talk the talk (a tech glossary)

tl;dr: learn the language of tech niches

read time: 10m (skim), closer to an hour top to bottom


Below is a condensed glossary from my time working in early stage VC, growth, and software engineering.

It is designed to approachable for everyone, especially those without a prior background in the subject area.

For acronyms, I will list the more commonly used of the full phrase or acronym first (e.g. SEO is said more commonly than Search Engine Optimization)

I will continue to add to this list over time. Feel very free to email me (alec@contextify.io) your suggestions of phrases to add or definitions to update.

If you end up recycling part of this for your corporate blog/onboarding, please throw in a rel=follow backlink 🙃


table of contents:


startups - general

Unicorn: A company worth over $1B. full list here. 'Unicorn' usually also implies the company is private (i.e. not IPO’d/acquired)

EOD/EOW: End of Day/Week (also:COB/Close of business)

USP (Unique Selling Point/Proposition): What makes you/your business special!

MVP (Minimum Viable Product): The fast, crappy product you throw together to see if anyone will buy it. Make this to test if the market actually wants your thing. More here

KPI (Key Performance Indicator): The metrics that actually matter to a given business (e.g. DAU/MAU ratio for a consumer social app)

OKR (Objectives, Key Results): Action-focused goals; how big companies allocate resources and evaluate results. Related to, but different from, KPIs

NPS (Net Promoter Score): On a scale from 1-10, what score do people give a product or service? More here
The formula is [# of 9's and 10's] minus [# of 1-6's].

ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue): The revenue per year you’d make if you didn’t acquire or lose any customers.
The formula is [this month's recurring revenue] * 12

🚨 potentially confusing: If a given business's revenue does not reoccur (i.e. is not a subscription), you should not call it ARR. The phrase Annual RUN RATE has the same acroynm, but ARR is never used to mean that. Intentionally conflating this is misleading and will cost you credibility.

MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue): A given month's (generally, the current month's) recurring revenue.

UX (User Experience): How people use and interact with a product/service. There are many viable UX modalities; it is up to you to figure out the ones most accessible to your users.

UI (User Interface): What people see and click on. This can be a website, a mobile app, a chatbot, an SMS interaction, code, or many other things

API: Application Program Interface – A technical framework for exchanging data. Many, many parts of society rely heavily on APIs to communicate data. More here

Inbound: Business interest that comes in - e.g. cold emails to you, submitted forms on your website, etc

Outbound: Business interest you generate by reaching out - e.g. cold emails you sent, connecting to a lead via LinkedIn, meetings you ask for

Vertical: For a specific field (e.g. a vertical social network like Spiceworks allows individuals in that field to interact with just each other). Loosely related to vertical integration, which is owning more parts of your supply chain

Horizontal: For a specific offering or market opportunity (e.g. Dropbox is usable by anyone). Horizontal integration is usually called monopoly

Siloed: when data/personnel/information is separated from relevant resources/teams. There are great career opportunities if you can effectively streamline/connect people/data

Retention: A company’s ability to keep a customer loyal to their product or service.

Churn: Customers that leave in a given period of time. This may refer to Dollar Churn (how much revenue worth of cancellations happened) or Logo Churn (the number of companies that cancelled). More here

Upsell: A customer upgrading their purchase (e.g. to a higher tier or more subscription seats). Increasing upsell (and decreasing downgrades) is a big part of growing a startup successfully

Cross-sell: A customer who has already bought Thing A later buying Thing B, C, or D. Sometimes cross-sell is during the original purchase, sometimes it's later (e.g. via a series of emails)

Turnkey: A product or service that operates with easy onboarding and UX

White Label: A product or infrastructure is sold to companies with the understanding that they will rebrand their logo on it; an example is landing page builders like Instapage.

Conversion (sales): The act of turning a potential customer into an actual sale. Used as a verb (e.g. the conversion event was a webinar)

Conversion (marketing): A new customer. Used as a noun (e.g. we got 10 new conversions last night)

TLD (Top Level Domain): the last part of a website domain (e.g. .com or .io or .mobi)

UTM: Simple code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track a source, medium, campaign name, or other metadata.

Subdomain: A portion of a larger domain that is specified by the prefix (e.g. the mail in mail.google.com is the GMail subdomain)

CTR (Click Through Rate): The % of people who see a link that click it

CPM/CPC/CPA: Cost per 1k Impressions / Cost per Click / Cost per Action (usually purchase) - adspend metrics. more below

C-level/CxOs: Chief-level executives (e.g. CEO, CTO, CFO)

FTE (Full Time Employee): A person who works 40 hours a week and/or is salaried

URM (Underrepresented Minorities): Demographic groups which have below population-average representation in a given field (e.g. tech). Healthy companies hire and retain proportionate numbers of all groups of people

D&I (Diversity & Inclusion): Efforts to make a company, its employee composition, and its values more equitable and fair

SPA (Single Page App): A SaaS product that operates off a single page. Note: this can also refer to a Single Purpose Application (i.e. a SaaS that solves one particular, usually industry verticalized problem)

System of Record (SOR): Software that serves as the backbone for a particular business process. this also generally implies it is the place to look for data about that business process.


startups - categories

SMB/SME: A small/medium sized business. Usually <100 employees. Almost all startups are technically SMBs (by total number anyways)

Mid-Market: A company that is medium-plus size, but not yet a big enterprise. Somewhere between $10-500 million/year in revenue.

Enterprise: A very large company - sometimes this is defined as just Fortune 5000 companies, sometimes as any over a certain revenue threshold (the specific cutoff varies).

B2C (Business-to-Consumer): companies that sell directly to consumers.

B2B (Business-to-Business): companies that sell directly to other businesses.

