A New MBA Mondays Series: Business Arcanery

I'm going to do a series on Business Arcanery. I don't even know if arcanery is a word, but I like it so we are going to use it as a name for this series. It is about arcane words that are used in business but regular people have no idea what they mean. We are going to decode the code words business people use.

I have a few words/phrases lined up like:

warrant coverage


a collar trade

cultural fit

Please add others that you would classify as business arcanery in the comments. This should be a fun series and I am going to need your help with ideas.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. Tim Huntley

    Hey Fred,Here are a few:   – Earn out   – Claw back   – Overhang   – Lock upAll the best,…Tim

    1. fredwilson

      ooh. good ones tim. thanks.

      1. Kern H.

        Float!It has so many different meanings

      2. James Eiden

        Right – SizingThe CEO has left the company for “Personal Reasons” or to Pursue “Other Opportunities”Another favorite: In Transition

    2. ErikSchwartz

      You should do lock up on the day the groupon lock up ends.Then we will all get to see what happens when nervous insiders and late investors dump shares of a company with 4.5% float.

  2. David Levine

    I vote for pivot. It’s incredibly overused and it’s meaning has morphed (or dare I say it – pivoted!). You had a great definition a couple of weeks ago (I think) commenting on Eric Ries’ usage.

    1. fredwilson

      added. thanks.

    2. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Yes. In the Eric Ries phraseology, pivot means *keeping a part of your model* and adjusting the rest (when you pivot in real life, one foot stays on the ground while the other moves), and in common parlance it means “completely transforming your company”, i.e. the opposite. (I suggest “reset” for the latter.)

      1. Tereza

        Or, re-boot?

        1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

          Or reboot. That was actually my first choice, but when you reboot a computer, it’s still the same computer… But that may be overthinking it.

        2. Rohan

          You’re on a roll, Tereza.I guess something about this post hit a sweet spot.

          1. Tereza

            Just procrastinating on something, that’s all.

  3. LIAD

    Phrase: Hows your bandwidth looking next week?Translation: I’m a super douche bagPhrase: We’re pushing the envelope.Translation: I fell on my head when I was a babyPhrase: It’s a paradigm shiftTranslation: eeyore eeyore

    1. fredwilson

      i love that first one. so true.

    2. Rohan

      @Trish_Burgess_Curran:disqus I notice both of you are in London. We should do an AVC meet up sometime. 🙂

      1. David Smuts

        Agree to that- who wants to co-ordinate?

        1. Rohan

          I’d be happy to, David. What’s the best way to do this? To use meetup or send you guys an email?  I’m on rohan@rohanrajiv:twitter.com – If you guys prefer to just send me a note, then I’ll be glad to follow up and get something together. Shall we try and lock 715pm Friday, 25th on the bar at top of the Gherkin? :)@liad:disqus @Trish_Burgess_Curran:disqus 

    3. Luke Chamberlin

      These are great.

  4. testtest


    1. fredwilson

      that’s kind of like “at the end of the day” or “bottom line”

      1. testtest

        thanks mate!

      2. baba12

        or “matter of fact”, “Tell you the truth” and “honestly” 

      3. Phil Michaelson

        I like the ones that crossed over from finance.  Arbitrage, option, hedge, etc.Is ‘net net’ derived from ‘net income’?

        1. testtest

          me too. i did finance at university so have a bit of a soft spot for them. also got a lot of friends in finance, they drop such terms into conversation nonchalantly — as if they’re part of the average lexicon   

        2. fredwilson

          i like these too. but i did get a critique that too many of my examples are “financey”

      4. Rohan

        Don’t think the ones who do either.If you can’t convince them, confuse them. 

      5. leigh

        i have a bad habit of ‘at the end of the day’ and my hubbie always interups me and suggests that’s called ‘night’ 

        1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

          You could inform him that you actually finish your days at noon and after lunch you spend on tomorrow….

        2. fredwilson

          i overuse that too

  5. Ed Freyfogle

    Above/below the line marketing

    1. fredwilson

      i am not even sure what that means!

      1. Ed Freyfogle

        As far as I can tell it has something to do with “This is how we justify a percentage based fee structure, which, when you think about it, will just encourage us to get you to spend more, more, more. Probably best not to think about it too hard.”

      2. Jeff

        the line is your revenue line in the p&l.  Above the line means that your marketing ‘spend’ is pre-revenue.  below the line means it is an expense ‘below’ the revenue line (part of sg&a). e.g. I am Clorox and make/sell bleach.  Above the line marketing would be if I discounted my product to my customer.  It costs me money, but shows up in reduced revenues.  Below the line marketing would be if I purchase a full page ad in the times, or run a “Bleach Day” event somewhere.   I get full revenues for my product, but spend in promotional materials.

        1. ShanaC

          it is the reverse…

          1. Mark Essel

            so above the line is paid ads, below the line is discounting product/cutting revenue?

        2. leigh

          not what it means in advertising…..

          1. Cam MacRae

            yeah, although it is related to the p&l historically – something to do with agency commissions on media spend.

    2. Tereza

      I come from marketing and still get those confused.

    3. leigh

      Above line marketing = Eloi (Broadcast advertising)Below line marketing = Morlocks (Direct Mail, Retail & Digital)And would explain why i stopped working for large multi-national Agencies…

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Let’s talk demographics… 🙂

        1. Rohan

          demographics – that’s a good one.Segmentation – comes to mind.

    4. Carl Rahn Griffith

      A/B Testing.

  6. RichardF


    1. fredwilson


    2. Tereza

      That’s like saying, “Hi, I used to be a low-level financial analyst at a big bank but then decided it would be cooler to get a job at a VC. Not sure I’ll ever go work for a real startup, though. I like watching it from the game from the outside and playing judge + jury.”

  7. William Mougayar


  8. ShanaC

    Synergy.words that are actually initials, like SWOT analysis, CPM/eCPM (most people here will know what that is, but still, even I sat there for a while trying to figure out what the initials meant)OTM (see JLMs favorite thing)hmmm. i’ll be back with other ideas

    1. awaldstein

      There are endless acronyms and formulas in marketing. In SEM alone. In email marketing gazillions of them.Starting with the biggest most simple, most convoluted one…ROI. Add social to that and you have a 1000 comment post.

