Diana Kander is an entrepreneur, investor and advisor to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. She acts as the organization’s entrepreneur-in-residence and helps foster community in KC’s burgeoning startup ecosystem. turnstone caught up with her to chat about women in entrepreneurial roles, and the unique challenges they face.
What unique challenges do women entrepreneurs, particularly in technology, face versus their male counterparts?
I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and I actually think there are a lot of advantages for women in technology. It’s a lot easier to stand out as a woman; it’s a lot easier to get attention, just in my personal experience. I think most of the challenges that women face are actually internal as opposed to external. Because right now, we’re in an environment where it’s very cool to help and invest in women-run companies.
So do you think women entrepreneurs have difficulty finding funding to grow their businesses?
From personal experience, I’ve found that as a woman entrepreneur, it’s much easier to get the attention of programs that try to help entrepreneurs or investors. I think there are entire programs that are just meant for fundraising for women. I think that the incubators and accelerators get excited about strong, women-led teams.
In your Big Omaha keynote, you shared how running a company is like having a child, which is a very female analogy. Can you explain?
A lot of people mistake getting an idea for having a startup, and they miss the valuable time they need to develop their idea and validate it. They’re forgetting something that actually can provide value to the world.
So the analogy is that if a startup is like a toddler — a living, breathing human being that requires a lot of time, money and attention — then your idea is like a fertilized egg. So it’s just a concept, but you need to be able to take the time to figure out if it has what it takes to survive into toddlerhood.
Is there a difference in the way women and men take their startups from conception to toddlerhood?
I think women and men entrepreneurs alike often start with an idea they get really excited about, because they’re passionate about solving the first problem.
I really haven’t seen a big difference between the way women and men treat the early stages of a company, but the vast majority of people who come up with an idea try to build the solution on their own and don’t want to tell anybody because they don’t want anyone to copy it. They want it to be perfect before they show it to anybody, so they spend a lot of money and a lot of time trying to build this solution, because that’s what they fall in love with. And then they present it to the marketplace only to find out they’re vision isn’t being embraced by the marketplace.
It happens because our human nature is completely irrational. And it’s difficult to predict irrational behavior.
So no, I don’t see a big difference between the ways women and men approach startups — just that the vast majority of people approach it from the solution-first as opposed to customer-first mentality.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Diana in which she discusses the Kansas City startup scene.
Riane Menardi is a writer, maker and community builder based in Des Moines, Iowa. When she's not helping her team at Goodsmiths serve handmade vendors, you'll find her writing and interviewing people about culture, space and startup life. Riane has recently taken to making her own cheese and refashioning clothes from thrift-store finds. She loves exploring her town (and its many microbreweries) from atop her blue bicycle, and has a yoga mat permanently stationed in her living room.