The Business Glossary

Business doesn’t equal babes, coke and magnums of Möet. It means specialist terms and new lingo. Bum out.

business job Student

First, you had to master speech. Then, you had to master school. Then it was academia and its perplexing vernacular of words that, no matter how many times you scrawl them across binders and notepads and flashcards, you definitely won’t remember them in the exam, let alone retain them to use in some notional dinner party arsenal. Also no one except twats have dinner parties.

Graduates: as you stumble blinking into The Real World, you’ll have to learn another language. Business. Contrary to sensationalism, this doesn’t mean babes, coke and magnums of Möet. Unfortunately, it means a dictionary’s-worth of terms you’ll need to master – especially if you’re going to launch your own business.

Check out The Tab’s idiot-proof definitions of some of the key terms being swapped over breakfast at Google Campus.

Acquisition

Essentially when one company subsumes another one, like a capitalist Jabba the Hutt.

Alpha test

An alpha test is an internal test of the website in order to find bugs. The alpha phase usually involves opening the website to employees of the company and sometimes family and friends.

Angel investor

An angel investor is a wealthy individual who provides money to startup businesses in order to help them get off the ground. This money is often provided with the condition that they get a stake in the business, providing the chance to make their initial investment back (and then some), as long as the business is profitable. This initial investment is often referred to as ‘capital’.

Note: angels tend to have extensive business experience themselves. They are not interested in paying for a production company which will direct esoteric stop-motion films starring you and your flatmates in various states of foppish dress.

Angel investors often team up to pool their estimable resources – see the Dragons of the Den.

Back-end developer

Works on the deep, internal coding that makes clicking a single button take you through to check-out and buy that thing.

Beta test

A beta test is the limited release of a website with the goal of finding bugs before the final launch of the site. Beta tests can be either ‘open’ or ‘closed’: an open beta is usually open to everyone with a computer, while a ‘closed’ test will be open in a limited number of locations.

Bugs

Basically, things that are going wrong with the website: whether that’s error messages, or the checkout page actually taking you to a Russian mail order bride website because someone’s copied and pasted the wrong code somewhere. Stranger things have happened. Bugs tend to be most troublesome in the early stages of websites (see alpha and beta test entries for more information), although they also afflict larger-scale websites from time to time, especially when they push out a new build (see below).

Build

When the product development team put out a ‘build’ it means they launch new features on the website. So like when Facebook changed to Timeline and there was a collective wail that conveniently distracted from the futility of acting out: obviously Facebook is going to innovate and obviously you’re going to keep using it anyway. Anyway. Whenever you notice new features on a website, it means a ‘build’ has been pushed out by the team.

Business Plan

A detailed analysis of exactly how your business is going to work: from the pitch and USP, to the funding model, to projected growth figures. This isn’t something you can pull out of your arse after an all-nighter and expect it to still go down a storm. This is a detailed document and it’s worth seeking advice from someone senior and knowledgeable if you’re writing one for the first time.

CEO

Chief Executive Officer. In charge of all of the business decisions. Has insight on every aspect of the business: from hiring staff, to how it works technically, to how much money it has made or needs to make in a fiscal (financial) year.

CFO

Chief Financial Officer. Responsible for the money: how it’s spent, book balancing, and analysis of data that allows the business to spend it more wisely in the future. Being good at spending money does not mean you will be a good CFO.

COO

Chief Operating Officer, often the CEO’s number two and the person with the best insight into the day-to-day running of the company.

CPO

Chief Product Officer. In charge of the product team (see below) who work on honing and developing the UX (see below) and features of the website.

Engineer

Not someone who builds bridges/cars (what else do they do?) but in fact someone who works on software and back-end engineering.

Executive Summary

A short document that summarises a longer report; a business plan will often be preceded by an executive summary.

Front- end developer

Works on the design of the site.

Hackathon

Not an extended period of time devoted to harvesting your personal details for money, but in fact an event in which computer programmers, developers, and other back-end developers get together to collaborate intensively on a software project. Derived from ‘hack’ + ‘marathon’, etymology fans. Projects developed could have a financial or business aim, could have a charitable cause, or could just be for fun/to develop the skills of those involved.

Hashtag

A hashtag (or #) is an icon used on social networking sites. It’s been used on Twitter for years, and has recently been introduced on Facebook. It makes people’s interests searchable (i.e. you can put a hashtagged term into a social networking search engine and find all references to the idea – useful if you’re trying to find out how people are responding to something). When something is ‘trending’ on Twitter or Facebook (see below), this means that a lot of people are talking about one thing, often with a common, specific hashtag: some events will spawn their own hashtag e.g. #bumpwatch denoting the hysterical anticipation of the birth of the royal baby. A few rules: if you’re trying to ride the wave of a hashtag, be careful not to misspell it – your content won’t be searchable and you’ll look like a dork. People who use ‘hashtag’ in speech are cretins. And to generate a hashtag on a MacBook, hit alt + 3.

