Startup Slang (uncensored)

By Joey Silvian on April 14th, 2013 / Comments

These terms are tossed around by startups like a hot potato at an AA meeting – one feels an instant sting and then quickly tosses it to the next guy.

In all of the seriousness of a startup, the whole team focuses on the vision. Amidst the concentrated energy it takes to get a startup off the ground, there needs to be “stimulating mental breaks” that aren’t focused directly on the business.

Here’s a lighthearted look at the startup and related terms below to get personnel to lighten up:

Coworking Space 

Many people are gathered in the room and most everyone is looking for work. Having been kicked out of all of the Starbucks, Caribou’s and Cosi’s, this is the last resort for a work space- a long table with unshowered people around it with computers that are on their last legs. With the use of some cheap spy gear listening devices or sharp hearing, you can eavesdrop on each other’s phone conversations. Then, when it’s not clear exactly what your “coworker” is involved in, you can inadvertently stare at their screen or find out what they’re doing by tapping into their computer on the office’s  shared WiFi. Once you have that research done, you can easily take over their contacts and what little work they may have done with your new information. Now you can be a “true coworker.”


This term originated in ballet and basketball and denotes a continual change in direction that requires a new strategy on each movement.  In the startup world, people get out of their seats holding tight to  jealously guarded documents containing trade secrets. Protecting their ideas, like protecting a basketball, causes them to do pirouettes and pivots until they get dizzy and lose their grip on those important papers. They then fall to the floor and the cosmic rays that are present in these new startup environments erases the exterior coating (some failed digital device that couldn’t be deactivated buried in the floorboards with the other wreckage of bad ideas) of the fallen papers, rendering them utterly unreadable. Now the group has to generate a whole new pile of ideas with the accompanying procedures until the next time when the papers are dropped and they have to pivot again.


Defined as the number of marching bands you can fit into your company’s consciousness.  The variables take into account the noise generated by those bands in the form of songs like “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “The Star Spangled Banner” other old and tired John Philip Sousa songs.  The more noise you can fit in your mind along with all of the possible formations, the greater “bandwith” or “number of marching bands” you and your company can have in their minds.

Term Sheet

The famous economist, Bernie Madoff, got this to be a widely accepted definition in the investment community. He used it to attract investors to join based on his promises of great returns, although he advised his customers that this was “no get rich quick” scheme (for them).  The government liked this idea so much that they created their own modified term sheet, presenting him with a customized one that required  him to make a long-term investment, putting his well honed skills to work in a remote corner of North Carolina.


This trust exercise combines S & M with group dynamics and ends up with team members hanging from tree limbs wearing “laceless” boots with a leather strap hanging from the eyelet of their boots. As the wind velocity picks up, the missing bootstraps hit people and objects as they swing. The more things that are hit, the more points each person gets. When enough points are gathered in this method, the person is said to have reached a state called “self-sufficiency” and is cut down to wallow in the real muck of a startup.

Crowd Funding

This is a financial flash mob which sends out notices to homeless people to show up at the same place at the same time with collections from their street corner wealth in their pockets. The attendees have to make sure that there are no holes in their pockets and they have invested in at least a $2.00 bottle of wine in the last 24 hours. These people then contribute their expertise, feedback, and a few quarters to the cause to create a financially stable base for a company to startup.

Lean Start-up

All members of the team weigh in at 220 pounds or more. They are instructed that they may no longer go out for dinner or lunch, but may only consume four-day-old  leftovers from their in-house client presentations. They have to live on these leftovers until they have lost 20 % of their body weight. Then they are allowed to eat leftovers that are two days old or less. During that time period, they need to use the treadmills under chairless desks and they cannot even refer to the word “food” until they are declared “under weight” by the board of directors. When a specified amount of personnel reach the required amount or GESW (Gross Employee Startup Weight) then the board can officially declare themselves a “lean” startup.

MVP – minimum virtual product

This is something akin to Alice’s rabbit hole meets the Emperor’s New Clothes, where you escape into a virtual environment (secret pathway that takes years to discover) to try out a product that doesn’t really exist yet, but where everybody is able to believe they see your product. When they all declare they can see it, they nod in agreement and affirm that it will  “sell a million.”


Place where business ideas that are shaped like eggs are inserted in a low energy warming oven powered by solar panels that collect cosmic rays from the planet Zilton. Various people put on protective gear to enter the environment to suggest myriad techniques to make the iffy ideas burst out of their shell. The goal is to try and make it out to see the light of day by crawling through the sawdust and other unmentionable matter to the opening.


This location has access to a cannibal-sized cauldron of coffee and planes loaded with Red Bull ready to fly in on demand. These non-high tech tools help startup teams generate  ideas and plans that can’t be spewed out with the help of illegal drugs alone.

Photo via The Print Blog.

About the Author

Joey Silvian

Joe is an interim digital marketing manager that works for corporations to jumpstart their digital marketing and also assists startups in creating their strategic marketing plans.