Startups: Navigating the Jungle of Startup Jargon

Having a conversation with your friend from the tech business can be awkward. Sure, they are using words you understand, but at times it seems as if they are plucking them out of entirely different conversations and nonchalantly dropping them into this one at random, with little or no regard for the grammatical integrity of the sentences they are constructing.

There is arguably no community in today’s business environment fonder of utterly mind boggling, incomprehensible startup jargon usage than the start-up community. While some terms may seem like utter nonsense, for better or for worse, startup gurus such as Eric Reis and Clayton M. Christensen have made these a part of the daily lexicon in startup hubs across the world.

But fear not, help is at hand. With the brief guide provided below, you can avoid the embarrassing and unsavvy pitfalls of the past and navigate the jungle of startup jargon with confidence.  While the examples given here should help you out of most confusing conversations with a serial jargonist, companies such as Vooza and websites such as yKominator.com have made a living from satirising the ridiculous nature of startup jargon and culture and can be used to further your knowledge of the nonsensical.

“There is a lot of pivoting in my line of work”

Translation: Your friend is not a professional dancer, his company is however constantly adapting and readapting their product/positioning to test new hypothesis in line with what their customers want. The jargonisation of this term, amongst others, can be attributed to Eric Reis and appears in his book “The Lean Startup”, a text that is followed with religious zeal by startup jargon enthusiasts worldwide.

“We aim to be as disruptive as possible”
Translation: This has nothing to do with how noisy or annoying your friend’s workplace may or may not be. In fact, it has positive connotations, referring to how his company is approaching and solving problems in a new and innovative way, not previously expected or anticipated by the industry. Coined by business guru Clayton M. Christensen, disruption is a key goal for many startups attempting to make an impact in their industry.

“We’ve added a layer of Gamification in our latest iteration
Transation: Your friend is getting technical here, but in line with an emerging trend in app development, the latest version of his product includes a scoring system in which user can compete/be rewarded for carrying out regular day to day tasks. The success of gamification can be seen in products such as FourSquare where users are rewarded for being in certain geographical areas, or the Irish based startup GetHealth who encourage users to gain points through completing healthy activities.

“The USP of our MVP is based around its unique UI.”
Translation: Your friend wishes to attend a karaoke table-tennis networking event and as such has resorted to excessive use of acronyms in an attempt to shake you off.  Simply nod knowingly and say, “If you’re looking for prosumers to Beta test, I’ve got latent bandwidth right now.” and walk away in quiet victory.


Congratulations, you are now on the road to becoming an expert tech jargonist. However, with great power, comes great responsibility.  Used effectively jargon can facilitate the quick and efficient communication of complex ideas amongst those in the know. Used ineffectively, as is often the case, it can highlight how desperately the user is attempting to mask their complete lack of understanding of the subject at hand, with an incoherent string of buzzwords.

In essence, when it comes to startup jargon, think lean.

Written By: Gabrial @ BulletHq.com

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