B2B2C: companies that sell a product that a company uses to interact with their customers (who may be end users). May also refer to a two-sided marketplace

Freemium: A product (generally software or info-based) that has a free tier and one or more paid tiers

DTC (Direct To Consumer): Companies that sell to consumers (via the Internet) without intermediate middlemen (like drugstores)

Wholesale: Companies that sell their product in large quantites to retailers (like Costco). A company can have both a DTC arm (e.g. selling with Instagram ads) and a wholesale arm.

Marketplace: A business that connects two or more groups (e.g. for Uber, it connects drivers and passengers)

SaaS (Software as a Service): Selling the use of a software, as a recurring service (not as a license)

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): Selling a way to access technology hardware (like servers) with software (e.g. AWS, Docker)

PaaS (Platform as a Service): Selling either a lightweight product with tons of integrations/applets or just the marketplace (e.g. Salesforce, Slack, Zapier)

DNVB (Digitally Native Vertical Brands): Companies that sell a specific category of physical products on the internet (like Allbirds and Warby Parker). It generally implies the company doesn't have retail (physical store) presences.

O-2-O: Online-to-offline (e.g. Alipay partnering w/ taxis) OR owner to owner sales (e.g. real estate)

Durables/Hardlines: things that tend to last a long time, such as appliances, cars, and furniture (Shopify's Definitions)

Consumables/Soft goods: Things like clothing, shoes, and toiletries

CRM (Customer Relationship Management): The central datastore of a company's customers and potential customers.

BI (Business Intelligence): A platform for interpreting (primarily internal) data to inform product and market decisions

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning): Software that seeks to centralize purchasing, inventory, shipping and fulfillment, product planning, HR, and more. Tends to be bloated & slow.

ATS (Applicant Tracking System): Software to plan and manage hiring new employees

ABM (Account Based Marketing): Using several touch points to get to the decision maker at each (named account) typically used only in selling to upper-mid/enterprise customers

CDP (Customer Data Platform): Helps a (typically B2C) company manage their customers and potential customers and track their actions. Examples include Segment and mParticle.


startups - bookkeeping

AOV (Average Order Value): The average (mean) order a customer makes. The AOV of a business affects where and how it markets its products heavily. A related phrase is ASP (Average Sales Price)

ACV (Average Contract Value): How much a typical recurring customer is worth, assuming no churn or upsell. Be clear in using ACV if you mean 1st-year-ACV or total-lifetime-ACV (sometimes called TCV)

ARPU (Average Revenue Per User): How much revenue each customer generates (usually per year). This is similar to ACV, though ACV tends to be B2B and ARPU tends to be mostly B2C.

LTV/CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value): The total value of a customer before they churn. The formula is MRR/churn for SaaS and AOV*(1+RepurchaseRate) for eCom. This should be calculated in cohorts once a company has enough data.

Payback Period: The number of months before the cost to acquire a customer (CAC) is typically repaid (only applicable for subscription billing companies). Efficient companies aim for < 6 months. More here

COGS (Cost of Goods Sold): The incremental cost of producing one product (e.g. one subscription). Software products have very low marginal COGS.

CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate): The yearly growth rate of something - e.g. we grew 72% CAGR for the last three years. It is technically not the same value as YoY. More here

YoY (Year over Year): The growth of something compared to this time last year. YoY only refers to one year; use CAGR to represent yearly growth over multiple yeares. MoM (Month over Month) operates the same way.

EBITDA: Earnings before interest taxes, depreciation, and amortization - the accounting standard that large companies use. Prounounced ee-bit-dah. More here**

GAAP: General Accepted Accounting Principles - Measuring EBITDA is one such principle. Public companies are required to have GAAP bookkeeping. Aspire to have a set of GAAP books. More here

TAM (Total Addressable Market): The largest possible market for your service, if everyone who buys X bought your thing instead. More here

SAM (Serviceable Available Market): The sliver of TAM that you could realistically service (i.e. you could build the features that those customers needed)

SOM (Serviceable Obtainable Market): The sliver of SAM that you could realistically acquire the customers of (e.g. would a foreign government really buy your software?). Smallest of the 3 numbers. Use this number, where possible.

Unit Economics: The marginal revenue and costs associated with selling one item, not in consideration of larger expenses like R&D and general staffing

Contribution Margin: The incremental profit earned on each sale (price minus all variable costs). A negative contribution margin business will most likely fail.

Gross Margin: Total bookings (gross revenue) minus COGS. Median for true SaaS co's is 71%. It is very important a business understands and improves their margins. More here and here

Bookings: Net new contracts signed, in dollar amounts (typically ACV or TCV). More here

Loss leader: Product(s) sold at a loss to acquire clients (e.g. an Xbox or a movie ticket is sold near break even or as a loss leader to get people to buy games/popcorn)

PO (Purchase Order): A document sent confirming the stuff being procured. Typically an invoice requests payment, a PO just confirms what's being ordered.

Pro forma financial statement: Earnings with one time expenses removed. This statements are not GAAP compliant. More here

Aging Report: Details DSO of Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable (AR/AP). Larger businesses can leverage their AR/AP terms (e.g. collect sooner and pay later) to benefit

Amortization: paying off debt on a fixed schedule or spreading a write-down over time. More here

Tenor: the number of months for full repayment of a loan. More here

Forward revenue: recurring revenue projected for the next 12 months. Public SaaS co’s are evaluated in large part on this. More here

Deferred revenue: upfront bookings spread across multiple months. Accrual based. More here

SG&A (Selling, General, and Administrative costs): non product costs associated with biz side operations


sales - general

Lead: A potential customer (can mean either one specific person or a company). the specific definition varies from company to company.