      1. Rohan

        SEM… 😉

    2. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Second synergy. Terribly misunderstood/misused, including (especially?) by businesspeople.SWOT also; related “cash cow” (what people don’t understand is that in the BCG matrix, a “cash cow” is a dying/stagnant business; means more than just “very profitable”)

      1. ShanaC

        Maybe we should do a post just about how to do a SWOT analysis?

        1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

          Why not…

    3. JLM


      1. ShanaC

        sorry – see this is why initials suck!

      2. Tereza

        Yeah, otherwise it’s Other Turtles’ Money.  Which doesn’t give you much runway.

        1. Cam MacRae

          It’s turtles all the way down: http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…

          1. Tereza

            Love that!

    4. Tereza

      Fred should do a post just on TLAs. {three-letter acronyms}

    5. leigh

      synergy?  omg i won’t have any vocabulary after you people are finished.  I love syngergize.  i’m also a huge fan of bucketize.  can i at least keep bucketize?

    6. Rohan

      Synergy – there’s a great moment in Jack Welch’s session at Kellogg in 2001 (http://www.kellogg.northwes… when one of the Dean’s asked him a question that ends with ‘synergy’. And he responds with ‘Don’t use that term. That’s academic’. (or something close)It’s a fantastic session. 1 hour long but some very cool learnings..

  9. Neal7799

    post/pre money (valuation)BMBY

    1. fredwilson

      what is BMBY?

      1. Neal7799

        BMBY – Buy me Buy you -legal instrument employed when owners-in-common wish to separate without selling their asset to an outside party. The standard example is a firm whose shares are held by two (or more) parties, each wanting to buy the other out (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3…. I would also add:- preemptive right

    2. JLM

      Chinese buy – sell provision

  10. awaldstein


  11. Rohan

    process re engineering’space’ 

    1. fredwilson

      space is a word i hatei wrote this six years agohttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/200…

      1. Rohan

        Haha. Thanks Fred. Now that I see it – I do actually remember seeing that post when I was searching for something here recently. I don’t know how or why now. Very funny.. 

  12. Avi Deitcher

    There are a bunch that I often get blank stares when I use them:- optics- CAC- LTV

    1. fredwilson

      optics is a great one

    2. Rohan

      Optics. cool!

  13. Rob Ganjon

    Here’s a few:MonetizeVis a visCap-ExAcretive/dilutive (and the uses outside the traditional technical meaning)PS – above the line is tv, radio, print, etc (the expensive non-targeted stuff). Below the line is direct mail, email, etc.

    1. fredwilson

      i like accretive

      1. panterosa,

        the sound of accretive, and its almost outright obtusivity, makes me think seccretive might be fun term to start dropping to see if anyone catches it. must be pronounced correctly to work.

    2. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Vis à vis isn’t a business term.

  14. Avi Deitcher

    Oh, yeah. I make my living as a consultant, cannot tell you how much headache I get from trying to explain capex vs opex to people.

  15. Rob Ganjon

    Oh… And “burning cycles”.

  16. Avi Deitcher

    I had to explain to a salesman last week what “accumulative” discounts or pricing are. 

  17. Avi Deitcher

    I propose the official “Fred Wilson Dictionary of Arcane Business Terms”. 

    1. fredwilson

      it looks like that is where we are headingnot sure how to make this a series of posts unless i give it a separate day

      1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

        I suggest a collaboration with Ambrose Bierce.

      2. William Mougayar

        One idea is to separate these into 2 lists. A – good terms that mean something and worth paying attention to. B – we wished they didn’t exist because they confuse more than enlighten. 

        1. Trish Burgess-Curran

          Absolutely agree!  Two separate lists will help us all agree on the terms that we should all be promoting!

        2. Rohan

          We could actually just do this on a Google spreadsheet you know.Maybe the Prof will give us that as our week’s homework..

    2. ShanaC

      I think FG should illustrate, a la Maria Kalman(phone issues)

  18. Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg

    Goodwill.I know what it means, and I’m sure you’ve probably covered it before here, but I’ve always thought it was an odd term….

    1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Seconded. Crucial, tricky concept.

    2. fredwilson

      good one

  19. Avi Deitcher

    It was only half tongue-in-cheek. Half.Remember in the mid-90s, the “Fast Forward MBA” series? Friend of mine wrote the one in Technology Management, it was a great reference. Today it would be online.It may seem obvious to lots of people that it should exist already, but I would be happy to have an online/app reference.

  20. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    Perhaps the biggest one: strategy. Completely overused and misused, including by people who ought to know better. Alternatively means:- How to achieve your goals;- Corp dev;- Whatever it is strategy consultants do (which most of the time is implementation, not straegy);- “I don’t have a good answer for your question.”

    1. Tereza

      Like porn, you know it when you see it.

  21. JimHirshfield

    Cram down (ugh, so nasty sounding)Dry powder (as if entrepreneur = Johnny Appleseed)Double Trigger (covered a few weeks back)

    1. fredwilson

      good ones jim

    2. muratcannoyan

      For real?! Damn, I’ve got a long way to go.

    3. Tereza

      full ratchet

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Leverage.Scrum team.

  22. EmilSt

    Paradigm shiftSocial capital MonetizationVestingPay-to-playAntidilution

    1. fredwilson

      some good ones here

  23. Cam MacRae

    I have a little dashboard widget that generates business arcanery instead of lorem ipsum. Try this on for size:Collaboratively extend focused manufactured products vis-a-vis cross-unit leadership. Competently enhance robust leadership through performance based information. Objectively initiate process-centric intellectual capital with unique resources.All clear?

    1. Avi Deitcher


    2. Mark Essel

      Made my morning.”The Architect” gives board meeting minutes.youtube

      1. Rohan

        Great advice on Fred interview. I’ll work on it. 😀 (couldn’t reply there.)

