50 startup words and phrases that should be banned

Written by Tessa McLean
Published on Sep. 06, 2016
50 startup words and phrases that should be banned
Startup jargon is infectious. The more contact you have with it the more likely you are to carry and spread it to others. Unfortunately, because of its viral nature, startup jargon has also mutated beyond its original meaning. Abusers, free of any true connection to real meaning, now use jargon to exaggerate the impact of their ideas: apps have become platforms; sales representatives have become evangelists; and products have become revolutionary. In an effort to appear stronger, startup culture has accidentally created weaker words and phrases — mere buzzwords, catchphrases and fillers for real communication.
Below is a list of startup jargon to ban from your speech. These are the words and phrases to stop using because, more often that not, they don’t clarify the subject, they confuse it. 
  1. Platform. Unless you have an API, or another way for people to build on your software, it's just an app.
  2. Disrupt. Perhaps the most revered and hated tech buzzword of the 21st century. The word really just means "change."
  3. Lean. Try "spending reasonable amounts of money."
  4. Scale. What's wrong with the word "grow" anyway?
  5. Crowdsourced. Resources or information gathered from a crowd over the Internet, but often is used in place of a survey, a poll, or “I asked a bunch of people." 
  6. Hockey stick growth. Exponential-looking growth. If you are on a stage using the word, be sure to motion the shape with your hands.
  7. Unicorn. Billion dollar valuation. Usually, not lasting or taken seriously by investors.
  8. Deck. Just a fancy word for a PowerPoint presentation.
  9. Break things. An experiment.
  10. Real time. This is the Internet in the year 2015. Unless you’re using dial-up, most things happen in real time.
  11. Registered members - too often this is just a facade. Better question: how many active users do you have?
  12. Evangelist. Sales representative, business development or marketer.
  13. Revolutionary. Apple has launched more revolutions than Karl Marx.
  14. Convergence. Things are coming together.
  15. Ecosystem. Jane Goodall should be the only person using this word regularly.
  16. Seamless. Something easy to use.
  17. Frothy. Said before predictions or denials of a bubble.
  18. Bubble. An important economic concept that no one understands. 
  19. Bleeding edge. The new cutting edge.
  20. Rock Star. Someone who is good at their job.
  21. Bandwidth. Time, usually lack of.
  22. Hack. Everything from software programs to tips on ironing your shirts better.
  23. Deep dive. To research something.
  24. Pain point. A problem needing to be solved.
  25. Ideate. "I don't come up with ideas. I ideate."
  26. Uber for X. Could be anything really. Uber for Bananas has the potential to disrupt the whole fruit industry.
  27. Visionary. Especially concerning are: “visionary social media experts”
  28. Thought leader. Natural habitat is at a TED Conference.
  29. Paradigm shift. Can anyone give a definition of the word paradigm? Seriously.
  30. Change agent. Like a secret agent, but with a Twitter account.
  31. MVP. Most valuable player or minimal viable product, depending on the context.
  32. Crushing it. Use this phrase before or after “bro.”
  33. Curation. Last time I checked, you are not working for a museum.
  34. Exit. The sale of your company in the public markets, to another company or private investors.
  35. Gamify. Our product is boring, so we made it into a game.
  36. Monetize. Charging customers for a service or product. "Something we'll do someday."
  37. Ephemeral. Something that disappears. Snapchat usually. 
  38. Game changer. Usually not game related. Changes often are small.
  39. Space. Apparently the word industry has become too corporate.
  40. Vertical. See "space." 
  41. Delta. It means change, but not the "disprupt" kind. 
  42. Solution. Your product, naturally.
  43. Bootstrap. Building a company without outside investment money.
  44. Elegant . It looks nice.
  45. “Started my first business at age 12” Saying this shows you were pre-destined for greatness.
  46. Black hat. A method that is slightly, if not completely, illegal used to grow your startup.
  47. Exit strategy. Tech is so much fun I just want to leave.
  48. Digital nomad. I don’t work in a cubicle; I just wander the world with my iPhone.
  49. Unparalleled. No one is like us, not even beside us (which in geometry is parallel).
  50. Innovative. FYI, not everything is innovative. Please use with caution.
What would you add to this list?
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