SDR (Sales Development Rep): The person who finds a lead and starts a conversation with them

AE (Account Executive): The person who ‘works’ a lead (taking phone calls, providing information) and eventually ‘closes’ it (completes the sale)

MQL (Marketing Qualified lead): A lead that matches a description the marketing team has set. e.g. somebody downloads a whitepaper and you capture their email

SQL (Sales Qualified Lead): An opportunity accepted by the sales team. More here

OTE (on track/target earnings): A sales rep’s take home pay if meeting quotas (which give commissions). OTE is an estimation; over/under quota reps will make different amounts of $

DSO (Days Sales Outstanding): Time after acquiring a customer before actually getting paid

Net X: Indicates payment is to be delivered in X days (typical: Net 30 or Net 60). Net 30 means payment is delivered in 30 days. See Aging Report for more.

RFP/CFP (Request For Proposals): How a company asks for something to be sold to them.

RFI (Request for Information): Scoping for details of potential suppliers. Less rigorous than RFPs

TOFU (TOp of the FUnnel): Raw leads, generated via inbound or outbound. More here

Discovery / Disco / Q Call / Qualifying call: The first call with a potential customer, designed to determine if they are a good fit. Some orgs determine SQL status here.

Champion: The person at a potential customer who promotes you to others and moves the process forward. Help these people! Give them resources, advice, and encouragement

Pipeline: All the companies you’re in conversation with that have a reasonable chance of closing

Lead generation: Finding people who would be good customers and developing a relationship with them

Drip: An automated response email (or sequence of emails) that is sent after a certain amount of time

Touches: Reaching out to generate or nurture a lead (e.g. if you email them then call them that’s two touches)

Gatekeeper: People involved in a buying decision (particularly, those who can block it). Some gatekeepers do not need to be sold (but one does need buy-in) - e.g. legal, procurement, IT, etc

Nurture: Actions that increase the likelihood that a potential customer will buy. An example would be sending a customer case studies of customers like them who used the product in question.


marketing - general

Audience: A collection of people with a set of common identifying characteristics. Some examples being Teens (13-17), or Males (13-29)

Audience Turnover: The part of an audience that changes over time. An example being: teens have high audience turnover because every year 1/5th of the audience ‘graduates’ out

Cohort: A qualitatively defined group of users with a set of common characteristics you can define. For example, a cohort of Male 13-17 users who signed up in January 2019.

A/B Testing: Comparing two versions of some content to determine which would perform best. For example: changing the wording of an email, or the images on a website and comparing which versions perform best. We typically use 0.05 for alpha (95% confidence) and 0.8 for power. You can relax power to 0.7 and alpha to 0.10 if you need to get faster convergence

Marginal: the costs/benefits associated with one “extra” event (eg acquired customer). Economics of scale make marginal events very compelling

Bid: The highest amount you’re willing to pay for an action (e.g $6 for 1000 impressions for CPM bidding, 1 click for CPC bidding, etc)

PPC - Pay-Per-Click: Advertising that charges per the number of clicks. Generally, this refers to SEM.

PPV - Pay-Per-VideoWatch: Advertising that charges per number of users who watch a given length of a video. An example is Youtube’s TrueView Video Ads

TCPA: Target-Cost-Per-Action: Advertising that optimizes for the number of actions (conversions) that will be taken given a certain spend per action.

Agency of Record: Advertising agency that coordinates an advertiser’s promotion of several products handled by more than a single agency.

In-House: Done by a company’s employees (and not an external agency)

Placement Checking: The process of confirming where and whether an advertisement actually appeared.

Quintile: One-fifth of a group; usage in advertising often refers to audience members who have been divided into five equal groups (quintiles). Top quintile is the top 20% based on the metric being measured

Cross-promotion: In alternating sponsorships, permitting each advertiser to insert one announcement into the program during the weeks when the other advertiser is the sponsor, maintaining weekly exposure for both

Giveaway: A free offer; a broadcast program that offers free gifts as prizes.

K factor: the number of users a given user refers. A K Factor > 1 indicates a truly viral product that will grow exponentially

Ad poaching: where different ad set are competing for the same impressions. At best it muddies analysis, at worse it worsens performance. More here

A18+: Audience of 18+ year old adults

IO (Insertion Order): A way to pay for ads. Similar to a line of credit where you only pay for what you use. A fallback if you aren’t approved in a credit check for a platform. Includes the copy and specs necessary to run ads.

Dayparting: Changing the bidding environment at specific segments of the day in order to take advantage of consumer buying preferences. An example would be increasing bids in the early morning, as there are fewer advertisers targeting that time.


marketing channels

Paid Social: Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter, etc

SEM (Search Engine Marketing): Paid user acquisition via search (e.g. Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo). This is different than SEO (see more below)

Branded Search: any search keywords that include references to the brand (e.g. “Intercom chat"). These tend to be people who already intend to buy, so the CAC is very cheap.

NonBrand (NB) Search: All search keywords that are not branded search (e.g. “chat application”). These tend to be people who have some intention to buy, but may comparison shop, so the CAC can be expensive.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The practice of designing web pages so that they rank as high as possible in the search results from search engines.

Ad Network: Ad networks (advertising network, banner network, online ad network) are advertising companies which administer ad sales for a collection of websites. Ad networks often aggregate sites into specific categories or demographic groups, then sell ad inventory to advertisers. Ad networks can sell ad inventory on CPM, CPC, CPA and other revenue models. There is lots of fraud in ad networks

Affiliate Marketing: A type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

Affiliate Network: Acts as an intermediary between publishers (affiliates) and merchant affiliate programs.

OTT Video (Over-The-Top): Video that may be viewed from a website but not stored on the user’s computer. This may also be called Digital Video (aka Streaming TV/Digital TV/Connected TV. Note that this generally does not include Youtube.

Out of Home (OOH): Any physical media that is outside the home. Example being: on the side of buses, on bus stops, on posters, etc.

