Attention! Start-up language

When we – early stage entrepreneurs – talk to investors, clients and competitors about our companies we tend to exaggerate 🙂 This article comes in handy if you want to close the culture gap in the communication with Start-up CEOs 🙂

What we say: Our product quality is exceptional.

What it really means: When we work on quality, we make a lot of exceptions.

What we say: Our total addressable market is $17 billion

What it really means: We have no idea how to estimate our market but financial investors seem unhappy with anything less than 10 billion and we do not want to just cover the bare minimum. In addition, 15 or 20 billion is too dull. Making it 17 looks like there’s real data behind it.

What we say: We have Fortune 500 companies in the pipeline.

What it really means: 3 months ago we cold-emailed two Fortune 500 companies and they still haven’t replied. Hence, they are still in our pipeline 🙂

What we say: We have our first paying customers.

What it really means: At a networking event my partner met someone who said they might be interested to buy.

What we say: We are a profitable company.

What it really means: now it is – we have our first paying customers.

What we say: We are a team of 15 people.

What it really means: It’s actually me and my partner. We have 3 friends who help us from time to time but they keep their regular jobs. My wife once helped me with Excel. We paid $100 a design studio to make our presentation pitch – they have 7 FTEs, so theoretically all of them may have contributed to the task. That’s a total of 13 but we plan to contact two freelancers on Fiver some time soon.

What we say:   We already have proof of concept

What it really means: My mom said that this is a great idea and she is proud of me.

What we say:  I am working hard to earn the trust of investors.

What it really means: My father said there is no way he will give me his hard-earned money but I am talking mom into convincing him.

What we say: I am about to close a deal with a top class investor.

What it really means: My cousin (who is in the top class) is about to lend me some of his pocket money.

What we say: Our dream team is very united!

What it really means: No fights in the office in the last three days.

What we say: Our customer service is out of this world!

What it really means: Customers do say that our customer success team acts as they are extraterrestrials.

What we say: Our internal processes work like magic.

What it really means: No one in the company has any idea what processes we follow.

What we say: I rarely leave the office before 9 pm.

What it really means: I rarely show up before noon.

NEXT: The next article will take us back to more serious topics.  Its focus will be  “the roles of a CEO in a small company”. What should we take care of in the different phases of development of a small venture? Interested? Subscribe to CEOmoments’ mailing list and get it right in your inbox:


About me: Apart from acting as a CEO of DEV.BG (the biggest IT community in Bulgaria) I help CEOs of small companies build their business. If you face a case I can help you with, drop me a message on LinkedIN.

Excuse my English 🙂 English is not my mother tongue and as you have seen it may be improved. Though, I believe that my level of command of the language covers the basic criteria in order for me to convey my ideas.