13 words to use that will convince anyone you're a Silicon Valley genius

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Silicon Valley, speak like the techies.

If you want to blend in you better understand what it means to eat dog food (hint, it doesn’t actually involve Kibbles ‘n Bits). And you’ll need to know how to control your burn rate before you pivot.

Luckily, Rochelle Kopp and Steven Ganz have created a cheat sheet called “Valley Speak: Deciphering the Jargon of Silicon Valley” — a deep glossary into over 100 crucial words and phrases.

If nothing else, you might get more out of HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”

Here are a select 13 words and phrases, excerpted from chapters of “Valley Speak,” that will help you talk like a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.


'The term pivot, introduced in 2009 by Eric Ries of Lean Startup fame, refers to a significant evidence-based change in business vision or strategy that retains its roots in the original approach. Unlike a jump, a pivot suggests a change in direction, and one during which contact is maintained with the ground -- a change with continuity. Ideally, it should be possible to redirect much of the work already done toward different ends.'

Stealth Mode

'Stealth mode, a term borrowed from the military, refers to a period when startups keep quiet about their plans. Stealth mode is primarily meant to prevent a competitor, especially one with greater resources, from getting wind of the idea and developing it first. It is particularly relevant before IP is filed.'


Chris Livingston / Getty Images

'In startup culture, to 'eat your own dog food' means using your own product or service internally as a way to validate its quality and capabilities.

In 1981, Microsoft manager Paul Maritz titled an office email 'Eating our own dog food,' by which he challenged the recipients to increase internal usage of the company's product. From there, use of the term spread through the company like wild re and was eventually taken up throughout Silicon Valley. The idea is that if you expect your customers to use your products and services, you should expect no less from your own employees.'

Growth Hacking


'Growth hacking is a mindset through which smaller tech companies do everything possible to stand out in a big market, gain exposure, and increase their user base. Growth hacking differs from standard marketing in that it bypasses the traditional corporate structure and techniques of a marketing team -- in part because the startup cannot afford them and in part because it can achieve greater results in other ways.'

Fail Fast

Lars Baron/Getty Images

'Traditionally, failure was only considered as a negative, but Silicon Valley has developed a new way of thinking about it. Because innovation rarely takes the form of a straight line, failures are inevitable on the way to success. From this perspective, in Silicon Valley failure is commonly worn as a badge of honour, not shame, among entrepreneurs.'


Getty/Max Morse

'The dream of every Silicon Valley startup is to disrupt an industry -- to produce an innovation so different from what came before that it is a game-changer that upends the status quo and becomes the next big thing. Such innovations create disruption as those relying on traditional business models are left at a competitive disadvantage.'


'Startups often strive to be acquired by a large company. An acqui-hire (a portmanteau of the words 'acquisition' and 'hire') may not be what they have in mind. This form of acquisition is motivated by the procurement of the company's personnel (including, and perhaps only, the founding team), rather than its products or services, which may be discontinued following the acqui-hire. Typically, an acqui-hire involves a large company buying a much smaller firm.'

Thought Leader

Scanpix/Heiko Junge/via REUTERS

'A thought leader is a person or organisation widely recognised for expertise in a specific field. Being a thought leader, however, is not the same as knowing the most about a topic. Thought leaders stand out because their ideas are so innovative and they present them so well that they guide the thinking and decisions of others. Thought leaders are often among the primary 'go-to' resources in their field. As a recognised authority, a thought leader is frequently sought out by peers, clients, and even competitors for knowledge, intuition, and advice.'

Burn Rate

David McNew/Newsmakers

'The burn rate of a startup refers to its negative cash flow—the amount by which its cash expenditures exceed the cash it takes in. This burning of cash typically goes along with starting a company and getting an idea off the ground ... or not. The burn rate is usually calculated as a monthly figure and provides an important indicator to management of how much time they have before they must either raise or earn more money, or close their doors.'

Exit Strategy

Getty Images

'Intrinsically embedded in the concept of a venture-backed entity is the end goal of cashing out of the business in what is known as an exit. The startup may have as its goal either an IPO or an acquisition (buyout) of the firm.'

SoLoMo (Social-Local-Mobile)

'SoLoMo, a portmanteau of Social-Local-Mobile, represents a model for connecting mobile users with local commerce based on their location and social media activity. The growing popularity of the smartphone influenced and allowed for the emergence of this trend.'


Getty/ Joe Raedle

'Hackathon, a portmanteau of hack and 'marathon,' describes a competitive event in which teams of developers (potentially also graphic designers, interface designers, and project managers) come together to build software. While some hackathons are one-day events, many, as suggested by 'mara- thon,' take place over several days.'

Unicorns (incredibly valuable startups)


'Everybody is looking for unicorns, but nobody knows what they look like (until the horn grows in). It may be possible to identify companies that will do well, but it’s impossible to predict those, and only those, that will be unicorns, in part because the formula for success is constantly changing.'

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