How to start a company with no free time

Sara Mauskopf
Nov 16, 2016 · 5 min read

One year ago I quit my job to start Winnie, an app that connects parents with the local information they need most. At the time, my baby was just a few months old. Having a baby and a startup is hard enough, but a few months after starting Winnie, my husband was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and required extensive treatment. I went from having no time to having negative time. Many people told me I had no business starting a company and raising over $2M given my circumstances. Here are 5 things I did that bought me time and made it all possible.

1. Just say no to grabbing coffee

Remember, it’s a VC’s job to meet lots of people and learn about what everyone’s working on so they know what investments to make, but it’s a founder’s job to build their business.

If you’re not raising money you will accomplish very little for your business by meeting with VCs and networking. Building your product and finding product market fit is going to yield much higher dividends for your company than networking.

Feel bad about saying no? That was a huge problem for me. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt declining an invitation, especially since many VCs were extremely persistent. I ultimately figured out how to decline in a polite way that still kept the connection alive. I would say “Hey, during these next couple months it will be very tough for me to meet in person, but I’d love to still help how I can. Can I help with anything over email and we can go from there?”

It turns out this was a great way to get to the point with people. Most people admitted they didn’t have anything pressing to discuss though some would respond with specific questions. One person let me know he was just interested in participating in our round whenever we raised money. We ended up contacting him when we did raise money and he did participate.

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Feel free to drink as much coffee as you want, just make sure to decline those coffee meetings!

2. Prepare your tasks

This way, if I had a few minutes to kill while my husband was waiting for an appointment or a couple hours while my daughter was napping, I didn’t need to waste any of that precious time figuring out what to work on. I got right to work on one of the tasks I had already prepared. This requires upfront planning but doesn’t take very long and it means you only do the planning work once and you have tasks for the whole week. Use Asana or Google Doc for this!

3. Don’t go it alone

As a founder, hiring is the best thing you can spend your time on.

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I’m so lucky to have these people.

4. Ask for actionable help

It turns out “give me feedback” isn’t actionable enough for most people. Now when someone asks me how they can help I will give them something very specific to do: “Download Winnie at winnie.com/ios and write a review of your favorite playground”.

When someone completes this task then they naturally also have feedback for me on what worked well or what could be better about the product.

5. Force yourself to do things imperfectly

The extra couple hours I could spend polishing it won’t make a massive difference in the number of people who read and benefit from this post. Perfectionism is a tough habit to break so you have to set time limits and force yourself to just put things out there even if they aren’t 100% perfect.

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Winnie’s new office. The flooring is definitely not perfect but that’s ok.

Hey, I need validation! Give me a ❤ below.

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Startup Grind

Stories, tips, and learnings from and for startups around…

Sara Mauskopf

Written by

CEO of Winnie (https://winnie.com), helping parents navigate the world with their children. Follow me on Twitter: @sm and @winnie

Startup Grind

Stories, tips, and learnings from and for startups around the world. Welcoming submissions re: startup education, tech trends, product, design, hiring, growth, investing, and more. Interested in submitting? Visit our submission form here: https://airtable.com/shrShpeN89HrzCzOB

Sara Mauskopf

Written by

CEO of Winnie (https://winnie.com), helping parents navigate the world with their children. Follow me on Twitter: @sm and @winnie

Startup Grind

Stories, tips, and learnings from and for startups around the world. Welcoming submissions re: startup education, tech trends, product, design, hiring, growth, investing, and more. Interested in submitting? Visit our submission form here: https://airtable.com/shrShpeN89HrzCzOB

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