    3. Rohan


    4. Chris Ked

      performance based information. This is gold =)

    5. fredwilson

      that’s fantastic. i love it.

    6. ShanaC

      Where did you get it?

      1. Cam MacRae

        http://doubleforte.net/widg…I’ve had it for years, but never had as much fun with it as I did last night:Synergistically communicate orthogonal innovation without focused action items. Efficiently leverage existing 24/365 paradigms rather than inexpensive process improvements. Appropriately build effective leadership skills rather than 24/7 meta-services.

        1. Alex Murphy

          “Efficiently leverage existing 24/365 paradigms”I think there are 100 startups with this in their exec summary.

    7. Trish Burgess-Curran

      Hilarious!  Clearly muddy!

    8. leigh

      Crap – now taking that out of a proposal as we speak ….

      1. Rohan


    9. Carl Rahn Griffith

      I’ve read that in many business plans…

      1. raycote

        That really funny!

    10. Alex Murphy

      that is awesome! 

  24. JLM

    material non-public informationgoing concernqualified v unqualified opinionfairness opinionright of first refusaldilution and pricing of options upon issuance of additional stockearn outearn in

    1. William Mougayar

      I can see you’ve done Contracts negotiations a lot. 

    2. Tereza

      material non-public information –>  HAHAHA!!!!  that’s like saying, “HIYA!  I’ve gotta BIG FAT JUICY SECRET!!”

    3. fredwilson

      excellent additions JLM. thanks

  25. Avi Deitcher

    fiduciary obligation

    1. fredwilson

      good one. i use that frequently.

      1. Avi Deitcher

        I suspect you fulfill it, too. Not everyone does, you know…

  26. William Mougayar

    Let’s take a deep diveDissect this for meLet me add some color to itLow-hanging fruitTake it to the next levelDrill-downOver the topWhat’s the rub? 

    1. Avi Deitcher

      While we are at it: boil the oceaneat your own lunch

      1. William Mougayar

        Boil the ocean! Look no further than these comments for a definition. 

        1. Tereza

          Drink water from the firehose!Eat your own dogfood!Oh, and my personal favorite: “How deep is your dick in?”{Yeah, I laughed nervously and quickly changed the subject on that one, but let’s just say….it’s a floater.}Speaking of floaters:  “A turd in the punchbowl”, the colorful update to “fly in the ointment”

          1. Rohan

            On a roll, you. Loved your bio on the gotham gal’s blog, I did. :)Inspiring story, it is..

          2. Tereza

            Hey right back at you, Rohan! You did a WONDERFUL interview of Gotham Gal today as well. {folks you can catch it here–> http://www.alearningaday.co…} And yes if anyone wants to see a quite detailed blow-by-blow of The Life of Tereza, Gotham Gal herself generously put one out today. And I am SURE her fingers are TIRED. When one gets old (me), the bio gets long. Sigh.

          3. leigh

            Great story it is.  Can’t wait to meet you in person Tereza.  You sound like a force to be reckoned with (my favorite types of women including my daughter all are 🙂

          4. Rohan

            I can’t reply to your comment below.Why, thank you. As I told Mark, I’ll take credit for the interview and give GG the full credit for the WONDERFUL. 😀 And I’m soon going to be after you for an interview. (it’s hard to.. after that killer write up ;))Just giving you in advance notice. Persistent pain in the ass, I am. 😀

          5. PhilipSugar

            Wow, I generally consider myself crude, unembarrassed, and running in a tough crowd but I’ve never heard that one.

          6. JLM

            Go crap in your own mess kit.

          7. Carl Rahn Griffith

            I don’t mean to piss on your parade, but…

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Soup to Nuts!

    2. Mark Essel

      We’re going to have way too much fun with this series William.

      1. William Mougayar

        It seems that way. What a relief after we were all expecting another dreadful MBA Monday lecture :)Feels like the professor let us easy this Monday morning.

        1. Rohan

          Given us the work, he has. Canny, he’s become..Assignments for us, these will soon be.

    3. Tereza

      Many juicy ones in there, William!  I’m guilty of many of these.  But when one is *wrong* my type-A instincts kick in.  “Low hanging fruit” isn’t the fruit you’d want.  It doesn’t get the sun.  The ripest fruit is at the top.  And fruit that’s fallen to the ground is kinda gross and icky.I guess someone who never got outta the office made that one up.  🙂

      1. William Mougayar

        All this fruit talk is a good prelude for the wine bar meetup on Wedn. You’re in, right? 

        1. Tereza

          Yes yes.  And in fact undertaking some fairly heroic work-life-crashpad acrobatics to be there and get to DC to speak next day on a DCWEEK panel.  Anyone else gonna be there?  (BTW still looking for DC crashpad if any of you, my BFFs, have suggestions of cheap + cheerful somewhere in or between Alexandria and Union Station)

          1. tgodin

            I’ll say hi on Thursday at the DCWEEK conf.   will think about “cheap and cheerful” in the area.  

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Thank you for the acrobatics.  It would be a wasted trip for me if you weren’t there.  Still can’t figure out what to wear.  Guess another visit to Honestly Now is in order.  Packing the coat.  That was an overwhelming vote.

          3. ShanaC

            Make sure it is a lighter weight coat – it’s been lows in the 40s this week, and that is expected to continue.

          4. Tereza

            Doesn’t it feel good to have the cloud of doubt gone in minutes??

          5. fredwilson

            good thing i have a uniform. jeans, collared shirt, casual shoes. the only thing i need to consider is whether i am going to wear a jacket or not. 

        2. karen_e

          Where/when, o moderator?

          1. ShanaC

            after the meetup

          2. Tereza

            Come to the meetup and someone will wink, slip you the secret handshake, direct you to a small piece of paper under a rock, which will have an address of a place with no sign and a very large bouncer.  Turn your head, cough three times, and you’re in.Kidding.  Talk to William.

          3. Rohan

            hehe.you guys in NYC have all the fun… 🙁

          4. William Mougayar

            Are you coming to the Donnors Choose event on Wedn?

      2. baba12

        Just as in “highest on a totem pole is generally the lowest in the tribe”, but most folks don’t know that.

