Silicon Valley lingo: Check Your Knowledge by 55 Terms & Definitions

    Robert Metcalfe – Ethernet inventor and 3Com founder, wrote in 1998, when he went back to San Francisco from his Asian tour, that “Silicon Valley is the only place on Earth not trying to figure out how to become Silicon Valley“.

    Kilim Choi — Engineer, Entrepreneur and Writer, remembered that about a year ago … “while watching the Silicon Valley TV show, my friend Matt thought that it would be hilarious and educational to create a website like urban dictionary for all the lingos from the show. So we [Kilim Choi, Mathew Hui, and Zeeshan Javed] created one“.

1. Palo Alto. Spanish for “tall tree.” English for “overly priced land.”

2. Apportunity, e.g., when a mobile app has the capability to improve or perform a commonly desired action.

3. My Code is Compiling is an excuse engineers use to do whatever the hell they want in the workplace.

4. Solving Own Problem is a bullshit story founders present to lie on how they arrived at their product. E.g., we built datemycate app because we wanted to solve our own problem to help our cat find a date. He was very horny all the time and was always flirty with my girlfriend.

5. Algorithm Exit. Ending an argument or justifying an explanation by claiming one’s algorithm is superior without any sort of justification of said algorithm.

6. Technical Founder is 4.0 student from MIT [and usually] is a lone wolf who thinks business people are completely useless. You’re a social media manager? Get the fuck out of here. His code is perfectly architected, clean and commented in all the right places. His startups fail because he doesn’t think writing CSS is worth his time and his sites look like shit as a result.

7. DINK, Duel Income, No Kids – A co-worker who is married to another tech who makes as much as you do. They don’t have any kids and spend their time buying things on Amazon Prime, paying for movies on Apple TV, drinking wine from an online wine delivery club, and drive their BMWs to spin class, yoga, and to drop their dogs off at doggie-daycare. E.g., must be nice to have a partner that makes as much as you do. You DINKs have it all.”

8. Hockey Stick Growth. We are wildly overoptimistic about our future growth prospects. E.g., our growth rate may look linear (some would say flat), that’s how most of a hockey stick looks.

9. Brogrammer, when you mix your typical engineer with your typical frat boy. The official heuristic to identify a brogrammer in your organization is when you can’t tell whether the suspect is part of your engineering team or your sales team.

10. Democratization. Our product allows the general public to do something more easily than they could before, regardless of whether that involves democracy in any sense of the word.

11. Vanity Metrics is useless data that looks good but does not necessarily correlate real success.

12. Nomophobia is  irrational and all-consuming fear of being out of cell phone contact. Coined by British researchers. An abbreviation of no-mobile-phone-phobia. E.g., I left my phone at home this morning and I feel like I’ve lost a limb. I’m suffering from severe nomophobia.

13. Dave Ratio, [in context of popular discussions concerning the] gender parity at a startup … metric, is to compare the number of men named dave, to the number of women.

14. Bus Factor is the number of people that need to be hit by a bus before their project is dead. E.g., “Our engineers work in teams of 10 for the higher bus factor”.

15. Server Down Saturday, is a Saturday night where a video game’s server crashes and one has to go out and socialize with people in person. E.g., we had a server down saturday this past weekend, so I went to Julia’s party. It was the first time I had talked to a girl in real life in months.

16. Reverse Communism When money is taken from venture capitalists and other wealthy types, and given to coders. Profitability is a vague thing that will happen sometime in the distant future (maybe).  E.g.,  In 1991 communism was defeated, only four years later, the spectre of Reverse Communism haunted the SF bay area from 1995 until the spring of 2001.

21. Soylent Diet, refers to the diet of busy [so called serial] entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Instead of eating like normal human beings, these entrepreneurs drink Soylent, a powered meal replacement, because it is more efficient than chewing and using knife and fork.

22. Does anyone make money around here? Users of venture backed startups and residents of Silicon Valley ask this question frequently. They do not understand how a lot of social apps such as Snapchat and Facebook (before they started to run ads) are able to raise so much money at sky high valuations without generating revenue.

23. Making the world a better place. Solving a very specific problem that loosely translates into a social benefit. E.g., we are making the world a better place through P2P iBeacon messaging platforms.

24. Pivot. We failed. Now, we’re starting over, possibly with something completely different. E.g., we started out by building a SoLoMo network for hermits. We’ve now pivoted to becoming the Uber of door-to-door encyclopedia sales.

25. Level-up.  To incrementally improve something, like an application feature or personal abilities. E.g., we need to level-up the user registration process before we go live. You need to level-up your people skills.

26. Vaporware is a piece of nothing. Generally used to describe something that is inexistent. “The snake oil of tech“.

27. Tech Stars.  An incubator people apply to when getting rejected from YC. They aren’t definitively worst it just always happens to be your second choice every time.

28. Boorstrap, funding your startup from your own pocket money. (Because nobody will invest in it). E.g., I don’t need VC money, I have decided to bootstrap it myself. Yeah!

29. Bing It is an expression created by a marketing team within Microsoft that hypothesized that people would say this over the more commonly used expression “Google it.” E.g., Microsoft Marketing Rep: I want you to figure out Google’s market share. Bing Product Engineer: Sure one sec let me Google it.
Microsoft Marketing Rep: NO! Bing it!  Bing Product Engineer: Oh right, I forgot.

30. Gamification, adding game elements to normally not game related software or processes in order to increase engagement

31. E Troll is a person who purposely uses Internet Explorer in front of others and claims that it is the superior browser on the market, to either mock another person or make it seem like they are completely incompetent.

