The Adventures of a Startup Spouse: Understanding Startup Slang
This piece originally appeared on our sister site, HyperVocal.
As I argued in my previous post, the startup spouse is a critical member of the startup team. Therefore, the first thing a newly minted startup spouse must do is get hip with the startup slang.
Like other professions, entrepreneurs throw around a lot of jargon. And why not? Lawyers and judges spew terms like promissory estoppel, quasi-contract and dictum to clients who nod furiously despite their total confusion. Accountants talk about depreciation, amortization and adjusted gross income like they are simple ingredients in a sandwich. And I swear my last doctor spoke to me in tongues (“There is a grade-one strain in the biceps femoris at its origin.” Huh? But I’m just here for a flu shot.) Entrepreneurs, unfortunately, are no different. Terms like iterate and onboard will become commonplace at the dinner table, much to the bewilderment of the start-up spouse who is not yet familiar with these industry buzzwords.
To help new start-up spouses get up to speed, here is a short cheat sheet of some common startup terms as I’ve heard them used, in no particular order:
Angel Investor. A very early investor who swoops in while the Company is gasping for air and showers the entrepreneur with dollars. Halo and angel wings not included.
Financing Process. Code for when the entrepreneur is raising money for the Company. The phrase can be used for when the fundraising process is going well: “We are running a financing process.” It can also be used for when fundraising is not going well: “We are running a financing process.”
Beta Testing. When a Company sticks its toe in the water by releasing an early version of a new product. Provides the entrepreneur with cover to give a hearty laugh and say, “We didn’t screw up the product, it was just in Beta Testing.” Often followed by a Pivot.
Pivot. No longer associated with pink ballerinas and pony-tailed gymnasts, “pivot” is a euphemism for when entrepreneurs realize that their Business Model isn’t working and they need to make a change before they run out of cash and have to shut down. Would you rather explain a Pivot or a failure? Exactly.
Business Model. How the entrepreneur thinks the Company is going to make money. You should expect the Business Model to change over time — frequently — if your spouse is a first-time entrepreneur. See Pivot.
Elevator Pitch. A winning 30-second explanation of the entire business — because that’s how long you would have to explain it if you were in an elevator with a potential investor (unless, like me, you often get stuck in elevators, then you’ve got like 45 minutes to run through your full Powerpoint).
Leverage. This one is tricky because it can be used as a verb, noun or adjective. Often used interchangeably for “to utilize,” “to spend,” “a counterbalance” or “borrowed.” Basically, replace any word with “leverage” if you want to sound more like an entrepreneur.
Monetize. To be able to make money from some action or thing. Investors always seem impressed when an entrepreneur says, “We can monetize that gap.” It’s a go-to phrase.
Barriers to Entry. An unnecessarily fancy way to explain why a competitor cannot compete with the Company. Also sometimes used instead of the colloquial word “obstacle.”
No. The most common word used by venture capitalists, often in connection with a Financing Process. Good entrepreneurs believe “No” is actually a request for more information.
Social Proof. Once the Company gets approval from one investor, other investors suddenly find the Company wildly attractive and need to have it in their portfolio — eerily similar to high school dating.
Stealth Mode. When a startup has a huge, game-changing idea … but they can’t tell anyone about it. See Pivot.
One note of caution: use these terms sparingly. Once, while at a dinner with other entrepreneurs where I struggled to follow the jargon-filled conversation, I interjected and said, “To eliminate barriers to entry, I will optimize my chicken by leveraging the salt.” I shot my husband a proud wink that screamed, “Nailed it!” while sprinkling salt on my chicken marsala, oblivious to the curious stares of my dinner companions.
Thankfully, my husband came to the rescue. “We have figured out how to monetize a gap in the marketplace.” The entrepreneurs smiled and nodded.
Those were the exact words they wanted to hear.
What other startup terms do you find confusing or hilarious? Send Lisa a tweet or follow her on Twitter @entreprenrswife.