Direct Mail Advertising: Advertising sent by physical postal mail. Direct Mail is especially good for advertising to homeowners/renters


marketing - metrics

CAC (Cost of Acquiring a Customer): The fully loaded cost of getting one marginal customer. This generally does not include COGS

CPA (Cost Per Action): Generally this means cost of acquiring a customer, though it also can mean any other action (e.g. a trial signup)

CTR (Clickthrough Rate): the rate at which visitors click an advertisement, usually calculated as a percentage of Clicks/Impressions.

CVR (Conversion Rate): The proportion of visitors to a website who make a purchase, usually calculated as a percentage of Purchases/Clicks

CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions): The dollar cost of advertising exposure thousand times (not that this is not necessarily 1000 unique individuals). It is a useful dollar comparison that shows the relative cost of various media. CAC correlates with CPMs.

CPC (Cost Per Click): Relatively self explanatory. Search advertising (Google, Amazon, Bing) tends to bill on CPC

CPA billing: Some ad networks (and most affiliate networks) will charge per agreed upon event (like a sale). Be sure to do your diligence and ensure the action they are supplying is not fradulently completed

Impressions: The number of times a person saw your ad. Not the same as the number of people who saw it (that's usually called Reach). Never optimize for impressions

Add-To-Cart (ATC): The act of clicking to add an item to an online shopping cart. If you don't have many purchases (e.g. your adspend is low), you can optimize for add-to-carts instead; be aware that it is less ideal and bots will inflate your ATC numbers.


marketing - ads

Campaign: A collection of adsets with a common theme (e.g. new customers in Australia)

Ad Set: A collection of ads targeted with a common set of parameters (e.g. people interested in smart vacuum brands)

Ad: A collection of one of each of creative (image or video), copy (text), and outgoing link

Keyword: A word or phrase that you type in when you are searching for information in the search engines. You can bid for your ad to be placed by these keywords.

Long-tail: Keywords or interests that have low volume but may have compelling metrics when summed together with many other long-tail keywords or interests

Alpha, beta structure: An account structure emphasizing separation of a set of consistently performing adsets (also called evergreen) and those that are being tested

Frequency: The number of times that an average audience member sees or hears an advertisement (typically per day)

Reach: The total audience that a medium/adset actually reaches.

Inventory: The format (e.g. 300x250 banner) and number of impressions that can be bought in an ad auction. For any given medium or adset, the inventory (total impressions) will always be higher than reach (unique users)

Engagement Rate: A metric that measures the level at which people are interacting with content including comments, likes, shares, etc.

Relevancy: An ad platform’s calculation of how relevant your ad is to your target customers. This may correlate more or less tightly with CAC.

Position: The location of an advertisement on a page (particularly search). 1st position is at the top.

ViewThrough: A customer that looks at (has an Impression) on a display ad, but does not click through. They later convert, and are attributed back to the original source. More here

Attribution/LookBack/Conversion Window: Time when an ad server will take credit for a customer conversion. Usually 1 day view / 7 day click

Evergreen: Ad sets/campaigns that perform consistently well over time

DR: Direct Response - an acquisition funnel that goes directly to purchase. This is the opposite of Brand Marketing


ads - placements

Banner Ad: A rectangle ad, usually that sits at the top or bottom of a page. GAn example would be a 468×60 image

Billboard: A large outdoor advertising structure, typically found in high-traffic areas such as alongside busy roads

Insert: An advertisement that is enclosed with other advertisements or as part of a larger magazine.

Display/Programmatic Advertising: (see below)

Lifecycle/Email/Drip Marketing: A communication strategy that sends, or “drips,” a pre-written set of messages to customers or prospects over time. These messages often take the form of email marketing, although other media can also be used.

In-Feed: Ads in algorithmically curated feeds (like Twitter or Facebook)

In-Stream Ads: These are online video advertisements that play during the beginning and at intervals during web video content (OTT or in-feed video or YT).

Pre-Roll Ads: Video ads that play before the beginning of web video content

Interstitial Ad: Interstitial advertisements are usually full-page popup ads displayed while a user is navigating from one page to another

Native Advertising: A type of advertising that matches the form of the platform on which it appears. e.g. hiring Buzzfeed to write a listicle about your business (e.g. Taboola and Outbrain facilitate native ads)

Rich Media: Rich media advertisements are banners (or popups, skyscrapers, interstitials, etc.) which are constructed using dynamic tools such as Flash, HTML forms, Java, ASP, Shockwave, Javascript. These are by my understanding being phased out, in part due to the use of adblockers

UGC (User Generated Content): Content that has been produced by customers, clients, or consumers.

ROS (Run Of Site): Placement option that targets all pages of a given website. This tends to be broadly targeted and the cheapest option of display ads

Remnant: Ad inventory that is 'left over' (the timeslot is sooner and the seller has yet to find a buyer). Remnant exists on TV, programmatic, and display, and is typically relatively cheaper than comparable 'regular' inventory


marketing - specific ad channels

🚨 potentially confusing: ad professionals will refer to Google Ads for Search (SEM) colloquially as `search`, while SEO professionals will also refer to SEO colloquially as `search`

DSA (Dynamic Search Ads): Customizes the ad copy relative to the keyword by dynamically inserting it

ETA (Expanded Text Ad): An ad format which is longer than usual, with the option to have subsite links

RLSA/RSA (Retargeting Search Listing): Allows you to bid higher for users who previously visited your site

SQR (Search Query Report (now called Search Terms)): Data provided by google detailing what actual phrases our ads showed on. It can be used to source new keywords.

Skagging: Creating Single Keyword Ad Groups (or SKAGs). There are pro's and con's to this.

URL Masking: Redirecting a user to a different site after they hit the landing page, rather than being able to purchase there. Google hates this!

