Business jargon is annoying–but startup jargon? That’s on an entirely different level. It’s not just annoying to the people who have been around the block a few times like venture capitalists and established CEOs, but also to the new hires who are dipping their toes in the startup culture for the first time. It can also confuse people from different countries who aren’t familiar with “jargon” words.
The issue with jargon is no matter what the niche, it is designed to alienate and confuse. Things can often be said much clearer by using “regular” words instead of hyped up jargon.
However, in the realm of startups, there are a few jargon keywords that really need to die. Forbes recently released their annual Jargon Madness report and pinpointed over 30 jargon words that are especially beloved by startups. What’s most interesting, though, is that jargon popularity trends depending on the person’s title. Founders have a penchant for different keywords than VCs. Here are some of the top offenders according to Forbes:
The number one jargon word for founders is “disrupt”, and it makes sense that it’s a founder’s favorite, especially in Silicon Valley. After all, they’re probably experiencing “disrupt” at a rapid pace. Nipping on the heels is “bootstrap”, which is also understandable.
Chances are they really did pull their startup up by the bootstraps, but that’s a given. There are no woe is me awards in the startup world, so stick with saying you’re a startup or simply self-funded. People in your industry understand how tough it is. We also almost all assume that when you say “boostrap” you haven’t found a way to raise money yet. People won’t say it, but it’s what they are thinking.
Venture capitalists are used to being wooed and they’ve developed a thick skin so they don’t feel badly when they turn people down. However, they really need to stop saying things like “rockstar” or telling startups to “ramp up”. These are the kind of “atta boy” words that are more fitting when giving a speech to the junior high basketball team you’re coaching.
Another groan inducing word is “leverage”, which is what VCs tell founders they need to do in order to send them on another task before bothering them again. I don’t really know another good word to use in that situation but it’s on the list and something that you shouldn’t use.
Somewhere in between product management and programming is the developer. In reality, developers are largely in control of whether the company succeeds or fails. This makes them an easy target for falling in line with jargon, since it can give them a “secret language” with others who speak it or keep people they want on the perimeter out of their circle. The worst jargon for developers are “hack” in place of just about anything (tip, trick, shortcut, etc.), “bandwidth” for resources of any kind, and getting “on the roadmap” when pitching.
Jargon and marketers go together like a fry basket and dough. However, even marketers need to know when to let something go. This list could be incredibly extensive, but people has decided “circle back”, “Ping!” and “touch base” were by far the most annoying. Unfortunately, they probably aren’t going anywhere since marketers are considered the experts in jargon and they’ll decide when enough is enough. I am going to have to kick that one!
What are the most frustrating, maddening, ridiculous, or overused jargon keywords you’ve heard?
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.