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A Founder's Guide on How to Spend Time

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

As you start your startup journey, managing your time effectively is paramount. It can be hard to stay focused while working on every part of your startup, and it only gets harder by the key areas changing with the stage your startup is in. To help with this, we broke down where your time should be spent based on stage and the 5 categories:

Admin - Legal, finance, hiring, and other tasks that are core to running your startup

Sales - Finding leads, reaching out to them, and closing a sale. This blends into marketing with business-to-consumer (b2c) startups.

Marketing - Branding, social media, landing pages, advertising

Product Development - Design, engineering, testing

Research - tool research, user research, training, etc

If you need help tracking your time, join FounderWay and use our AI time breakdown tool that analyzes the tasks and goals that you have on your checklist.

Time Allocation per Stage

Idea Stage: Research & Validation

At the idea stage, you're fuelled by passion and brimming with innovative ideas. Your primary focus here should be on research and validation. Spend time conducting market research to identify potential customers, their pain points, and the viability of your idea. This will help you fine-tune your concept and validate its potential

Research: Identify and research your target market and industry to gain insights on competition, key actions, key obstacles, and key partners.

Product Development: Begin shaping and designing your idea into a minimum viable product (MVP) to demo for feedback from potential investors and early adopters.

Marketing: Start looking into shaping your brand and messaging

Admin: Start planning on who you need to add to your team based on your strengths and weaknesses

Sales: Start reaching out to potential partners

Recommended Time Allocation:

  • Admin: 5%

  • Sales: 10%

  • Marketing: 15%

  • Product Development: 20%

  • Research: 50%

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Stage: Iteration & Traction

Congratulations! You've successfully developed an MVP, which is a testament to your hard work and dedication. Now it's time to gather feedback and iterate based on user insights. At this stage, your focus should shift to refining your product, gaining traction, and establishing a solid foundation for growth.

Product Development: Continuously improve and enhance your MVP based on user feedback and market demands.

Research: Deepen your understanding of user behavior and preferences to optimize your product-market fit.

Sales: Building relationships with potential customers and partners to gather feedback and generate early sales and users.

Admin: Get incorporated, set up IP protection, finalize your initial capital table, set up accounting, hire or add to your team, and set up a data room

Marketing: Start initial marketing for brand awareness and further honing of your messaging

Recommended Time Allocation:

  • Admin: 10%

  • Sales: 10%

  • Marketing: 10%

  • Product Development: 40%

  • Research: 30%

Pre-Seed Stage: Momentum & Product-Market-Fit

In the pre-seed stage, your startup is gaining momentum and will need to hone your Product-Market-Fit. This stage demands a delicate balance between product development, research, and laying the groundwork for your marketing and sales strategies.

Additionally, this is typically when founders start preparing for investor pitches. If you are not looking for investors, you can shift your time back into Research and Product Development.

Product Development: Polish your product to a level that impresses investors and aligns with market demands.

Research: Refine your target audience profiles, analyze customer acquisition channels

Sales: Start building the foundations for a repeatable sales process, and closing more sales

Marketing: Develop a clear brand message, establish a compelling online presence, and start building out your internal marketing processes.

Admin: Hire team members, set up HR benefits and processes, identify and monitor key metrics also known as Key Performance Indicators (KPI), update your data room, and start your fundraising process

Recommended Time Allocation:

  • Admin: 20%

  • Sales: 15%

  • Marketing: 15%

  • Product Development: 30%

  • Research: 20%

Seed Stage: Scaling & Market Penetration

Now it's time to scale up operations, acquire more customers, and refine your business model. At this stage, you should focus on building a robust sales and marketing engine, expanding your team, and optimizing your product for growth.

Some startups will also start a second round of fundraising to further accelerate their growth. If you are not fundraising during this stage, allocate additional time to research to stay aligned with your customers.

Sales: Streamline your sales processes, train your team, and focus on customer acquisition and retention strategies.

Marketing: Implement targeted marketing campaigns, optimize your website for lead generation and conversion, and streamline your internal marketing processes.

Product Development: Prioritize feature enhancements and scalability to meet the growing demands of your customer base.

Research: Continue to seek and monitor customer feedback to help guide Product Development

Admin: Additional hiring, update your data room, and start your fundraising process

Recommended Time Allocation:

  • Admin: 20%

  • Sales: 30%

  • Marketing: 20%

  • Product Development: 25%

  • Research: 5%


As a founder, your time is a precious resource that must be allocated strategically. You can maximize your chances of success by understanding where to invest your efforts at each stage of your startup's journey.

Don't forget! If you need help tracking your time, join FounderWay and use our AI time breakdown tool that analyzes the tasks and goals that you have in our checklist tool.

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