Founders Share What They Really Think About Startup Buzzwords

Are terms like, “Growth hacking,” “Unicorn” and “Pivot” still the best way to describe your startup, or have they become cliché?

How often do we hear about “the Uber for (enter industry),” or “pivoting” to “disrupt” an industry?

If you hang around traditional startup-types, read about early-stage ventures or work for a startup for even a short period of time, you’ll undoubtedly be exposed to the classic startup jargon. Words like ubiquitous, SaaS(y), growth hacking, disruptive, leverage, pivot, synergy, serial entrepreneur, robust, iterate, platform and unicorn are thrown around so regularly, some argue they’ve lost their luster. For others, they’re a sign you’re “in” with the times and can even be helpful in getting your startup funded.

Whatever your opinion may be, there’s one thing we’ve learned from working with startup companies around the state: everybody has something to say about startup buzzwords, whether good or bad. We consulted some successful founders to get their take on these oft-used terms.

“Most every startup uses buzzwords to do a good bit of the heavy lifting when describing the value of their product or service. It is exhausting to hear how something is the most revolutionary or disruptive to an industry. If you’re going to go to extremes to describe the value of your startup, vision or idea, you better deliver exactly that!”

“I actually love the term pivot, because it inherently refers to testing and iterating. To pivot you must have a good reason why. There’s no better way to describe simply that you’re shifting the focus of your product.”

“Buzzwords are a symptom of our cultural ADD around startups and tech companies. Instead of engaging in thoughtful but precise discussions, which can take longer than an elevator ride, we use clichés to provide an illusion that we are all on the same page. Some things are worth describing in detail. Especially if someone else is writing a large check to support the thing being described.”

  • Damon Ragusa, CEO, io

“I wish companies would be creative with finding a description for what they do instead of saying they’re ‘the X for X,’ like, ‘We’re the Facebook for realtors’ or ‘the Airbnb of RVs.’ Although that does sound exciting.”

“Ferdinand “The Oatmeal King” Schumacher became the first cereal entrepreneur, shortly after immigrating to Ohio and founding companies that merged to become Quaker Oats!”

Other opinions, shared anonymously, included:

“Everyone thinks their software app is a Platform until they actually use a software platform.”

Growth hacking is just another way to say ‘marketing.’ Leave it to marketers to re-market their entire profession as something new and different.”

What are your most loved/hated startup buzzwords? Comment below to let us know!

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