  27. Cam MacRae

    SegueHarmonizationOpinionnaireResource re-balancingVisionCapacity releaseActionable

    1. Avi Deitcher

      “Capacity release”? What is that? It sounds like either emptying out unused inventories, or what happens when I let a good hockey shot fly.

      1. Cam MacRae

        Headcount optimization 🙂

        1. Tereza

          =right-sizing=workforce re-alignment=firing people

    2. Tereza

      I got one — how ’bout — “Freemium”?j/k

      1. Cam MacRae

        Totally should be included – no normal would know what it means: “It’s like really, really good, but free, right?”

      2. fredwilson

        that is pure genius. i wonder where that word came from?

  28. Rohan

    Continuing the ‘On a completely different note’ series – I thought I’d share with you a link to the interview of a very special person – the real backbone of this blog in many ways and the secret (perhaps not any more) of the Fredsters success.http://www.alearningaday.co…I had the pleasure of having a 25 minute interview with the Gotham Gal herself yesterday. 🙂 It was VERY inspirational (as expected). This is thanks to a ‘RealAcad Mondays’ series on my blog where we are interviewing ‘Real Leaders’. I’m going to be chasing many of you for the same, soon but thought it proper to start with Joanne as I became a regular on this blog thanks to hers. There are likely to be a few text edits and the video taken is still amateurish. Will work on the text edits at the end of day. Please let me know if there’s anything else that can improved as well..Have a great day everyone!

    1. Cam MacRae

      Fantastic work, Rohan. Hope you do more interviews soon.

      1. Rohan

        More to follow, Cam! That’s for sure! :)Thanks for the encouragement! 😀

    2. fredwilson

      i read it last night. also watched the videos. nicely done.

      1. Rohan

        Thanks Fred. A belated welcome to ALearningaDay.. Is there ever a good time to ask you for 20 odd minutes as well? 🙂 

        1. fredwilson

          there is so much video of me on the net. so many interviews. its overload at this point.

          1. Rohan

            Haha. That’s a really nice ‘No’ Fred.I won’t give up on you just yet, though. 🙂 

          2. Mark Essel

            It’s all about timing.Maybe combine the interview by giving Fred another opportunity to talk about a few of USV’s great portfolio companies. I’m sure their ceos and marketing leads are pinging Fred non stop, “mention us, mention this release, mention this new product”, I know I would.

  29. Mark Essel

    Traction!ParadigmStrategizeDeep diveDisruptionConvergencePlatformSaaSPaaSOpen Source (service) strategiesVisionSexyEnterpriseExecutionSpaceTeam (so many teams)Iceberg Order (just heard this one last week)Big DataData ScientistMarket Analysis

    1. William Mougayar

      You’re on a roll Mark. Wow. You’re spending too much time in those corporate meetings. Another one:Spec it out

      1. Mark Essel

        There is no greater addiction to quit than a salary. Agreed, I have far too much familiarity with these terms. None of the above lingo paints a sufficient image to communicate anything meaningful.

        1. William Mougayar

          “The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” Nassim Taleb

          1. fredwilson

            i keep getting credited for that on twitter. even though i credited nassim in the deck that everyone is citing

          2. Alex Murphy

            Cigarettes may be more harmful than heroin, otherwise spot on.

          3. Mark Essel

            Perhaps more addictive, but heroin is pretty destructive. It consumes the potential of a human life.

          4. Carl Rahn Griffith

            As the song goes, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad… 😉

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Run that by me again…

        1. William Mougayar

          Spec it out 🙂

          1. Carl Rahn Griffith

            OK, here’s the Elevator Pitch… 😉

    2. baba12

      Where are all the 3 and 4 letter acronyms…besides SaaS

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Which leads us on to ARPU, PPC, et al….Monetisation or Monetization, also 😉

    3. Tom Labus

      How did anyone make any money without all these “terms”

    4. Rohan

      Ladies and gentlemen.. presenting the winnerrr..

      1. Mark Essel

        :DAVC already has an unmatched wine aficionado, and he’s @awaldstein:disqus  , here’s his blog.

        1. Rohan


    5. fredwilson

      wow. a treasure trove of good ones

  30. emil

    “esoterica” might be the word you’re looking for. 

    1. Cam MacRae

      Arcana. But Arcanery is so much more fun than that pesky latin jazz.

    2. Tereza

      omg i LOVE “esoterica”!!!!  Most of all because, like buttah, it’ll #damnyouautocorrect into “erotica”.

  31. Tereza

    The ONLY way I made it through business school was by doing the Wharton Follies and putting all these terms to music.  Singing them out loud and dancing to them, too.  For example, to the tune of “Supercalafragalisticexpialidocious” you can sing most of Wharton’s Fall curriculum.  (warning: don’t forget to breathe).Or, better yet, spoof them.  My girlfriends and I set forth to find “Mr. Right” with our own “4 P’s” of Dating:  Personality, Pecs, Paycheck and Package.  😉

    1. Tereza

      Oh, in case you’re wondering, it goes like this:  “Finance 601, Spec Markets, Corp Fin and Accounting.  The many many courses here, it’s really quite astounding….”Beware the woman with a sense of humor.  Could get dangerous.

      1. fredwilson

        you had more fun than i did at wharton. i basically showed up on tuesday morning and got out of town on thursday evening. i taught two classes and took five in those three days. tuesday and weds night was fred night with my friends at a bar we liked on on 9th and locust.

    2. baba12

      thank god I never got a MBA… I doubt Id fit in anyways…

    3. Rohan

      4 P’s – good, they are.For men, difficult it is.Perfection, implied it is.5th P, maybe.

  32. Tereza

    Personally, still secretly rolling my eyes at “orthogonal”.  That’s a winner.

    1. William Mougayar

      Reminded of:Lateral thinking

      1. Rohan

        what about ‘out of the box’ thinking then?

