The Art of Not Building
2 min read

The Art of Not Building

The Art of Not Building

We all love the story of the person who pushes through everything to bring an idea to life. In many respects, it comes from the contrast with our day-to-day experience of how hard it is to do that. When things get tough it's so easy to give in - and often we do. Through trying to turn an idea into a company I realized it doesn't always have to be a bad thing.

I hate writing this post because I've been so focused on building and creating. Not letting any roadblock get in my way. After this journey, I have a slightly healthier relationship with perseverance.

My idea is kinda cool (by my account). It's basically M1 Finance but for donating.


Here is how it would work:

This would allow for seamless giving to causes you care about. So in this case for every dollar that means:

$0.30 to The Ocean Agency
$0.20 to Make A Wish
$0.20 to Habitat for Humanity
$0.30 to NAACP.

These percentages could be customized to whatever you'd like. Just as automated passive investing is arguably the best way to invest. Automated passive donating is the best way to give.

Stripe -> money to us -> disburse to accounts

We'd take the amount that they're giving and take out the payment processing fee. Now it's in our system we break it out by charities. We can have a ledger for each charity where we keep track of donations. Once a week we go through all charities with a balance and pay them out using an API.

All was good and well! I'd start working on it and before I know it I'd have a launched app! Not so fast.


I spoke with some people about the idea and there was no excitement. One of those people being a CFO of a NGO. What... How could someone not love the idea, aren't they passionate about giving? Turns out not so much. It also turns out most people prefer to give to one cause they care about. American Cancer Society if they've been affected by cancer. The Ocean Agency if they care about the environment, etc.

An even bigger issue: laws. I spoke with a payments expert at work and I'd likely need a Money Transmitter Licence:

Money Transmitter - you must be transmitting money either in the US or abroad on behalf of another person or persons.

This was spot on. You need to have a $500k surety bond, a lot of documents, and there's generally a lot of red tape. This didn't sound like it could be a fun little side project.


“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.” - Steve Jobs

Knowing when to kill an idea/project is as important as knowing what to work on.  Just because you're passionate about an idea doesn't mean you should work on it. I hate giving up. In this case, it was the right move to do. No one wanted the idea and red tape was everywhere.

Thank you, next.