Hot-desking

Renting a desk (or couple of desks if your team is a bit bigger) on a temporary basis. Most small startups tend to do this until they have the means to acquire their own office (and a team sufficiently large to warrant it). There are lots of spaces in London that offer this service – check out GoCoWo to find out more.

HTML

HyperText Markup Language. You may remember this from Computing Science classes, unless yours was the kind of Computing Science class where you shared 3 computers between a class of 38. You probably didn’t learn much about HTML in that class because there was little point explaining the theory behind websites if some members of your class (school not social) had never actually seen a computer. HTML is the building block of websites: it allows you to create text, images, video content, whatever.

Iteration

Similar to a build; an iteration is essentially like a version of a website. So if you said your site was in its third iteration, it means this is the third version of it, each incorporating new features (however subtle) and potentially a new look.

Metrics

At its simplest this basically means statistics that tell you whether you’re doing a good job. Companies use metrics in order to assess some quantifiable component of business growth, though depending on what your business is, the metrics you’re interested in will be different. If you’re a gated e-commerce website that (i.e. one that requires users to create an account before they can browse and buy), that might be the number of sign-ups over a specific period of time. More developed businesses might use revenue versus profit (see below).

Pivot

Sometimes, a business manages to launch without anyone actually being particularly interested in what it’s doing. Or maybe they are at first but then…they aren’t so much. Some CEOs will thunder on, playing oblivious of the evident lack of interest in their services. Others will perform what is called a pivot, which in its most dramatic manifestation can involves changing the concept of the business altogether. See Fab.com – now the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce website, but formerly a gay social network called Fabulis. Co-founders Jason Goldberg and Bradford Shellhammer conceded over a boozy dinner that the latter wasn’t working – and changed course dramatically to create Fab. Goes to show that the first idea isn’t always the best one.

Product

If you’re interested in working in a tech startup, you need to redefine your understanding of the word ‘product’. Henceforth, product does not mean a physical entity e.g. a bog roll. It means your web product i.e. your website. The product team are the team who develop the website and make it more user-friendly.

Profit versus revenue

Perhaps not in the spirit of the glossary, but these two terms are easiest to understand in relation to one another. Revenue means the amount of money that a business generates over a certain period of time; often also referred to as turnover. Profit, by contrast, is the amount of money that is actually pocketed once you’ve done things like pay your staff and heating bills.

Reaching out

If you’re going to work for a startup, especially one that involves at least one American (and even if there’s only one it will feel like there are more), you’re going to learn a linguistic subset of buzzwords like ‘reaching out’. Essentially, it means ‘to contact someone’. The medium is up to you. But instead of saying: ‘I met/emailed/texted/Whatsapped/tweeted’ that person, the American will say they ‘reached out to them’, like some kind of ‘spiritual healer’ who deludes vulnerable people into paying proper dollar for a ‘session’ and the follow-up ‘book’ that forms the lump sum he needs to fake his own death and purchase a new identity.

The phrase is repellent and the first time you find yourself using it, you will audibly stumble over the expression, directing attention to and thereby heightening your discomfort.

Seed funding

Early investment in a business until it is able to generate its own cash or attract other investment.

Silicon Allee

Berlin – which is being hyped as the next heart of the European startup industry – has a small but thriving tech heart, Silicon Allee, where SoundCloud is based. Lots of falafel shops.

Silicon Roundabout

The name given to the area around London’s Old Street roundabout, widely seen as the heart of the UK tech industry.

Silicon Valley

Essentially an industrial park in Southern California where some of the world’s most famous tech businesses have their HQ, including Apple, Facebook and Google. Otherwise, a cultural void.

SMEs

Small and medium-sized enterprises.

Stock options

If you join a startup (especially as a graduate), you will probably be paid very little. You may however be offered ‘employee stock options’: abstract beans that might grow a magic beanstalk one day in the future. Stock options aren’t the same as stock: it means that you have the ‘option’ to buy stock before other people. If the company makes a lot of money and is later listed on the stock exchange (i.e. goes public, at which point others can buy stock) you may make a lot of money. Until that point it may feel like your salary is being supplemented with air. You cannot pay rent with air.

Trending

Basically, an adverbial bastardisation of the idea of something being ‘on trend’. If something is ‘trending’ on Twitter, it means it is currently popular: a large (indeterminate) number of people are talking about it, usually with a common hashtag.

UX

User experience. You want this to be a good one. Usually used in reference to the ‘web product’ e.g. “the UX of the web product is on another level”. Note: you do not have to become an arsehole to get a job in the tech industry.

Stumped by lingo? Let us know if you want to add anything to the glossary. And for more on how to make it in the world of business, keep checking out The Tab’s startup section.