Jargon Buster: The Work In Startups “A-Z” of Startup Terminology

Sometimes landing a new startup job in London (or anywhere in the UK) can feel a bit like making some new friends who already have a lottttttt of obnoxious in-jokes and references. Luckily, Work In Startups is here to help bust that jargon today. Have a flick through our quick A-Z so you don’t feel like an outsider at your local Shoreditch flat-white dispensary!

AAngel InvestorA private individual who invests capital (usually in the early stages of a startup), generally in exchange for equity.
Accelerator – investment-fund program that provide funding and mentorship to budding startups in exchange for a stake
BBurn RateThe amount of cash a startup is spending each month
Bootstrapping – initial funding stage of a startup deploying only your personal savings or with help from friends and family (rather than angel or seed investment)
CCash Flow Positive(The dream!) When a startup’s cash coming in is greater than its cash going out. Note this is different to being profitable!
DDisruptiveA product or service that aims / is about to (hopefully) change or revolutionise an existing industry. A buzzword in the startup world!
EEquitySeveral geeky accounting definitions, but generally in startups equity refers to the relative amount (share) someone owns in the company
FFreemiumWhen your core produce or service is free, but there are premium / non-free features available which are designed to improve the user experience even further
Frontend – the pretty face of software engineering (obviously so much more that). In short: the bit on startup websites that you (the user) see and interact with! It runs in tandem with the
Backend which does the heavy lifting behind the scenes
GGrowth HackingA startup marketing term focused around experimentation on growth strategy – working out ways to acquire as many users as quickly / cheaply as possible
Gamification – implementing elements or features you would find in a game in a non-gaming product
GA – (Google Analytics) this is the big boy for tracking just about anything activity-related on a website. Given its heavy use, “GA” is an easier term to spit out!
HHockey StickA growth curve on a chart – an initial dip (where you’re investing) followed by a strong upward trajectory, leaving the progress line looking a bit like a hockey stick!
An “Initial Public Offering” – the first time a startup (or any company) lists its shares on a public stock market
JJavascript/Java/JSOne of the most commonly recognised programming languages – generally if you see knowledge of this as a requirement for a startup job and you don’t know what it means, don’t apply for it!
KKPIKey Performance Indicators – a measurable value tracked by a startup to gauge progress. When the name of the game is growth, we are slaves to the KPIs!
LLow-Hanging FruitThe easiest, quickest wins available in a given project. Essentially the fruit you don’t have to climb too high (or work too hard) to collect
Liquidity Event – some form of opportunity for investors to cash in their stake, therefore turning some (or all) of their assets on paper into “liquid” cash
Lifetime Value – the prediction of value you expect a customer (or supplier) relationship to generate over the whole of its existence. So hopefully more than just one transaction
MMVPMinimum Viable Product – the most basic version of the product that can viably work and be rolled-out, it often gets expanded with new features later on.
Minotaur  – a startup that has raised $1bn+ from investors (it might not necessarily be worth that much to prospective buyers!)
NNinjaA very startuppy title for a supposed expert in a field (e.g. after reading this article , you’ll be a startup lingo ninja!)
O(Stock/Equity) OptionsAn agreement giving someone (most likely a startup employee or investor) the option to purchase shares in a company at a given strike price (which you can then hopefully sell later for a profit). You might well get offered these when you join a startup – take them!
OKRs – Objectives and Key Results – tangible goal-setting framework. You set your objective and then pick the metrics (key results) that will quantify your progress
PPre & Post Money ValuationsTerms referring to the valuation of a startup before investment or financing and then after (after factoring in the new cash).
Product Manager – the person responsible for developing the product, owning the business strategy, features and functionality!
Pivot – a shift (quite often a significant one) in business model following feedback on / performance of an initial product
QQA TestingQuality Assurance Testing. This is basic testing of the product, usually with an eye on user experience – think beta-tests and bugchecks a-plenty!
RROIReturn-on-Investment. At a very high level, and without getting too geeky about it, this is something that investors will monitor to determine the efficiency (usually financial) of a given investment. Bigger ROI generally means a better use of their funds!
SSeed RoundThe first round of external capital funding for a startup.
SEM/SEO – Search Engine Marketing/Optimization – two distinct areas, but both relate to promoting a startup’s product by increasing its visibility on search engines. Best ask your marketing team directly if you want to learn more about the nuances (as there are many!)
TTractionA sign that all your startups growth efforts are taking effect, and whether people are actually buying or using the product..
UUnicornA term to refer to startups that have been given a $1 billion valuation. Note this doesn’t have to have been realised in cash!
VVCVenture Capital. In a nutshell, this is financial investment (or investors) in startups that are looking for high growth opportunities in exchange for equity
Silicon Valley – The name given to an area in the southern San Francisco Bay where lots of startups and tech companies are based.
WWaterfallThe “last in, first out” order that investors often get their money in a liquidity event. Those coming later to the table have often had the opportunity to negotiate better terms for themselves since they can see what others have committed to!
XXenopusA startup that has grown revenue at over 100% a year…. Just kidding (unless it catches on)! It’s actually a weird frog – it’s hard to find an X word for this list!
YY-Combinator Y-Combinator is a big seed accelerator with many ‘y-backed’ startups in their portfolio… (Cut us some slack, Y is hard too!)
ZZebraA term used to refer to startups focused more on building a sustainable growth business than a “boom or bust” approach

The Worst Offender: Tech Startups

You’d hope that most of these are self-explanatory, but here are a few of the most common tech startup fields / buckets with definitions to help you out:

MedTech (Medical Technology), FinTech (Financial Technology), PropTech (Property Technology), FemTech (Female Technology), EdTech (Education Technology) and InsurTech (Insurance Technology)

We hope to hear you smashing the startup lingo at your next interview. Check out the site for some of the hottest start up jobs (we are the best site to find startup jobs in the UK after all!)

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