Startup Jargon

22 Jan 2019

The 10 words you need to know
for your first startup or scaleup interview

Have you ever found yourself in an interview that’s flooded with jargon, buzzwords and industry-specific inside jokes?

Chances are, if you stick around long enough in any field, some subjectivity is inevitable. For example, even on the outskirts of the startup ecosystem, there are conflicting ideas about what exactly a “startup” or “scaleup” is to begin with, and even more about where each stage of the entrepreneurial journey starts and ends.

If you’re walking into your first interview in a startup or scaleup, learning a few buzzwords should be high up on your preparatory list. After all, the better prepared you are, the better your chances of slotting right in with ease. Because nobody likes a Freudian slip – calling a scaleup a startup isn’t sacrilegious, but it sure ain’t clever…

All-hands
“We have an all-hands every month.”

This stems from the nautical concept of “all hands on deck” – or getting the entire crew involved in a task. For example, an all-hands meeting requires the whole company to attend. This inclusive mentality stems from a workplace where all members of the team are valued, informed and included.

Minimum viable product (MVP)
“We’re putting an MVP to market next month.”

This is sort of like the pilot of a TV series – the first release of a product to test the waters. Sometimes, your product will only need a few key features to pique the market’s interest, after which you can learn and build upon this MVP with future developments.

Bleeding edge
“We’re using bleeding edge technology.”

A very over-used, Silicon Valley fancy way of saying “forefront,” often used to refer to an innovation that’s leading the way in its respective field. Doing something interesting in healthcare tech? Your sales team will say you’re on the bleeding edge of medical innovation.

Incubator
“She used to mentor at a startup incubator.”

No, not the box with bright warm lights where eggs become chickens, but certainly inspired by such. A startup incubator is a program designed to support the successful development of companies by offering cost effective learning resources, mentorship and support. Here, startups can get their business aspirations off the ground, allowing founders to tackle those early-stage challenges with help from experienced experts.

Low-hanging fruit
“What would you say is the low-hanging fruit in this situation?”

Ever picked apples? Even if not, you can imagine that the low-hanging ones are the easiest to get to. Inside office walls, the term usually refers to the easiest tasks or goals to tackle first in order to reap faster, simpler rewards. Maybe it’s a product designed to meet an unmet customer need, an investor who will be easy to engage, or a problem that you can quickly solve without major effort or expense.

Agility
“What’s your understanding of what it’s like to work in an agile environment?”

The most common agility meaning, a la www.dictionary.com, is “the ability to move quickly and easily, or the ability to think and understand quickly.” In startup terms, agility refers to a business’ ability to evolve, scale, adapt and grow seamlessly. It’s also often used to describe sought-after employees who can grow and evolve with a changing business.

Stand up
“Your team holds a stand up every morning.”

This noun is used to refer to a very brief meeting with your team where you recap or touch base before heading back to work. Stand ups are designed to increase productivity by encouraging face to face conversations rather than relying on email.

Hackathon
“Have you ever participated in a hackathon?”

A marathon of hacking – or problem-solving in innovative ways. Hackathon events are like intensive brainstorms, usually held over a day or two and attended by developers, designers, programmers, project managers and experts from all backgrounds who come together to collaborate and find new solutions, products and ideas.

Growth mindset
“We’re looking for people with a growth mindset.”

People with a growth mindset believe that, with hard work and innovative ideas, growth (whether personal or business-related) is achievable, if not inevitable. This attitude is key in cultures where a dedication to learning, evolving and taking growth opportunities is the basis of success. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is when a person believes that traits or circumstances are permanent and out of their control.

Venture capital (VC)
“We’re funded by a Silicon Valley VC.”

Venture Capitalists are investors who put money behind high-growth companies – if they believe in your venture, they’ll provide the capital. It’s a high-risk investment, as the companies are often just starting out, but always expected to deliver long-term rewards. Interestingly, a VC doesn’t have to be monetary – it could be resources or expertise-related, and is usually in exchange for equity or shares.

Hoping you’ve found this article useful and good luck on your job hunt.  Learn more about the types of jobs scaleups are recruiting for in Melbourne.

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