        1. ShanaC

          you left a box?  though why were you in a box to begin with 😉

          1. Rohan

            Sigh. I wish I knew.. 😉

        2. Tereza


          1. Carl Rahn Griffith

            It’s a Window of Opportunity…

    2. ShanaC

      I love that term.  It reminds me of how angles can actually be orthogonal to each other

  33. Tereza

    Generally I’d say that “lean” is the newcomer that, through mis-use, is aging prematurely.On the other hand, I love to say “edge of the wedge” whenever I can.  4x/day, if possible.

    1. William Mougayar

      Edge of the wedge! I haven’t heard that one in years. Is that better than state-of-the-art? What the symbol for “I’m gonna puke now”?

  34. chernevik


  35. Jc_mellinger

    CAGR – when used by someone pronouncing it “Kay-Grr”

    1. mike gilfillan

      Exactly.  All those Jupiter and Forrester predictions that were pie in the sky but sounded good in a business plan! 

    2. panterosa,

      a great course would be cay-grrs for cougars. cougars do math.

    3. fredwilson

      i may need a separate category for acronyms. they are so prevalent.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Will this be the RTFM category? 😉

  36. Tereza

    I’m gonna have to close this window today because I got stuff to do but could discuss this topic ALL DAY LONG.

  37. mike gilfillan

    MAE – Material Adverse EffectMAC – Material Adverse ChangeThese are real legal terms that caused a good deal of confusion for me until I spent a few thousand on my lawyer to really walk me through the mechanics of these terms.Which brings up a request for a post:  Contract negotiating for founders & startups.  I believe bad contracts (and bad terms) helped kill off a lot of start-ups over the years; everything from office leases to PR firms to business partnerships.  I think it’s a topic worthy of discussion sometime.

    1. fredwilson

      MAC – been hurt by that a few times. good one.

  38. Tom Labus

    Repo to maturitymarginsderivative CEOCongress

    1. fredwilson

      margins is good

  39. pfkrieg

    ISO and NQSOsMy head hurts just remembering the first time I had to be given NQSOs…

  40. baba12

    I hope as part of the expansion of ideas for MBA Monday’s Mr.Wilson would also edumacate us on angel investing i.e. for many before they get to a USV, they get some angel funding and there are a set of guidelines that USV uses I am sure that says if the angel investing structure is not up to their liking USV would not invest.So if Mr.Wilson would put a list of to do for an entrepreneur while taking angel monies that  would make sure the investment structure is fair and solid for the next round(s) that may include the USV’s of the world.

    1. fredwilson

      i think i’ve done that post baba12. i will look for it.

  41. Miljenko Hatlak

    This is excellent “vocabulary/phrase builder” for all nonnative English speakers!  LOL! 

  42. Aaron Klein

    “Exploring strategic alternatives” 🙂

    1. Rohan

      you’ve just out-ed every CFO who presented their Q3 earnings report

      1. Aaron Klein

        Hopefully not ‘every’ because finding a strategic alternative requires a partner on the other end… 😉

        1. Rohan

          Yeah. let’s hope not Aaron…

  43. Lee Blaylock

    Massage the data

    1. Tessa Pettman

      Brilliant.  Enron tagline?

      1. Rohan


  44. jason wright

    Inflection.Not a startup term, but ‘quantitative easing’ makes my eyes roll.

    1. Tom Labus

      QE 3

  45. Rob Ganjon

    and the one i hate most:  “there there”.  as in…. “I’m not sure there’s a there, there.”

  46. Tessa Pettman

    Loosely on the same theme – corporate over-use of the word engagement… Please do not try to seduce me with promises of ‘customer engagement’, I’m a human being, talk to me, be engaging, but don’t try to ‘engage’ me.  In fact all future furtive offers of engagement to be met with double dose of disregard and side order of hash frowns (unless in form of marriage proposal by handsome billionaire).

    1. leigh

      yep agree – engagement is a marketing strategy so if one is using those words the focus is on the wrong thing (need to turn that one on its head)

  47. Tessa Pettman

    Loosely on the same theme – corporate over-use of the word engagement… Please do not try to seduce me with promises of ‘customer engagement’, I’m a human being, talk to me, be engaging, but don’t try to engage me.  In fact all future furtive offers of engagement to be met with double dose of disregard and side order of hash frowns (unless in form of marriage proposal by handsome billionaire).

  48. andyswan

    I keep hearing the phrase “your idea is really fucking stupid” when I pitch VCs.   I was thinking this was Silicon Valley lingo, until I started my NY tour and heard “your idea is really fucking stupid” a few more times.  Now I’m sure it’s industry wide, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what “your idea is really fucking stupid” REALLY means.  We’ve got some theories, mostly centered around the fact that our concept isn’t unique in the big data space and doesn’t quite have as much traction as some of the sexy platform plays in the p2p category, but that doesn’t really explain everything unless the VC just isn’t doing a deep dive and instead is relying on the 10,000 foot view.  In any event, we are entrepreneurs on a mission, bound and determined to make it big or die trying…so we’re embracing “your idea is really fucking stupid” by putting it on our company ping-pong table until we overcome it!Remember… “your idea is really fucking stupid” is just another way of saying “let’s touch base when you’ve gotten a little more traction and have your I’s dotted and T’s crossed.”

    1. Rohan

      let’s touch base when we know you’re going to make money. THEN we take your equity..

    2. kidmercury

      are accredited investors actually saying that to you (like with the bluntness and profanity), or are you exaggerating to make your point? i wasn’t sure. 

      1. andyswan

        It’s a bizzaro-world fiction. I was trying to be funny (not sure it’s working LOL) and say that 9/10 times you hear those phrases, it really means either “your idea is stupid” or “we don’t think you have what it takes”.

        1. David Smuts

          You made me chuckle 🙂

        2. Alex Murphy

          it is kind of the point of this post right:I think your team needs to add a little more dna = you are fucking stupidI would like to see if you get traction = you are fucking stupidHave you seen, X, or Y, or Z, they all seem to be doing something in a similar space = you are fucking stupid 

          1. Alex Murphy

            Perhaps Fred could write a series about how to know whether or not you are in fact fucking stupid, here are some sure fire ways to know how … lol

        3. Farhan Lalji

          I LOL’d, if that makes you feel any better Andy

    3. Tom Labus

      That was great.

