A Handy Guide to the Language of Tech

A Handy Guide to the Language of Tech

Like countries, industries have their own languages/patois, and tech is no exception. According to  Brian Collins, “Time for an update on painful business clichés. I’ve done my best to burn these expressions – some that I’ve used shamelessly – out of my lexicon. I have not always succeeded.”

He did compile a great list, and despite the fact that Collins comes from advertising, many of the expressions are used/overused in tech, at meetings, in decks/executive summaries, on Demo Days, and in pitches to investors. Those of us who tend to be on the other side of the table can probably repeat the list, chapter and verse, without even reading on.


We used to have a cat poster – not the kind with a cute kitty picture. The headline was C-A-T and it went something like this: “Journalists and writers are credited with having the largest vocabularies, at about 20,000 words, followed by professionals white collar workers, with about 16,000 words; blue collar workers with about 12,000 words and day laborers with about 6,000 words. The jury is still out on art directors.”

And tech startup founders, in our humble opinion.

Here is the technology industry/startup world’s list of overused words and expressions, which you may want to consider avoiding or rethinking, edited a bit, and with input from yours truly and another source who preferred not to be credited. We asked.

Without further ado, here you go:

Loop me in
At the end of the day
Back to the drawing board
Hit the ground running
Get the ball rolling
Low-hanging fruit
Think outside the box
Par for the course
Bang for the buck
Boots on the ground
Move the goal post
Step up to the plate
Open the kimono, Close the loop
Ladder up
No brainer
Touch base
Circle back
Secret sauce

Accessible, Actionable, Artisanal, Sustainable, Bespoke, Pivot, Data-driven, Plug-and-play, Viral, Hockey stick growth, Re-boot, Paradigm shift, Sharing
Chime in, Un-pack, Take it off-line
Outside the box, Out of Pocket, Inside baseball, In lock-step, In our wheelhouse, Skin in the game, On my radar, On point, On steroids, On the table, Off the table
Don’t have the bandwidth, Do have the bandwidth

Flesh out, Bases covered, Big idea buckets

Move the needle, Build an ecosystem, Your point is well-taken, A hard stop, Work your magic, I don’t disagree, That ship has sailed, Next steps, I’m running between meetings, Let’s take it off line, That’s the ask, Dial up, Thought leader (Ghost written )

Digital anything

Pencil in, Lean in,  Loop the team in, It needs massaging, Give it a think Elephant in the room, Living in a vacuum
Ramp-up We welcome your feedback Jump the shark
Can I ask a question?
My bad, Let’s chew on it, Eating your own dog food, Drinking the Kool Aid, The tail wagging the dog, Best of breed

Throw under the bus, Look under the hood, Kick the tires, Rubber meets the road

Epic, Disruptive

We have no competitors

Last but not least is that phrase that is uttered, almost without exception, by founders on demo day: “And we have the team to do it!”

Tech entrepreneurs have a reputation for being brash, ground-breaking, smarter than the average bear, brash (sic) – yet seem to devolve to the industry clichés every time, that everyone else uses, and that every investor et al has heard ad nauseam.  How are you breakthrough and disruptive when it all starts to sound like the same old, same old?

In any case, there’s the list for you to use – or hopefully, to avoid. Your choice, but if you do fall back on it, don’t be surprised if the person on the other side of the table rolls his or her eyes. You’ve been forewarned. And always a good idea to watch your language. Onward and forward.
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