First Price + Second Price: An ad bidding mechanism - more here

Bid Shading: Trying to predict historical bid data to lower bids to the minimum required to win the auction. Only makes sense in first price platforms. Vendors frequently charge by a % of difference between intended and eventual bids.

Youtube

Featured Videos: A section of YouTube which displays particularly popular or Partner videos.

TrueView Video Ads: Skippable ads you only pay for when viewers watch or interact with your video.

TrueView In-Stream Ads: Ads that play your video before, during, or after other YouTube videos.

TrueView Discovery Ads: Ads that are displayed as a thumbnail and are used to promote your content in places of discovery (i.e., YouTube mobile homepage, in YouTube search results, or next to related YouTube videos).

Bumper Ads: Unskippable videos up to six seconds long that play before, during, or after a user watches the main video.

Facebook

Carousel: Features two or more scrollable images or videos.

Slideshow: Features a looping video with up to 10 images.

Collection: Features a collection of items that open into a fullscreen mobile experience.

LAL/LLA (Look Alike Audience): A targeting option that ingests a list (of customers or website viewers, or some other attribute) and the ad platform finds people who are similar

DABA (Dynamic Ads to Broad Audiences): A targeting option that ingests a catalog of your products and will dynamically show ads of those products to all Facebook users. Over time, FB's bidding will optimize for those most likely to buy. DABA is ideal for eCom stores with a number of SKUs but little existing advertising data More here


display/programmatic

Display: A closed network through which an advertiser can buy ads that are served on various locations on various websites (e.g. on news websites). Display can be difficult to attribute and difficult to scale. Beware of display fraud

Programmatic: Programmatic sits on top of display & ad networks; ad inventory is bought through multiple exchanges, rather than one closed exchange. More here

RTB (Real Time Bidding): A way for ad exchanges and DSPs to dynamically price ad inventory to be sold. More here

DSP (Demand Side Platform): A platform through which advertisers can buy display inventory across many websites. Similar to ad exchanges. DSPs use RTB. More here

SSP (Supply Side Platform): A platform through which publishers (websites like blogs and new sites) make their ad inventory (spaces on their website for a given period of time) available to advertisers

PMP (Private Marketplace): A closed platform with one publisher and a smaller number of advertisers. PMP publishers may have higher quality ad inventory (hence the ability to market it privately)

Ad Exchange/Network: Both Exchanges group and filter ad inventory. Exchanges then make the inventory available to buy, while Networks pre-purchase and mark up the ad inventory), but some folks will use the terms interchangeably. More here


websites - landing pages

Landing Page: A landing page is a webpage to which a user is directed after clicking an ad. For Direct Response Marketing, it is important that the landing page is one which entices users to immediately purchase a product or service (in contrast to the home page, which is more informational)

Call to Action (CTA): A piece of content intended to induce a viewer, reader, or listener to perform a specific act, typically taking the form of an instruction or directive (e.g. buy now or click here ). Informally, a button or interaction that moves a user down an acquisition funnel may also be called a CTA.

Above the Fold:Generally refers to anywhere on a web page that can be viewed without scrolling either horizontally or vertically. Most online ad networks define suitable above the fold placement as within 500 or 600 pixels of the top of the page. A significant portion of visitors to a website will leave before scrolling below the fold.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.

Backlink: a link from some other website (the referrer) to that web resource (the referent). A web resource may be (for example) a website, web page, or web directory. The value of these is highly dependent on if they are rel=follow or not

SERP - Search Engine Results Page: The results page of a search (usually Google). How a website is portrayed in the SERP can affect traffic and conversion rates

Average Page Depth/Scroll Depth: How far down a given page an average user scrolls. If 3/4 people don't make it to the conclusion of an article, it matters a lot less how eloquent it is

Pages Per Session: The average number of pages on a site that a visitor views during a single session. A high PPS can be good (highly engaged readers) or bad (people click but don't buy), depending on your type of business

Cookie: A way to track a user and customize their website experience. Cookies allow you to show an existing user a logged-in page, for example.

Mobile Optimization: The process of ensuring that visitors who access your site from mobile devices have an experience optimized for their device. Check your Google Analytics - the % of traffic from mobile is probably much higher than you think!

Uniques (usually refers to Unique Visitors): The number of distinct individuals who take an action in a given time period, as determined by IP address, user login, cookie, or some combination thereof


websites - CRO

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization): A system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers, or more generally, take any desired action on a webpage.

ASO (App Store Optimization): Like SEO, but for Apple's and Google's App Stores. This isn't technically CRO but has similarities.

Heatmap/clickmap: A visual representation of where users interact with a website or app. More here

First Meaningful Paint (FMP): The time it takes for a website's primary content to load on the screen. Decreasing this will improve UX and likely CVR as well

Lighthouse: A Google tool to assess the quality of websites. It is not the single source of truth, but can be helpful for finding optimizations. More here

Secondary CTA: a Call-To-Action that is intended to appeal to people who don't pick the primary. An example would be Primary = Buy Now, Secondary = Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Cart Abandonment: The number or ratio of customers who Add To Cart but don't checkout. Website popups, email sequences, SMS, and more can be used to increase revenue by decreasing cart abandonment

Testimonials: Case studies and/or quotes from your customers extolling your many virtues

Social Proof: Things that demonstrate a service is popular. Examples include testimonials, customer logo clouds, UGC, and more. Social Proof generally improves CVR

Alt text: Text that accompanies an image that describes what it is. Adding and optimizing alt text can help with SEO


creative - copywriting

Copy: The text that’s included with something - a website, an ad, a case study, etc. Copy is a major avenue for testing in startups, as it is faster to change than design or code.

Header/H1: The largest, most prominent sentence on a website (usually at the top)

Body Copy: Text that is not the header or in the creative assets (e.g. captions on an image would not be body copy)

Persona: A fictional character created to represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.