32. MD Daydreamer is a doctor who has passive regrets on his life choices and wonders on the inside whether he or she had what it took to start his or her own business. They makes it a priority to take the opportunity to pitch patients who work in software (regardless of what company they work for) in between his or her diagnosis and sometimes at dinner parties. E.g.,  I stopped going to Dr. Jacobson who is an MD Daydreamer. He always pitches me his idea for canine heart monitors that sends out tweets once a day.

33. Ballmer Peak discovered by Microsoft in the late 80’s, somehow a blood alcohol content between 0.129% and 0.138% confers superhuman programming ability. E.g., Alice: “The Ballmer Peak is a delicate effect requiring careful calibration. You can’t just give a team of coders a year’s supply of whiskey and tell them to get cracking. Bob: Has that ever happened? Alice: Remember Windows ME?

34. Adding Wheels To A Moving Car. Expecting the design or development team to scope a feature without definition or complete explanation while the product is being built.

35. Silicone Valley is a nickname for Los Angeles, plastic surgery capital of the world. Commonly mistaken for Silicon Valley.

36. Rental Property, the only real way to make money in Silicon Valley.

37. Culture Reset is the CEO’s or CTO’s reason for firing half of the engineering department. E.g., “Steve, with our new culture reset, we’re going to have to let you go. You just didn’t fit the culture.”

38. Equity Whore is a startup founder that micro manages company equity to maximize his own ownership but loses sight of more important things.E.g/, David: Did you hear? I managed to negotiate that lead engineer down to 0.3%. Now I will have an extra 1%.  Sarah: Stop being such an equity whore, having a smaller piece of something is better than having a large piece of nothing.

39. Brain Rape, is an acquisition talk thinly disguised as an intellectual property robbery. Usually committed by a big company on a startup. E.g., Erlich: They’re brainraping us right? Gerald: They definitely are. 


40. Acquihire, when a startup is bought with the sole purpose of hiring the startup’s employees versus obtaining the product/users. Generally, startups that get acquhired are struggling and the move is done as a last resort. E.g., Alex: I heard your startup got acquired by Facebook. Give me some of that startup money. John: It was an acquihire. I don’t want to talk about it.

41. _prener, the suffix you add/integrate with any noun to make it sound instantly cooler! E.g.,  intrapreneur, wantrepreneur, recesspreneur, solopreneur, mompreneur, dadpreneur, infopreneur

42. Pre-Revenue, The bullshit an entrepreneur spews to investors to convince them of a high valuation since the seed money will allow the startup to grow immeasurably. Usually followed by more bullshit, greater valuations and eventually and a low revenue to evaluation ratio and companies which never attain revenues to justify their evaluation.

43. Decacorn, is a startup valued at $10 billion or more …

44. Three Commas Club, 3  commas implies a billion dollars as $1,000,000,000 has 3 commas.

45. Doors of a billionaire.  Refers to a car belonging to a member of the three comma club with the doors that go up and down instead of side to side.

46. Zero Billion means any amount under 1 billion, rendering you off of Forbes billionaire’s list, if you round down. E.g., I’m not a billionaire anymore. I’m a nine-hundred-and-eighty-sixionaire, which isn’t even a fucking thing. If you round down, I have zero billion.

47. Two Comma Club. A club for millionaires. Russ Hannemann from the show joins the club after losing lots of money, resulting in him selling a car that opens vertically and horizontally.

48. Backseat Investor, who will never tell you no, but will wait for a lead investor to commit so he can take a backseat and ride the return train. They always tell you to keep them informed with your project without ever providing active help.

49. Buying the logo, investors putting a tiny percentage of a fund into a company so they can claim credit. E.g., due to the success of Airbnb, some investors are buying the logo so they can put an Airbnb badge on their website.

50. Herd Mentality, when people follow the leader or others like a herd instead of thinking independently. Often seen when investors are deciding which startups to fund. E.g, VC: You guys have a really strong team, exactly the type that we like to fund, but we just don’t believe in the idea. 
 Kim: Did I mention that a16z decided to invest in us yesterday. 
VC: Wait. Don’t leave. I think we started things off on the wrong foot.

51. Venture Dunce, a “VC” outside of the Bay Area that has little to no experience in software/hardware, enterprise, and consumer plays. Often seen funding the n-th food delivery market place or Uber idea meets 3-wheel bicycles. The dumb money that keeps many startups fed.

52.Negging. To undermine the confidence of somebody to gain advantage in a situation. On Silicon Valley, VC firms neg Richard to bring down the valuation of Pied Piper but Erlich counters by “negging the neg” to create funding demand for their startup.

53. Cache of Innovation is  a hyper localized and typically rural subset of engineers who choose to live places other than silicon valley and are exploited by politicians as examples of economic development. E.g., Andy: Montana has a cache of innovation ready to explode. Dave: Don’t they still work work for bay area companies and just work remotely? Andy: That’s not the point. Programmers are the key to renewed economic development.

54. Uber of… Commonly used by startup founders to compare their mediocre startup or idea to the startup unicorn Uber.

55. Title Promotion. A title promotion is a like a normal promotion, except without any increase in compensation, whether salary or otherwise. This is typically used to make engineers feel more important and get them to do more work without actually paying them for it. E.g., Calvin: I just got promoted to Senior Software Engineer! I get to manage a team and maintain existing code!  Jerry: Are you getting paid more?  Calvin: No, but think of how exciting this opportunity is!
Jerry: …

Source:  “Silicon Valley Dictionary

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