How Well Do You Know the Language of Startups?
How Well Do You Know the Language of Startups?
Talk to the entrepreneurs who populate San Francisco, Silicon Valley or New York City’s Flatiron District, and you might think you’ve landed in a foreign country. The startup world is full of jargon that can sound odd—if not downright indecipherable—to outsiders.
How well do you speak startup? Take this quiz and find out.
1. Demo day
a. The day when startup founders make the rounds at a tech conference to see what competitors are up to.
b. The day when an incubator’s companies pitch to potential venture-capital investors.
c. A biweekly presentation of the tech team’s latest work.
Answer: b. Incubators typically host a demo day at the end of their programs so VCs can audition new companies for prospective investments. Getting VC funding for graduates is a measure of how good an incubator is.
a. The difference between two similar startups.
b. An industry sector.
c. A building where tech events are held.
Answer: b. The area of an industry where a company competes. For example, “That startup plays in the FoodTech space.”
a. A term indicating that customers are stupid.
b. A programmers’ union.
c. A new programming language based on C++.
Answer: a. An acronym for “problems emerge between chair and keyboard,” a sardonic programmer term for what happens when users are too dumb to use software correctly.
4. Customer-success associate
a. A retail cashier at a trendy Silicon Valley shop.
b. A customer-service rep at a startup.
c. An automated voice-mail system.
Answer: b. Like many startup jobs, this represents a title upgrade from the more traditional “customer-service representative,” the better to recruit well-educated millennials.
a. A famous tech conference.
b. A warrior-style boot-camp fitness program.
c. A type of software engineer.
Answer: c. A DevOps engineer is a software developer who works with both the software-development and the operations teams at a company as they write, test and roll out software. This setup is supposed to bring the two functions together for efficiency, drawing on what’s known as “agile” or “lean” software development.
a. The founder’s brother.
b. A software developer who acts like a frat boy.
c. An app that teaches children to code.
Answer: b. Stereotypically, software developers come in two types: nerds and brogrammers. The former are usually introverted, while the latter are loud and outgoing (and, according to many critics, sexist).
a. A nerdy entrepreneur who takes up weightlifting.
b. A startup that raises capital quickly, then collapses.
c. The practice of making a startup seem larger than it is through subterfuge.
Answer: c. Among other tricks, startups have been known to decorate empty desks and to create elaborate voice-mail systems to make it seem like more people work there.
8. Subprime unicorn
a. A company with a great idea for a product that gets scooped by another.
b. A company formerly valued at more than a billion dollars, now fallen on hard times.
c. A startup founder who has lost his or her sparkle with investors.
Answer: b. Many companies that were once highly prized by investors are now worth much less, or are rumored to be so.
a. The spot in the office where employees go for breaks.
b. A team-messaging app popular with startups.
c. The period in August when many startup employees take vacation.
Answer: b. Also, a verb meaning to message someone using the Slack app. For example, Mr. Callwood says: “Hey dude, did you get my email? It says I texted you and the text says I slacked you.”
a. Working with your spouse.
b. Holding two jobs at once.
c. Working out of a shared office space with other startups, typically with free coffee, kitchens and ping-pong tables.
Answer: c. Companies including WeWork and The Yard vie to rent desks or small workspaces to startups within larger offices. While more expensive on a per-seat basis than a regular office lease, they save cash-strapped startups from having to sign long-term leases.
a. A machine used by particle physicists to fling subatomic particles into one another at high speeds.
b. Software that makes a company’s product sell faster.
c. A program that helps young startups refine their product and pitch themselves to investors, in exchange for a cut of equity.
Answer: c. Many startups gain credibility and mentoring by joining an accelerator or an incubator, such as Y Combinator or Techstars.
a. The first commercially viable version of a software product.
b. The best developer on a startup’s tech team.
c. The VC with the best record of investments at a firm.
Answer: a, as in “minimum viable product.” Releasing an MVP sets the clock ticking, because investors and customers expect a better, bug-free version soon. “Start working on Version 2 immediately,” says Devora Mason, chief operating officer and chief financial officer at Voiceitt, a startup that helps people with disabilities communicate using their own voices.
a. The free version of an app that also has a better, paid version.
b. The free gourmet snacks offered to employees of startups.
c. The free bus transportation many startups offer from employees’ neighborhoods in San Francisco to their offices in Silicon Valley.
Answer: a. “Didn’t your mother tell you that nothing is free in this world?” says Ms. Mason. If an app is listed as freemium, she says, expect you’ll get a second-rate version until you upgrade (with a fee or subscription) to the premium version.
14. Hockey Stick
a. A videogame controller intended to be used with two hands.
b. A piece of software that can be used for two disparate applications.
c. A graph showing rapid adoption of a startup’s product.
Answer: c. “The rarely attainable shape made on a graph that shows investors that your startup will experience exponential growth in a short period and make everyone loads of American dollars,” says ACe Callwood (yes, the C in ACe is capitalized), co-founder and CEO of startup Painless1099, which does automatic tax withholding for freelancers who receive 1099 tax forms.
15. Next level
a. The ultimate in startup compliments.
b. Where you go when you complete one rank of a gamified app.
c. A tech conference for VC-funded startups.
Answer: a. This generation’s version of “far out,” “switched on” or “rad.”
a. Brainstorming about seemingly crazy ideas.
b. Making optimistic promises, particularly to investors.
c. Stepping outside to clear your head after a tough meeting.
Answer: b. Blueskying is often seen in investor presentations. One example: “We blueskyed the brakes off that pitch,” Mr. Callwood says.
17. Green meadow
a. A market where no competitors exist.
b. A popular co-working space in the Bay Area.
c. A startup accelerator for environmental businesses.
Answer: a, finding a truly new and undiscovered market. But very often what seems like a great, wide-open opportunity turns out to be a mirage. “Finding a green meadow often signals brilliance, stupidity or a lack of due diligence; sometimes all three,” Mr. Callwood says.
18. Growth hacker
a. A computer programmer with a growing business.
b. Someone who thinks of clever ways for the company to grow.
c. A software developer who works quickly.
Answer: b. A term of admiration for a startup founder or staffer who comes up with creative ideas to advance the business.
a. A nickname for the title “president.”
b. An app that creates digital slide presentations.
c. A synonym for present or gift.
Answer: b. Although Prezi is a specific app that makes presentations, startup founders use this term to refer to any presentation, no matter what software is used to design it. This term plays an outsized role in a founder’s life, since so much of their time typically is spent giving presentations to VCs and prospective investors.