Captions: Subtitles on a video; for video-focused ad platforms like Facebook and Instagram, captions are very valuable, as a large percent of users watch videos muted.

Style Guide: A set of style guidelines set forth by a company that must be adhered to in all advertising. These usually pertain to (but are not limited to) advertising style, logos, phrases, pricing, and disclaimer text guidelines.

Claims: A statement made in advertising about the benefits, characteristics, and/or performance of a product or service designed to persuade the customer to make a purchase. Ensure any claims you make are complaint.

Disclaimer: A statement that denies something, especially responsibility. Disclaimers help you make things that sound like claims with less legal liability

Concept: A stated idea or theme that has yet to be created


creative - video

Aspect Ratio: The dimension rate of a video; typically there are two traditional ratios; 4 : 3 (TV) and 16 : 9 (Widescreen TV)

B-Roll: Supplemental or alternate footage from a video shoot. It is useful to keep, as it can be spliced in with main shots, audio, or music to fill time or make alternate variations

Casting: The process of finding talent or extras for a video production; may involve auditions

Crop: To remove unwanted outer parts of an image or video

Close-up (CU): A shot (photo or video) that frames the head and shoulders, leaving some room above the head

Cut: (Noun) A version of an edited video. Also (noun) the abrupt change between one video clip and another, without an effect or transition. Also (verb) to edit or splice a video.

Dry Run: A typical practice or rehearsal of a particular scene in a production. Dry runs may accumulate B-Roll footage, if the cameras are rolling

Dubbing: Post-processing that adds audio to video footage

Fade: A gradual transition from a color (usually black) to a video clip or visa-versa. Fades are often used to begin and end a video.

Ken Burns Effect: A visual effect that animates digital still photos that smoothly pans, zooms in, and zooms out by performing digital “camera moves” on simple still photos.

Mixtape: A video that is made from a collection of other video snippets. Mixtapes can be an effective way to get more creative variants out of a fixed amount of video footage.\

Montage: A sequence of video or images spliced together to represent something happening (you may be familiar with a 'training montage' in action movies, for example)

Pan: A horizontal camera pivot, from right to left or left to right, while the camera is stationary

Pre-Production: All the planning that goes into a video production shoot; may involve scripting, storyboarding, location scouts, pre-interviews, pre-light and setup, scheduling, etc

Post-Production: All the editing and video finalization processes; may include logging and capturing, editing, color correction, animation, sound design, voice over, encoding, dubs, etc

Scout: An initial location visit to determine video/audio production needs and suitability

SFX (Sound Effects): Sounds that are added to audio or video to enhance the event being captured

Shoot: (noun) A video production; (verb) The act of producing video

Soundbites: Short audio clips - most commonly used to describe takeaways from interviews

Style Sheet: The written description of the look and feel of various visual and graphic elements such as transitions, on-screen graphics, how interviews are framed and lit, color palette, style of cinematography etc.

Talent: An actor or extra who appears in audio, video, or photos. Talent is usually paid but can be unpaid volunteers

Voice Over: Audio that is presented over images or video by someone who is typically not present in the images/video themselves


technical - general

CDN (Content Delivery Network): A network of computer systems that aims to deliver content (like your website’s images) to end users as fast and reliably as possible.

CMS (Content Management System): A computer system that makes it easy to add/update/delete content (like your website’s images) as easily as possible.

CI (Continuous Integration): Automatically detecting code changes (e.g. through a Pull Request) and running a suite of tests against code before it is deployed

CD (Continous Delivery): The process of building, packaging, and (generally) deploying code to the production environment. CI and CD are commonly coupled to create a deployment pipeline

Metadata: This is the data about your data. For example for videos on a site like YouTube, metadata is the title, description, thumbnail, and tags

Server-Side: Something that operates on the “server” computer (providing the Web page), as opposed to the “client” computer (which is you or someone else viewing the Web page). Usually it is a program or command or procedure or other application causes dynamic pages or animation or other interaction.

Client-Side: The things that are executed by the client (you). An example is Google Analytics tracking a purchase - data is sent from the client-side (your browser) to the server side (their datastore)

Local: On your computer (a local environment is effectively the opposite of the production environment)

Scraping: Collecting public information off of websites with software

Dedupe (deduplicate): to deduplicate a list against a common ID, so that only one entry exists per unique ID

Substring: A portion of text - this can be letters, words, or phrases. A string is the full length of text

Float: A portion of text - this can be letters, words, or phrases. A string is the full length of text

Parameter: a variable necessary to the execution of something (eg an API call)

Endpoint: The specific link that performs a specific API function. API providers dictate which endpoints exist and are publicly available.

Containerize: To take all the variables necessary for code to run and make them standard and pre-set-up for everyone with a platform like Docker

VM (Virtual Machine): A partition of a larger server that emulates a ‘regular’ computing environment. More here

REPL: A REPL is a Read Evaluate Print Loop - a simple loop that reads a user input, manipulates it in some way, and prints the result

SQL: A Structured Query Language, that allows you to fetch (or alternately, update) data in a relational database

NoSQL (Not Only SQL): Databases that store and retrieve data via key value. Different from relational databases in that NoSQL DB's don't have a heavily structured schema and don't support ad hoc queries

CRUD (Create/Read/Update/Delete): The basic functions of a database. So-called CRUD apps allow users to perform these actions through a GUI

ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability): properties that ensure database transactions are reliable.

Atomic: A prinicple that a transaction should be indivisible; either all of the transaction succeeds or all of the transaction fails (one part of ACID)

Hang: Cease operating for no particular reason. This can be a problem when running scripts on a local machine, particularly long-running invocations

CSV/XLSX: file types for spreadsheets. CSVs do not support saving multiple sheets per spreadsheet or most formatting.

