An accelerator is a hub where start-ups are given mentorship by seasoned entrepreneurs and specialists in their relevant fields, space to work on their ideas and sometimes seed capital in exchange for equity.
Acqui-hire is the process of acquiring a company primarily to recruit its employees, rather than to gain control of its products or services.
An acquisition is when one company or investment group buys another company. They can either buy the company to expand their offering and roll the technology into their existing product, expand into new markets or to consolidate the businesses to take on another competitor.
Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches. Instead of betting everything on a "big bang" launch, an Agile team delivers work in small, but consumable, increments.
An angel investor (also known as a private investor, seed investor or angel funder) is a high-net-worth individual who provides financial backing for small start-ups or entrepreneurs, typically in exchange for ownership equity in the company.
API stands for Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. Each time you use an app like Facebook, send an instant message, or check the weather on your phone, you're using an API.
Assumption is a commonly used, ‘plain English’ word. So why have we included a definition here?
The Collins Dictionary defines the meaning as follows: “If you make an assumption that something is true or will happen, you accept that it is true or will happen, often without any real proof.”
This is problematic because the term ‘real proof’ is subjective.
For example, when we have spent many years in an industry, navigating a problem and speaking to people who agree it’s a problem, we often consider that to be ‘real proof’ that there’s a market for our solution. Unfortunately, we also run the risk of bias - asking biased questions or people, for example. So during Discovery, we pursue an objective standard of ‘real proof’ and either enable founders to carry out unbiased, formal, research themselves or do it on their behalf.
Sometimes founders are surprised by the results, sometimes they just learn a little more, but the most valuable part of this process is that investors LOVE this objective standard of ‘real proof’.
B2B stands for Business-to-Business and it's when a company is offering a product or service to other companies. B2B technology is also sometimes referred to as enterprise technology.
B2B2B stands for Business-to-Business-to-Business. For example, when a company sells to another company through a third-party company.
B2B2C stands for Business-to-Business-to-Consumer. Think Facebook, for example: it has an element of B2B and B2C because companies can access user data on the platform and advertise to consumers.
B2C means you offer your products or services to other consumers (Business To Consumer). In short, it's when a company sells things to other consumers. For example, an ecommerce company selling items to consumers.
The Back-End (or “server-side”) is the portion of the website you don't see. It's responsible for storing and organising data, and ensuring everything on the client-side (Front-End) actually works. The Back-End communicates with the Front-End, sending and receiving information to be displayed as a web page which you can interact with.
A Back-End Developer is responsible for server-side web application logic. Back-End Developers usually write the web services and APIs used by Front-End Developers and mobile application Developers.
A backlog is a list of tasks required to support a larger strategic plan. It contains a prioritised list of items that the team has agreed to work on next. Typical items on a product backlog include user stories, changes to existing functionality, and bug fixes.
Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It's the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale.
A blocker might be an issue or bug which you have come across during development or testing and which is not allowing you to develop or test further. In short, a blocker is stopping another action from happening.
A company is bootstrapped when it is funded by an entrepreneur's personal resources or the company's own revenue. Evolved from the phrase "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps".
Burn rate describes how fast you go through your cash. This could be measured in a weekly, monthly or yearly rate.
Customer Acquisition Cost, one of the most important metrics investors consider. CAC is a measure of how much it costs to bring a new customer on board. It’s calculated by the total of sales and marketing spend divided by the number of new customers that spend has generated. See also - LTV:CAC ratio.
Cap table or capitalisation table is a spreadsheet with all the shareholders of a company, including founders, angel investors, and any employees or advisers who own shares. It includes percentages of ownership, equities and value of equity in each round of investments. With time, the cap table becomes more complex and can list potential sources of funding, public offerings, mergers and acquisitions, etc.
Cash Flow Positive
Cash flow positive is an accountant term meaning that more money is coming in than going out. When you deduct your expenses from your earnings, you have a positive amount in your bank account.
The churn rate is the percentage rate at which customers stop subscribing to a service. If you have a subscription model business you should track how many customers cancel their subscription in order to adjust your true user growth rate. For example, take the number of customers that you lost last quarter and divide that by the number of customers that you started with last quarter. The resulting percentage is your churn rate.