    4. awaldstein

      Really funny…and really true.

    5. Tereza

      Or, it’s a way of saying “I’m really fucking stupid.”Keep at it, Andy!  Because “No” really means “Not right now”.

      1. Rohan

        or not yet..

      2. Douglas Crets

        Also, if you read that Carlota Perez book Fred likes so much, everyone is both right and wrong at the same time. It all depends on when you are considered right. After a certain point in the cycle a certain amount of financial capital has locked up its relationships with all the production capital and they begin to say what is right and what is wrong. What is right and what is wrong is only a gatekeeping mechanism to make sure what make sense to those in financial power sticks.  Or, I may be reading way too much into the Frenzy stage. 

        1. Tereza

          I didn’t know anyone actually *read* the book!;-)

    6. Jay Oza

      They are telling you this since they didn’t come up with your idea.  

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        I can already do that with Google.

    7. RichardF

      it’s probably because they don’t believe you are swinging for the fences…

    8. LE

      Reminds me of the attached.Like getting sand kicked in your face.Any way we can hear what this idea is?

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        First, we need you to sign this NDA…

        1. LE

          It runs contrary to conventional wisdom.But I’m serious.Hard to believe that the idea could be both “stupid” and “something others would steal”.It has already been shopped around to disappointing results. Sure you risk someone stealing the (stupid?) idea. But you also gain valuable exposure and the chance that someone reading this blog will see positive comments and take a liking and invest.  Or someone will add some feature that is lacking or give  helpful pointers.At this stage, in my opinion, more to gain than to loose.  

    9. Matt Straz

      Also known as the “soft no.”

      1. Career Online Degrees

        Appreciate it! Thanks for sharing your knowledge & point of view.

    10. JimHirshfield

      You are TOO funny Swan!  Cheers.

  49. kidmercury

    disruptionedgeproduct/market fitcrossing the chasmnetwork effectsbubble

    1. Rohan

      crossing the chasm. yes. that’s a big one. Actually, so is ‘the cloud’ in reference to anything on the internet

    2. leigh

      yeah but 90% of tech pple haven’t read crossing the chasm and don’t know what it’s value is.  I’ll disagree w/ you on that one.  

    3. RichardF

      you missed out inside job

      1. kidmercury

        lol good point! i wonder though if people have interest in going down the rabbit hole, taking the red pill, and learning what means……

        1. Rohan

          we do we do

    4. kidmercury

      also, all words pertaining to platforms. such as:openclosedfragmentedintegratedcreative commons licensingplatform jargon is cutting edge lexicon, in my opinion. 

    5. fredwilson

      that’s my word cloud kid 🙂

      1. James Eiden

        Best Practices

  50. sigmaalgebra

    down round

  51. Kevin Pillow

    My two cents….Business Plan

    1. Rohan

      I’ve started using – My $0.02

  52. Tereza

    How about Closing Techniques.  That’s a rich set.  Stuff like the Presumptive Close, etc..  A 2-sec google search yielded the following:[ACK edited and deleted the list, too ugly (DisQusTing?). Find it here: http://changingminds.org/di…]

  53. LScott

    Arcanary in my company * Let’s crawl before we walk* It takes a village* Let’s date before we marry  

    1. fredwilson

      i like the last one

  54. Robert Sloan

    “Progressive Thought Leadership!” translated as “Hi, I’m looking down on you…”

  55. Phil Michaelson

    A subset of business arcanery is sports analogies used in business settings, which discriminate against folks who don’t follow major American sports.  Some that come to mind are:-Hail Mary-Free agent-Punt-Home run-Slam dunk-End around-Superbowl-3rd strike-Perfect game-On deck

    1. matthughes

      Adding:- swing for the fences- take the bat off your shoulder- take the ball to the holeAnd from the international scene:- gooooooooooooal!- (Translation: goal)

    2. Anne Libby

      Bench strength.

    3. fredwilson

      these are great

  56. Mark Gannon

    Business Arcanery, not to be confused with business chicanery.

    1. fredwilson


    2. James Eiden

      Business Arcanery is a Best Practice of Business Chicanery

  57. leigh

    this is probably just me but i HATE the phrase “game changer” (as opposed to what – flogging the same old tired idea that someone else had?)oh and i hate war and sports metaphors “go where the puck is heading” (vs. what – scoring on the other team? taking the puck in the wrong direction?)

  58. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Let’s do lunch…

  59. Luke Toland

    Touch base – please stop touching things110% – mathematically impossibleLet go – they were firedDouble click – there’s no mouse in the room, please just say ‘talk about’Drag and drop – ‘use’ is so much simplerBoil the ocean – words cannot describePing – where’s command prompt?Synergy – vomitReach out – management likes using their limbsRock stars – just no, no…

    1. fredwilson

      some good ones luke

  60. LE

    “hair cut” – a deal going south or not being able to get the terms that you want. First heard this used in the real estate industry.Example: when someone wants $100 sf and only gets $80 sf “wow they had to take a haircut on that deal!”

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      “Trust me. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you”

  61. LE

    “win win deal”.Surprised this doesn’t appear below already.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith


  62. LE

    “viral marketing” 

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Exponential Growth.

    2. JamesHRH

      This has many names: street hear, word of mouth. I think of viral marketing as street heat for a network effect value proposition.That’s English, right?

  63. LE

    “value proposition”

    1. testtest

      ^2imo: – what you provide to the customer to help with a job-to-be-done- how you provide it- and at what pricekeen to know more on this…

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Where’s the Call to Action?

  64. ericrosen

    “like-minded customers” is a phrase that deserves to go away

  65. Nikhil Nirmel

    Terms/concepts I think people should understand well:Network effect vs. economies of scaleAverage [cost/revenue/profit] vs. marginalTwo-sided marketUnit economicsBarriers to entryA chicken and egg problem Transactions costs, search costsRetention, Churn, Lifetime value, Cost per acquisitionAlso, quick feedback – Your suggestions may be too finance-y. Do people in the startup world benefit from understanding collar trades?Please, please avoid corporate speak like leverage, moat, and interface with.

