During early embryonic development both the rapid increase in cell number and the expression of genes that control developmental decisions are tightly regulated. Accumulating evidence has indicated that these two seemingly independent processes are mechanistically intertwined. The picture that emerges from studies on the cell cycle of embryonic stem cells is one in which proteins that promote cell cycle progression prevent differentiation and vice versa. Here, we review which transcription factors and signalling pathways play a role in both maintenance of pluripotency as well as cell cycle progression. We will not only describe the mechanism behind their function but also discuss the role of these regulators in different states of mouse pluripotency. Finally, we elaborate on how canonical cell cycle regulators impact on the molecular networks that control the maintenance of pluripotency and lineage specification.