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Ask HN: What are some 'startup lingo' you didn't know before?
42 points by ValentineC on May 19, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments
I was inspired by this little discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5732602

I'm a native English speaker myself, but I didn't know what a 'deck' was when [a management consultant] mentioned it to me at one of my first few startup events. (Normal, non-corporate people call it a PowerPoint presentation, I think.)

I'm hoping to compile a jargon/lingo cheat sheet for people new to the startup scene, so contributions and shares will be most welcome!

One of the most notable terms of the current start-up scenario is the variation of the term 'hacker'.

The best example I can give you is 'Growth Hacker' (basically a marketing guy/girl who does some extra work). So many start-ups and marketing teams abuse this term so much that the value of a true hacker has become so vague.

It was confusing at first. But later on, you get used to it..

I always thought Growth Hacker was an engineer who specialised in scaling a product (making sure the servers didn't fall down under load etc.) I guess the OP's cheat sheet could come in handy! :)

- Vest (realized options)

- Cliff (point in time where your options start vesting)

I still have to wrap my head around the different types of shares there are.

As an aside, InvestoPedia is, by far, the best online resource on financial definitions and explanations. Use it often: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cliffvesting.asp.

"Hockey stick" is a term for exponential growth that's just starting to explode, named after the shape of its graph. As in, "Our user count just hit two million, and it's a total hockey stick!"

The canonical kind looks like the stick in this orientation:

Sometimes people jokingly use the term to refer to a graph that looks like a hockey stick in this orientation:

An example of that would be a product that's launched with great hype and sees huge initial growth solely because of that, and then it quickly tapers off because the product turns out to be a flop.

The first time I heard the word monetize (years ago) I thought it was was silly and pointless. Of course I got used to it over time and now use it myself.

Ideate on the other hand I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fully embrace.

I compiled a jargon list when I did a summer internship in finance. They're less frequently used in startups (thank god) but I still hear them used by business types:

- Human capital: "People", often referring to your employees.

- Reach out: call or email.

- Leverage: Basically equivalent to "use". "We will leverage our human capital to generate exciting new products in this space." You should leverage this word as frequently as possible when talking to finance people.

I'm fine with most of the terms and have come to accept them. The one that bugs the ever-lovin' $#!+ out of me is convo instead of conversation. I don't know if it wide spread and beyond start-ups, but it is the only place I've heard it.

I'm with you... add to it preso/prezo. Hate it so much.

How do you feel about "intro"?

There are two main types of liquidation preferences. First Participating vs. Non-Participating. Best for us (VCs) (worse for founders): Participating Preferred (i.e. VCs get our liquidation preferences PLUS we "double dip" and share pro-rate in anything above). Non-participating means basically that we take our pick: either the Liquidation Preference (usually amount VCs invested, sometimes though 2x or 3x etc.) or share pro-rate as if we had converted to common. So we take our pick of the higher amount

Participating Preferred: We get best of both worlds.

Of course, for a VC investing in an early round, it's actually often more in the VC's long-term interests to take entrepreneur friendly terms, since later rounds are never less favorable to entrepreneurs and previous investors than previous rounds.

So, if you go in at 2-3x PP in the A, you're basically dooming yourself to even higher multiples in future financings. I guess you could pro-rata, but still, the A tends to be significant.


You only launch once?

You often lose owners?

Y'all ogle ladies often?

You optimize Linux operations?

You Only Libre Office.

You only live once :D

remember kids, You Only YOLO Once

or: YOLO Only Lives Once

Saw this one earlier by Fogcreek guy - TOMA where his phrase was that they'd use their blogging to "achieve TOMA" -- still have no idea what it is


My pet peeve is "resources". It is usually used to mean people (and not having enough of them), but somehow abstracts away the messy nature of humans by implying they are a commodity no different than other resources like iron or coal.

I read some comments around here, and I don't get 50% of what you guys are saying. So maybe, it's a good idea for someone to create a quick dictionary-like webapp to explain the startup lingo and/or HN lingo?

Bootstrap is a word that irks me. A language that can compile itself. Or a startup that is self sufficient? Ok. But then some javascript framework. And a hundred other uses. What's up with that?

The original meaning came from one of the stories of Baron Münchhausen where he supposedly fell into a bog but escaped by pulling himself up by his own bootstraps. So the basic concept of self-sufficiency gives you the meaning of bootstrapping a compiler, or your OS's bootstrap loader, or a bootstrapped startup. Stuff like Twitter Bootstrap does stretch the meaning somewhat (I guess the idea is that's it's an easy way to get started on your website).

Bootstrap has always meant starting a business using your own money/resources. I guess that's why the Twitter guys named their framework it - you can get a website together to a decent standard without needing to pay for a designer (the 'bootstrap framework' helps you bootstrap a business).

MVP, POC, Series A, Seed, Incubator, VC, SaaS, PaaS, RFP, NDA

To add on to what you said: Angel, lean startup, startup, YC, pivot, exit, zombie startup

^^ Full Ack!

Pivot, soft-launch, lipstick on a pig, circle back, 'noodle on it' (older?), ideate, high and to the right, CCA, channel model, freemium, cap table, term sheet

Series A - when you first take money from venture capitalists (even if technically it's "Series B" because a previous round was called your Series A)

Adding one to the list: MRR - monthly recurring revenue

I'll cheerfully parade my ignorance.


pre-money, post-money, pivot, vertical, terms sheet, angel, dilution


It'd be fun to do both a useful and a funny version.

Prefs (liquidation preferences)

Lifestyle business sent us to Google the term when we first encountered it.

churn - for a recurring service the number of people who leave in a given time period. Also represented as a percentage of total customers at the beginning of the time period. related: leaky bucket.

Marchitecture and Marketeering are my newest two "favourites."

That is such an apt phrase to describe certain people.

talent acquisition or acquihire. Even if I did know what that meant I didn't know how to spot one initially.

SAS 70/SSAE 16, runway, ARPU


You should hear these jokers have actual conversations with each other.

For anyone wondering:

  ARPU: Average Revenue Per User
  ARPPU: Average Revenue Per Paying User
  MAU: Monthly Active Users
  DAU: Daily Active Users
  MUU: Monthly Unique Users

Interesting side-note: The word DAU means something completely different in German.

  * DAU: dumbest assumable user / Dümmster anzunehmender User

The abbreviations take just as long to say out loud as their meaning.

Not in German they don't :-) I actually use the company with the longest name in the world as a test for validating web input forms.

Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerk- bauunterbeamtengesellschaft

which is "association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services"

It also tests that you handle the high ascci characters properly

No, you say them as words to sound like a child. "What's the mao over the dao (tao?) versus the are-poo?"

i wonder how ping me belongs with the "jokers". seeing that i can picture many people like me using ping me all the time, but having never heard the term arpu

for those like me who needed to google it



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