What Startups and Toddlers Have In Common

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We lump too many things under the term ‘startup,’ Diana Kander argued at Big Omaha recently. What we really need to do instead is distinguish between businesses that are at the conception and toddler stages.

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

You have an idea for a startup. Great! This is fabulous news and you’re probably flush with excitement, plans and hopes for the future. You are, in short, much like a woman happily standing in her bathroom with a positive pregnancy test in her hand. But don’t rush things, warns Diana Kander, a serial entrepreneur and senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, at Big Omaha recently.

In the entertaining 30-minute talk, Kander, herself a mother-to-be, argues that founders rush from idea to execution, attempting to hire, roll out a product and raise money too soon, rather than allowing your fledgling business time to gestate. By committing too early to a business idea they miss out on honest feedback (no one, she points out, tells you your kid’s name is hideous after you’ve given it to her; they’ll only tell you it’s a bad choice if’you’re less than fully committed) and rob themselves of a period of calm reflection before the insanity of trying to keep a baby business alive.

Launching a startup is like living with a toddler, in her analogy — exhausting, frantic, sometimes terrifying — so let yourself nurture and grow your idea for awhile before you dive in. And rushing ahead isn’t just bad for your sanity. The premature birth of a startup is as bad for businesses as it is for babies, Kander says. An adequate gestation period for your idea — including enough idea development and validation —  means less expensive PR and marketing and less (or no) need to raise money down the road.

But don’t worry, it doesn’t take nine months to give birth to a healthy startup. Check out the video below for Kander’s advice on moving from a newly conceived idea to the business equivalent of the terrible twos.

 Women 2.0 readers: Are you launching a preemie startup?

Jessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.

Photo credit: theloushe via Flickr.