  66. jason wright

    Claw back.

    1. fredwilson

      got this a few times. it’s going into production

  67. jason wright


  68. leigh


    1. fredwilson


    2. JamesHRH

      YES. Very misused.

    3. Carl Rahn Griffith

      I used to be, lol.

  69. David Petersen

    Beginning a sentence with the word ‘so’ and ending it with the word ‘right’.  Drives me nuts.

  70. jason wright

    Burn rate (maybe we’ve already had that one).

    1. fredwilson

      another good one jason

  71. Brandon Burns

    play a game of Bingo with arcane words: http://www.zachgolden.com/b…there’s a good 100 arcane words/phrases to choose from on these bingo boards. courtesy of my buddy @zachgolden:twitter and our mutual distaste for hot-air-blowing advertising account execs. we’ve actually played this in meetings. so fun. 

    1. Cam MacRae


  72. matthughes

    From hollywood:Coffee is for closersCase of the MondaysGreed is good

  73. LE

    “game the system”

  74. Mlrtme75

    “how did you not see that, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel” 

  75. Dale Allyn

    M.O.U. (Memorandum of Understanding)

  76. Deirdre

    disintermediate = “I promise I have a great start-up business plan”scale/scalable = “Invest, please”do a 360 review = “I hate my boss and everyone around here sucks and I can’t tell anyone I’m stuck… throw me a lifeline”  usually the kiss of death for any companyEBITDA = not so arcane, but doesn’t trip off the tongue of your avg non-business person

  77. panterosa,

    So glad I went to art and design school, not business school.Designer friend asked to make blurb about what she does, explain, flesh it out for a presentation (yawn), for client PR etc.She replies ” I make shit.”

    1. fredwilson

      makers not bankers ftw

      1. panterosa,

        please disambiguate ‘ftw’.the two possible reads are opposing….

        1. fredwilson

          for the win

          1. panterosa,

            was hoping it was ‘for the win’ and not ‘f**k the world’!

    2. JamesHRH

      So glad I didn’t go to design school.Your friend is a hipster doofus. Any goof can ‘make shit’ and cop that attitude.It is the height of chicken-shitted-ness to force other people to guess what the f*&k it is you are doing.A total cop out not to tell people what it it is, what it should do and why you are the person who built it.Your friend is not beyond the judgement of others – she is scared of her own shadow.If she and everyone with her attitude were beamed to the far side of the moon tomorrow, no one would notice.

      1. panterosa,

        My friend is the real deal, and that’s why she doesn’t try to qualify herself. She simply makes really cool work and would rather the work speak for itself. She is a jeweler metalsmith.Explaining the work, for her, is an exercise for the non visual people, those who exist on the description and verbal cues attached to the work, or those who don’t just connect to the objects. She is less about gassing you up about her ‘product’ with a bunch of buzzy words (like this post). An ex-roomie had a piece at MoMA which was an image of a single color with a paragraph explaining what it was. Now that’s BS. 

        1. JamesHRH

          Art is an area where this is widely accepted. I still am not buying it.The artist is part of the art – it is impossible for it to ‘stand on its own’.Your friend may not be a hipster doofus, but she is doing her clients and herself a disservice by not supplying some verbal cues for clients who want to know the artist’s story as part of the validation of the art’s authenticity.I get that artist’s often want to ‘not keep someone from seeing what they see’ in the work (or more cynically, see something they want to see and then pay the asking price), but I will stand firm that an authentic story (‘I was feeling like this’, ‘I was trying to capture’, ‘I wanted….’) adds far more value than her current response. 

          1. panterosa,

            The artist is part of the art. The artist’s story is part of the art. It’s the DNA of that created. And the ego can be a big part of the art/artist/artist’s story. Ego drives many artists. But some artists and designers would rather draw you to their art by visual curiosity. She and I fall in that camp.It’s not that Sara, the artist in question, won’t talk to you about the work. Go to her store and she’ll happily engage you, and most likely you will be charmed. I will happily discuss my work as well. Any discussion will be part of how you experience our work. I went to art school after heavy academics and linguistics, and arrived to a place of profound dyslexia, where people spoke through their work. My visual language and craft were not as developed as theirs, and it was quite a challenge to get to their level quickly. I have written about others work, reviews and grants and  PR, and shown their work. I collaborate, as I call it, to find their verbal voice. The jeweler next to Sara on the bench didn’t learn to read until 12, and struggled to read thereafter, but was making jewelry and metalwork long before 12. We were great friends and I wrote everything for him. In turn, he refined my visual language. I was chosen to eulogize him when he died a few years ago, and explain his lifelong fight with words. I met every person at his service, I think because I was still his voice. It was an overwhelming experience in many ways.

          2. JamesHRH

            What a stunningly unexpected and interesting response.It is always worth the effort NOT to couch your terms on AVC, so that you unearth this type of scorchingly authentic life experience.I love this place.I worked in advertising, which is replete with hipster doofi who are above using words (or expending energy in any other way) because it is beneath there ‘artistic sensibilities’.Most great artists can sell. All artist should sell. It is neither reductive or ignoble.Tell Sara to come up with a more productive response, for my sake!

  78. JamesHRH

    I like most of the similies and metaphors. Old, sports, hard to actually understand, they add some much needed colour ( unless they are shockingly out of date – the people you have worked with @tereza!).I am watching old Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies cartoons w my kids & those old lines still make me laugh ( ‘I’s a paid mah 2 bits to see a high diving act & i’mah gonna see a high diving act……..now git on up that ladder rabbit!”Cannot stand misuse of terms – strategy is top of this list, lean closing in fast and cloud moving up on them both.

  79. David Petersen

    A couple that haven’t been mentioned:  Vertical, Coupon. Other business folk use these two with me and I never fail to get confused.And the devil itself: churn.There is a frightening one in doctor lingo which I often sense when I visit their offices: PRATFO — patient reassured and told to f&*k off.