DoS (Denial of Service): an intentional strategy to overwhelm a website with a lot of traffic. a DDoS (distributed denial of service) is the most common type, as it is harder to stop. CDNs like Cloudflare help prevent DoS attacks by rerouting artifical traffic

GUI (Graphical User interface): Any UI that involves a screen. Most every web application uses a GUI. (pronounced gooey)


legalese

ROS (Run of Show document): Outlines how an event goes and who is responsible for which parts

SOW (Statement of Work): An outline of work-to-be-done, typically for external vendors or consultants

POC (Proof of Concept): Typically a paid pilot for a larger contract to be negotiated in the future. More here

LPA (Limited Partner Agreement): The terms and conditions of a VC fund's operation, that their investors (their LPs) agree to

SLA (Service Level Agreement): A standard contract between vendor and customer that specifies what services and reliability should be expected. A violation of the SLA (e.g. if the service is down for a long time) may trigger monetary compensation

SLO (Service Level Objectives): More informal goals around uptime, latency, etc. These can be either internal or external

MSA (Master Services Agreement): An agreement that sets guidelines for future agreements - an example MSA would be entering into a supplier relationship for the production of certain goods

ELA (Enterprise License Agreements): An agreement with an enterprise that allows all their users to use a service or product

SSA (Share Sale Agreement (alt: Share Purchase Agreement (SPA)): Terms and conditions for an investment

SHA (Share Holder Agreement): Necessary document for multiple investors in a priced round. More here

KYC (Know Your Customer): A legal obligation of financial providers to gather PII about customers to prevent money laundering and fraud

PII (Personally Identifiable Information): Information that identifies people (e.g. CC #, SSN - aka PII (more here)). It is ideal for security and privacy reasons to minimize collection of PII where possible

NTM (Next-Twelve-Months): A projection of revenue to be generated in the next twelve months based on current revenue and growth. NTM revenue is used as a ratio of Enterprise Value to understand investor demand

SSO (Single Sign On): Allows signing into multiple products after signing in once (e.g. via Google OAuth). SSO can be helpful to ensure access can be administered centrally

DBA (Doing Business As): Rebranding a business or part of a business (e.g. a company splitting US and international business arms)

C Corp: Generally a Delaware C Corp is the ideal legal entity for a startup that wants to receive VC investment

LLC: A pass-through legal entity that is simpler on a tax basis than a C Corp

Covenant: A formal written promise stating that certain activities will or will not be carried out. Restrictive covenants include NDAs and non-compete agreements.

Drag Along Rights: Allow a simple majority of investors to effect legal change (usually a sale)

Security: Illiquid (not immediately saleable) equity stake

Accredited investor: Legally, $200k+/yr (or 300 w/ spouse) take-home or 1M+ assets. One must be an accredited investor to invest in startups

RIA (Registered Investment Adviser): Technically you're not supposed to give investment advice if you are not a RIA ([More here(https://www.investopedia.com/articles/professionals/041013/becoming-registered-investment-advisor.asp)])

Section 1244: Allows ordinary income deduction for angel investments that fail (must be in first $1M in)

Section 1202: Used to minimize taxes on successful exits


fundraising

Liquidity event: Merger, Acquisition, IPO, or other Exit. Privately held equity and convertible debt is now liquid (cash)

Due Diligence (sometimes called DD): Looking up relevant financial, legal, logistical, and social claims made by a company before investing

Convertible notes: a legal instrument that converts into equity during a priced round. SAFE and KISS are two examples.

SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity): YC’s standard convertible note document (link. This is effective the default financing instrument before a priced equity round

KISS (Keep It Simple Security): 500 Startups’ standard convertible note document. Similar to the SAFE. More here

Carry: Fracitonal ownership of potential future profit - i.e. you hold a certain percent of the potential upside that may happen when assets/investments liquidate

Liquidation Preference (aka pref stack / waterfall): The order and amount each investor gets when the company liquidates (i.e. sells). Can cause big acquisitions to generate very little returns for employees and founders. More here

Pro Rata: Right of first refusal given to investors (typically institutional ones) that allow them to buy an equivalent amount of equity that they would ‘lose’ due to dilution in the round(s) after the one they originally invested in)

Right of First Refusal: allows a startup to have the option to buy their own illiquid shares first (e.g. an early employee trying to sell their vested shares to a third party before an IPO)

Tranches: Periods of time when money is given (e.g. $3M raise tranched in six month increments means you get $1M each six months three times). These are somewhat rare and are generally founder-unfriendly

IPO Float: The shares that are publicly traded in an IPO. This is a subset of total shares. More here

Warrant: A contractual right to buy shares during a specified period at an agreed price. Warrants are one way an investor can convert a debt obligation to an equity stake. Beware of predatory warrants. More here

Employee Equity: More here

Double Trigger: A clause that accelerates vesting when an employee is let go (without due cause) in an acquisition. Try to negotiate for this clause if you are being awarded significant equity in a company. More here


vc - general

MD (Managing Director): A founding or most-senior member of a VC firm. These folks raise subsequent funds from LPs, write checks, sit on boards, and dictate strategy

GP (General Partner): A member of a VC firm who writes checks, sits on company boards, and dictates the larger firm's strategy

Venture Partner (VP): A (more junior) member of a VC firm. Generally, Venture Partners write checks and sometimes sit on companies' boards

🚨 potentially confusing: VP at a VC fund is a very confusing term; it may also mean Vice President and have to do with a specific function (e.g. recruiting for portfolio companies)

Principal: A member of a VC firm who sometimes writes checks, but generally needs approvals from GPs and MDs. If you want to become a GP/MD, just know Principals rarely get promoted up to it

EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence): A a successfully exited founder hired by a VC firm to do dealflow/diligence (aka: VCR (VC in Residence). Between an associate and a Partner in dealmaking capacity

