Startups: You’re Wasting Your Time

Max Lynch
2 min readDec 12, 2016


Founders: chances are you’re wasting your time on a few consistent things and might not know it. Opportunities abound, but most are thinly veiled distractions.

From one founder to another, here are the things you should give yourself permission to say “no” to, either completely or until you’re later stage:

  • Pitch events
  • Business plan contests
  • Applying to accelerators/incubators (except the very top ones)
  • Generic startup/trade shows
  • Award ceremonies
  • PR
  • Grabbing coffee with literally everyone
  • Meeting service providers (legal, accounting, etc).
  • Hunting for office space
  • Writing blog posts like this one
  • Anything that sounds like it would fit on this list

Instead, make the hard decision to do these Three Things:

  • Talk to customers
  • Build your product in a rapid, iterative way
  • Share it with those customers and activate them

That’s it. Ignore the opportunity to pitch or compete in pitch contests. Skip accelerators unless you have an opportunity to get into one of the best ones. Pass up frivolous awards and ceremonies. Ignore emails and don’t send your own to set up coffee. Let service providers and sales pitches go unhumored.

To some, this might all seem obvious. However, saying “no” and focusing on the Three Things is one of the hardest things for founders to do, and yet one of the most crucial.

Have the humility to admit to yourself that nothing else matters if you don’t get users and customers. Understand that the best opportunities are born out of traction. Know that traction is the major way you’ll find satisfaction in the business over time.

Don’t let yourself “play” startup. Don’t let other people control your calendar and your valuable time building your business. Don’t feel obligated to do anything except build your business.

Don’t waste your time.


Someone who learns this the hard way each and every day



Max Lynch

Co-founder @ionicframework. I build stuff for computers, humans, and robots.