Many a times have I sat with various people across myriad entities we engage with locally in Namibia and in broader Africa and have been met with incredulous stares followed by ‘Say What Now?’ at the language that we employ.
If you work in the tech startup space (or have recently binge watched HBO’s Silicon Valley), you will notice that people speak with terms and abbreviations which might lead you to wonder if programmers have applied Zip compression to the English language while speaking.
In Namibia, and I suspect most of the emerging economies around the globe, this lingo tends to leave even IT managers of large scale firms scratching their heads. That being said, there is a lot to say for tech startups in Africa creating their own set of flummoxing abbreviations but let’s leave that discussion for another day.
However, The Tech Guys is here to demystify startup lingo into a more common lingua franca. The tech startup nerds in Africa, after all, are worth trying to understand as they’ll probably be the integral puzzle piece for African prosperity in the 21st century and beyond.
So, without further ado, I give you How To Speak Startup(Try not to be too serious about it….seriously though.):
Tech Startup – An unfunded group of people with an idea that potentially solves a problem using technology. They probably don’t sell or fix your PC’s or do email server installations. Not to be confused with your workplace IT helpdesk.
Code – what software engineers/programmers do.
Disrupt – To make a previous way of doing things look bad by using technology to do it a new and vastly better way.
MVP(Minimum Viable Product) – A prototype of your startup idea, that usually is little more than a Powerpoint presentation.
Acqui-hire – A strategy for acquiring talent pioneered by Google in the mid-2000s that happens when a bigger company thinks your team is good but your idea is hilariously bad. Also called a “signing bonus.”
Failure – A bad thing that has recently put on a pedestal as something to be celebrated.
Cashflow Positive – Someone gave us a dollar.
Pivot – What happens when a company realizes its course of action is not living up to expectations. (See also, Failure.)
SaaS (Software as A Service) — It loses money.
Pre-Money Valuation – A number you made up.
Post-Money Valuation – A number that you made up alongside your VC with the addition of some cash. Your burn rate is probably too high.
“I work in PR.” – I am, in fact, in possession of several journalists’ email addresses.
Exit – Exits come in two different flavors for entrepreneurs: good and bad. Good exits happen when you’re “killing it,” your company hasn’t killed you yet, and another company comes along to buy yours. (See possibly, acqui-hire.) Bad exits are another way of saying you failed to disrupt much of anything besides your VC’s portfolio performance.
“I’m a serial entrepreneur.” – Person who had two ideas, both of which failed.
The Space – Because calling the field in which they’re operating an industry, vertical or even genre is too hard, entrepreneurs like referring to their company as being a player in a given space. They especially like doing this when they know they’re in a crowded market. We don’t know why they do this either.
VC – 1) Venture capitalists raise money from wealthy individuals and institutions and dump lots of said money into young companies in exchange for a cut of the company. 2) An institutional dealer of pharmaceutical-grade Opium. (See also, Opium.)
Opium – OPM, or “other people’s money,” is an incredibly addictive substance to entrepreneurs that’s rarely respected or missed until it dries up.
“We’re doing great.” – We are not doing great.
SF / The Valley – 1. The place you refer to when convincing government officials that investing in tech initiatives is a good thing. 2. A place that VC’s and tech luminaries talk up as the greatest place on Earth that you must move to if you’re from anywhere that isn’t San Fransisco or The Valley.
“We’re growing 500 percent week-over-week” — Last week we had one user, today we have six.
“We’re not currently raising capital.” — We’re currently raising capital.
UI/UX – A portmanteau of UI (“User Interface”) and UX (“User Experience”) often used by design-challenged entrepreneurs when referring to the aesthetics and usability of their product when actual understanding of good design principles is fundamentally lacking. Used in a sentence: “Our Push for the ‘Find My Goat A Date’ app is crushing it because of our design wizard who is slinging some hella dope UI/UX.”
“We’re a design-centric organization.” – We don’t know how to code.
Non-GAAP Profitable — What companies that are very unprofitable like to claim. The idea that non-cash costs don’t count is usually the sort of sickness you see here.
“I’m the business guy.” – (See: Growth Hacker.)
Gravity — What The Tech Guys is trying to escape using maximum thrust. (Yes, we are going to build rockets.)
Growth Hacking – Sales, marketing and associated activities, but with a label that incorporates the word “hacking,” because nontechnical people want to call themselves “hackers” too.
“We’re seeing great gross margins, and so are investing in growth given our strong, SaaS unit-economics.” — We lose money.
“We’re stomping on the gas pedal, given our strong SaaS unit-economics, and are actively seeking additional capital to power our sector-leading growth.” — We have lost all our money and need some of yours, please.
“We’re Killing It!” – Your dreams and investors’ dollars are probably being killed.
We hope this helps you navigate your encounters with tech nerds or wannabes.
This is a modified version of TechCrunch’s Alex Willhelm and Jason Rowley’s 2014 article with some adjustments to locally contextualize things ;-)!