand managers hate to police their colleagues about the correct use of templates. In effect, the founders had obtained insight into the very psychological makeup of their customers. 

At the same time, the Templafy founders had refrained from other things. When they entered Accelerace, they did not have a pitch deck. They had no incorporated entity. They had no brand t-shirts. They had not been to a single startup conference. They had no website. Eventually, they did turn their attention to these things. But they understood how to spend their time.

When startup founders allocate time, many look to successful startups for clues. And today many new SaaS startups would look at Templafy. But that would be a mistake. Today, Templafy knows its customers to the minutest and most intimate degree. Put differently, they already have original insight. This means that they can focus on other and more visible things. Such as experimenting with pricing models, doing content marketing, and employee branding. 

Mistakenly, many founders think such action courses success. They do not. Such actions amplify success. Instead, success is coursed by having original insight and then acting on it. But obtaining original insight requires the founders to focus their time on this activity.

How? By living with your customer. To see what their day is like. To understand which pages that open upon the start of their browser. To understand what the agenda in internal meetings are like. Understand what decision they can make, and which require approval. To understand their fears and their pride. Joys and sorrows. To understand what will happen to them in two, five, and seven years. And then understand how you can play a role in shaping this future.

Spend your time wisely, it may cost you Life.

If you want mentorship in spending your time right, then apply to our acceleration programs Accelerace and Overkill.


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