  80. Ashwin, Founder - ContractIQ

    Some of the best/worst I’ve heardThey have our balls in their hands now (When we are in defensive negotiation position)Sent from (Non IBM) Deep Blue II (Handles email traffic stochastically) – This is actually someone’s email signature, who I remember as a supreme @$$BBC Report (Billing, Booking, Collection) – I actually like this!Right sourcing, value sourcing, Smart sourcingAll phrases that have their origin from golfSME (Subject matter expert) – I get very watchful when someone is introduced this way

  81. Alix

    My 20-cents:- 4Ps- convertible debt- NPV- SWOT- Sustainable competitive advantage- Winner takes it all- Executive summary- …

    1. fredwilson

      swot is a good one

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        I’m still an advocate of SWOT analysis, but it does need re-inventing, somewhat…

  82. Lewis Skolnick

    Cultural fit usually just means you or your team is not too old.If you aren’t old, it means you are a hip nerd, like a guy who works at Tumblr, versus an old school bleeding zit nerd’s nerd. 

    1. fredwilson

      depends on the company. a bleeding zit nerd’s nerd is a cultural fit at many companies i know

      1. JamesHRH

        That’s why i like cultural fit. Totally accurate turn of phrase – I was a totally unfit for the culture of my first employer. I have great respect for them today, but now I know that I would not be effective there.

  83. William Mougayar

    Morning inspiration :Feet on the streetEyeballs See a bear, shoot a bear

  84. Richardagillis

    Refactoring for developers = tweaking for designers = reworking for finance peopleDoes not equal do it right and do it once

  85. JimHirshfield

    Runway – Was one of my faves back in 2001 when I had to succinctly explain how my start-up failed; “We ran out of runway, as most start-ups in 2000 did”. 

    1. Alessandro Piol

      You either need a longer runway, or lots of “dry powder” …

      1. JimHirshfield


  86. Alessandro Piol

    May already have these, but:From the financial statements, net sales vs. gross sales.MRR (monthly recurring revenues)COGS and gross marginsFinancial ratios and what they mean – PE, P/S, PEG, P/EBITDA, etc.Is SaaS a type of product or a business model?From the term sheet: Redemption (deliverance from sin?) Participating Preferredantidilution

    1. fredwilson

      Good ones allesandro. Thanks!

  87. Capitalistic

    Material adverse clausePro-forma cost saving synergiesSenior stretchLeveraged recapitalizationTractionFundless sponsor”We’re cash flow positive post net add backs and incremental synergies from pro-forma cost cutting initiatives”

    1. fredwilson

      That last one made me chuckle

  88. Bobwinder

    Can I drive ? …..as he grabs the mouse from me. 🙂

  89. Seltzer

    Sharpen your pencil: come up with a better figure/offer.You better “sharpen your pencil” if you want to get the deal.

  90. Bobwinder9

    Participating preference shares aka double dip.And what the heck is annualised run rate? Used to be called sales once upon a time.

  91. GlennKelman

    Secular. People talk about secular changes in a market, a secular downturn. I have actually stopped someone to ask, “What do you mean by that?” And the speaker didn’t know. 

  92. Chimpwithcans

    Anyone ever read Francis Wheen’s book “how mumbo jumbo took over the world”? It is particularly apt for this discussion i think. Talks of business arcanery and Politician’s trusting in Zodiac signs and Feng Shuey….funny book, funny blog post Fred.

  93. James Eiden

    Cross-FunctionalSwim Lane

  94. James Eiden

    Bricks and MortarBut every time I hear that, I think of Led Zeppelin’s Lord of the Rings reference in “Ramble On”In the Darkest Depths of MordorTranslated:  In the darkest depths of Bricks and Mortar

  95. James Eiden

    Action ItemPMOPMIPMP we call it “Pimp” around hereTLA (Three Letter Acronym)RIFThe PMP better CYA or she’ll be RIF’d

  96. Micah

    Ironic that you made up a term — “arcanery” — for this post, when “jargon” already exists.

  97. William Mougayar

    Weird no one mentioned Pushing the envelope. 

    1. Alessandro Piol

      That’s because we are thinking outside the box.

  98. Tereza

    Personally I think “let’s have coffee” is overused and out of touch.  What it really is, is — “Hi, could you please take an hour out of your (short + very busy) day so I can pick your brain without an agenda. If I think of it, I might offer you some off-topic suggestions.”Speaking of, “pick your brain” should be outlawed.  Talk about a 1-way conversational transaction.I would much rather hear, “I need some specific advice. Could we talk on the phone for 15 minutes?”

  99. ShanaC

    Personal guess about the whole 9 yards – it has something to do with selling cloth, which is usually sold by the yard.

  100. fredwilson

    indemnity. thanks.

  101. Tereza

    BTW Charlie I didn’t mean that specifically toward you!!!!  🙂

  102. baba12

    for every time someone has picked your brain one has to wonder is any left for self

  103. Marilyn Byrd

    Totally agree!!!  People wanting to pick my brain makes me feel like Tippi Hedren in a room full of birds.

  104. RichardF

    as opposed to let’s do dinner, which ever since I became a married man has dropped from my vocabulary

  105. Carl Rahn Griffith

    I am old enough to remember someone saying “fax me” :-O

  106. Tereza


  107. Rohan

    Origin can’t be Indian can it, Charlie?The 9 yard sari is the longest garment that exists I guess..

  108. Rohan


  109. Tereza

    Me deux!  And had a boss with a cell phone the size of a brick. Kinda like this one:

  110. Rohan

    Aha. So, what’s the reward, guru-ji?

  111. Rohan

    And that should be tradeable for an ice cream when we meet. 😉

  112. Carl Rahn Griffith

    On a business trip up in Scotland – back in the late 80s – I recall myself and a colleague really needed to be online all week whilst on the road, in various desolate parts of the region – so, we hired a ‘cellphone’ (brick!) which had its own charger base with it at all times – was the size of a small sewing machine. If memory serves right, was about £500 to rent for the week – excluding call costs(!).Then I got a new Golf GTi – in white, of course – with a cellphone mounted on the dashboard.I really thought I’d ‘made it’… lol 😉