Startup Dictionary: 20 common startup buzzwords briefly explained

As a sequel to our 2019 article on buzzwords in the startup ecosystem, we’re bringing an update with some newer terms. Two years have gone by and what one can notice is that much of the jargon in the startup scene today comes from software and fintech, even spreading through to other industries and making some expressions gain new meanings.

Again, we summarized a small list with 20 words and very common expressions in the startup world of 2021.

Accelerator – An accelerator is a support network – sometimes virtual and some other times in a physical location, that concentrates professional mentoring, services and expertise available for the startups “accelerated” there. The aim is to make the company grow faster and make faster ideations, tests and expose founders and teams to other startups in the same structure. Accelerators may or may not take equity and invest hard cash.

Agile – Agile web development refers to a particular way of performing tasks. In an agile team, programmers will work according to sprints, that can be of weekly or biweekly periodicity. Often having the phases of design, development, testing, deployment and review, those sprints are one of the kernels of modern software development methodology.

Algorithm – An algorithm is a sequence of steps for accomplishing an objective, with instructions documented for it. It comes from programming and Mathematics vocabulary.

API – An Application Programming Interface enables two different programs to communicate with each other as a translator allows people speaking two different languages understand each other. Software engineers and developers can use the code on the APIs to build modules and apps within other apps and pay only for what they use, without the need to buy infrastructure and maintain it.

Bleeding Edge – When your startup is developing or selling a “frontier technology” or a disruptive new way of thinking and doing things, the company is on the bleeding edge.

Customer journey – Customer journey is an expression that describes each and every point of contact and interaction a customer has with a business, a product or a service. From visiting a website to getting interested and buying a product, up to post-sales support.

Deliverable – A deliverable is a measured result, a product or an add-on that is planned and implemented in any project.

Exit Strategy – An exit strategy is a plan that may be executed when a startup is not performing well, as a stop loss measure. Or it can be also for the case where a targeted profitability level has been reached. Other situations include when significant market conditions change due to force majeure, regulatory reasons, liability lawsuits or owner’s retirement. A classic example for that is an angel investor who plans an exit strategy through an IPO – initial public offering.

Freemium – “Freemium” is built on the words free and premium, and it is a method where a startup offers free content or product licenses in order to acquire customers and users. Usually, the free version of the product or service is limited in scope compared to the fully fledged paid option, and it serves to entice the interest of the potential client.

Iterate – The exercise of thinking and prototyping add-ons and changes to a product, service or offer in your portfolio.

Intrapreneur – An intrapreneur is effectively an entrepreneur but who works within the corporate structure. They lead innovative projects which can include launching new services or products within this usually strict corporate structure.

Low Hanging Fruit – Startup companies need to add value to their offerings as much as they can. When teams talk about a low hanging fruit, it means they are speaking about a product that is ready or almost ready to be offered and has immediate potential for monetization and creating cashflow.

Mobile-first – When a product is designed as mobile-first, it prioritizes mobile devices as their first screens, rather than laptops and desktops. The product is built for the small screen and then often responsive, meaning it adapts to different sizes and formats.

Ping – Coming out of the telecom and messaging world, this word means to contact someone – i.e.: “You might want to ping them immediately about this issue”. It also means the time elapsed between sending a message and getting an answer.

Retargeting – Retargeting it the way companies try to attract people who already showed interest in their product through visiting their websites. Banners, e-mail sequences and P2P messaging are channels used to expose the potential customer to the specific product again and try to convert him/her into a client.

SaaS – The SaaS acronym means software-as-a-service. Instead of investing in a lot of infrastructure and high costs, one can scale up according to his/her needs, while paying a monthly subscription that is proportional to the software usage or traffic

Scale Up – Scale-up is when the company already has enough recurring revenue and it can maintain itself. It is also about replicating the business in other geographies and sectors, while expanding the client/user base.

Seed Funding – Often seen as the first investment of a startup, it may come from angel investors or from family and friends, with the intention of completing an MVP or starting more serious marketing and sales campaigns. Companies use seed money to acquire resources, hire teams and to build a product.

Stealth Mode – “Stealth mode” is an expression used to describe the development of a product in secret. When choosing stealth mode, a company often wants to surprise the competition and to protect the intellectual property being built.

Wireframe – Wireframes are diagrams used by designers to communicate to developers how a website or an app shall be structured, and it serves as the blueprint upon which the code is developed. It has layout, graphic elements’ locations, interface touch points and it focus on functionality, not beauty.