Associate: The most junior member of a VC firm - associates can introduce you to partners, but be wary of claims (e.g. "we're very excited about what you're working on")

LP (Limited Partner): An investor in an investment firm (e.g. a VC firm). A LP hands money to GP(s), who try to make much more money with it

High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI): A person (or sometimes a household) with significant wealth. These folks are courted by GPs to be LPs, particularly in sub $100M AUM funds

Family Office: An organization representing the interests and wealth of a household of a HNWI. Family offices are somewhat common as LPs; don't take family office investment directly

Angel: A person who makes investments in startups but is not affiliated with a VC firm. Angel checks may range from $500 to $100k per

Super Angel: A person who makes many investments in startups, so much so that their total investments sum to effectively resemble a small VC firm (usually >$1m total)

Strategics / Smart Money: an investor (VC / angel / CVC) that adds non-monetary value (in addition to money) (e.g. customer intros, domain expertise, promotion). Somewhat subjective.

CVC (Corporate Venture Capital): A branch of a company that invests (but doesn't acquire; that's the CorpDev team) startups. Most CVCs move slowly, but some are historically very strong (e.g. Comcast, Qualcomm, Stripe)

Growth Equity: Between VC and Private Equity (PE) – $100M-1b valuations

PE (Private Equity): A category of investors that try to buy struggling businesses and profit off them. These are the folks who made ambulance rides expensive

Sandhill Road: where VCs were based historically (in Menlo Park (near Palo Alto (South Bay Area)))


fundraising - VC metrics

AUM (Assets Under Management): Money (in millions or billions) that an investment firm has raised and has spent + has yet to spend

IRR (Internal Rate of Return): Annualized cash (i.e. liquid) return of an investment vehicle. Top quartile of VCs: 24.9%; median VC: 11.9%; comparative S&P: 12.7%

MOIC (Multiple on Invested Capital): More here

FMV (Fair Market Value): An estimation of the market value of something (e.g. a private company's valuation)

TVPI (Total Value to Paid In Capital): Total paper value of a VC fund’s equity holdings (includes liquidated assets). Median TVPI for 2007 vintage VC: 1.77x net. More here

DPI (Distributions to Paid in Capital): Total cash value a VC fund has sent back to their LPs divided by the amount of money the LP has paid into the fund. DPI is a closed fund’s multiple. Median DPI for 2007 vintage VC: 1.04x net. More here

Days to Term Sheet: Time from first contact to signing - average is 37 days More here

Lock up: An amount of time after an event (usually referring to an IPO) before one can sell their shares

DLOM (Discount for Lack of Marketability): private shares (equity) are worth 20-30% than their paper value ‘worth’ because they can’t be readily sold


miscellaneous

DACH: Countries where German is an official language

MENA: Middle East/North Africa countries

APAC: Asia/Pacific countries; generally includes all of Oceania / Australia

LATAM: Latin American countries (all of Central & South America)

FAANG: Facebook Amazon Apple Netflix Google - big tech companies that are US headquartered

BAT: Baidu, Alibaba (Taobao for C2C, Tmall for B2C), and Tencent (Chinese equivalents to FAANG, in terms of outsize influence)

SPF/DKA Verification: Helps ensure an email is not spoofed (pretending it’s sent from a server it’s not from). This should be set up for all email-sending domains. More here

PEO: Professional Employer Organizations - HR Outsourcing for healthcare benefits

IDE (Integrated Development Environment): A more advanced code editor - examples include Sublime and Pycharm

PHE ("Product Hunt Effect"): An idea gets posted, blows up quickly, gets a lot of traction (sometimes takes down the website in question)

Hug of Death: A social platform like Reddit or Hacker News posts a link to a small website and the burst in traffic overwhelms it and takes it down temporarily. similar to an accidential DDoS

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt): FUD is one way to conceptualize why people buy things

WIIFM (What’s In It For Me): Another way to conceptualize your interactions with buyers, partners, etc. It is helpful to keep incentives in mind and aligned.

Loss aversion: A psychological effect whereby people feel more strongly (negatively) about losing a sum of money than they do (positively) from gaining the same amount

F2F: A Face to Face meeting

ISV: An independent software vendor - an organization specializing in making and selling software, designed for mass or niche markets.

Value statement: A declaration that informs the customers and staff of a business about the firm's top priorities and what its core beliefs are. Don't spend time on these until your company is very large

Software capitalization: GAAP standards that dictate certain parts of the development of software are capitalized, rather than expensed. More here

Disintermediate: Cut out the middlemen and reduce the costs to the other parties accordingly

Deliverable(s): Work output that is expected to be done by a given time. this can be a physical product, or digital work (e.g. a filled-out CSV)

Wireframe prototype: A mockup of a software UI (sometimes also UX; e.g. Click Through Avenues (CTA))

DevOps: Making all the servers and whatnot talk to eachother

BlackHat: illegal hacking and/or software tactics that are illegal and/or immoral

WhiteHat: legal hacking that companies pay for to expose vulnerabilities

RedHat: an open source software company, owned by IBM

NAV (Net Asset Value): Value per share in a mutual fund or ETF. More here

CASA deposits: Current account and saving account deposits total

LDR (loan to deposit ratio): An assessment of a bank's liquidity. There are some banking regulations around LDR to prevent bank collapse

IVR systems: Interactive Voice Recording is the technology that powers voice systems on phonebanks (e.g. "Press 3 for Spanish")

PLM: Product Lifecycle Management


Looking for a word not listed here?

Try Sorry Whaaat or the WorkBench Glossary or WB Part 2) or SalesHacker

Feel very free to send suggestions and corrections: alec@contextify.io

Thank you to Franco, Solal, and Kat for contributing edits!