A cliff usually applies to vesting schedules (shares given to employees over time). It establishes a minimum length of time that person must work in the company before they receive a benefit (usually shares or stocks). It can be used to fire an employee or let them leave earlier without giving them any shares. It's also often used on CEOs by investors, to make sure the CEO sticks around after getting the cash.
Copy is written material, in contrast to photographs or other elements of layout, in within a social post, website, app, email marketing content etc. It refers to the output of copywriters, who are employed to write material which encourages consumers to buy goods or services
Copyright is one of the main types of intellectual property. It allows the copyright owner to protect against others copying or reproducing their work. Copyright arises automatically when a work that qualifies for protection is created. The work must be original, meaning it needs to originate with the author, who will have used some judgement or skill in its creation.
Crowdfunding is the act of using a site like Kickstarter to get a tribe of early fans together to give you money to help you get your product/site launched. You keep 100% of your company and only give away a % the total you raise to the crowdfunding portal. Instead of giving away equity, you sell your product at a reduced RRP.
Also known as Equity Crowdfunding, Crowdinvesting gives people the ability to invest small or large amounts of money in a private company in exchange for shares or a percentage of ownership. Popular platforms such as Crowdcube and Seedrs in the UK provide such a service.
Crowdsourcing allows you to obtain information or input into a particular project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the internet. A simple example of this would be sharing a survey in an online social site or forum and having users completing the survey.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
The monetary value of the resources (e.g. sales and marketing) needed to convert a potential customer to a live customer. Typically compared with the LTF to form the LTF:CAC ratio.
Funds lent to a company by an institution in the form of a loan which requires interest payments and the eventual repayment of the loan. Increasingly flexible options are now available through various FinTech companies.
A deck is a presentation that covers all aspects of your business in a succinct and exciting way. A pitch-deck might be shared with investors when you are looking to raise capital.
A Delivery Manager facilitates the timely production of software through the effective management of team members and work schedules. They clear any impediments that may slow down their team's progress on a project and set the timelines on which products will be delivered.
Find out more about Delivery Managers here.
Demographic is an expression that is frequently used in marketing to describe the age, gender, income, schooling and occupation of your ideal customers.
Software deployment is all of the activities that make software available for use. In short, it's typically when a Developer makes the updated code available on a staging or production environment ready for use.
Dilution occurs when external funds are raised - with new shares issued to investors in exchange for cash. If a founder owned 500 out of 1,000 shares (50% ownership), but 500 new shares were issued in a pre-seed round to raise funds, once the round closed the founder would only own 500 out of 1,500 shares (33% ownership). This represents equity dilution.
When a company's valuation is lower than the valuation that was set in the previous funding round. Valuations are expected to increase with every funding round, so a down round can be a very negative signal to existing and prospective investors.
Due Diligence is an in-depth analysis of a business undertaken by a prospective buyer or investor. It investigates the company’s health by analysing assets, liabilities, financial information and evaluating its commercial potential.
Early adopters are the first users of your product. They will typically be key influencers and active on social media. They will give you your most honest and sometimes overly direct feedback. If you can identify these people effectively and have them interacting with your start-up from an early stage, you can get lots of free exposure.
EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. This metric is a core measure of a company's financial performance and profitability. Is also useful for comparing similar businesses or trying to determine a company's cash flow potential.
The EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) is a scheme introduced by the government in 1994 to help small companies raise funds and grow. EIS is designed so that your company can raise money to help grow your business. It does this by offering tax reliefs to individual investors who buy new shares in your company. Under EIS , you can raise up to £5 million each year, and a maximum of £12 million in your company's lifetime.
An epic is a large body of work that can be broken down into a number of smaller stories. Epics often encompass multiple teams, on multiple projects, and can even be tracked on multiple boards. Epics are almost always delivered over a set of sprints.
In its simplest form, equity represents ownership of a company, with equity stakes of a company being held by shareholders. When a start-up raises funds, they issue equity in the form of new shares to investors in exchange for cash. Different classes of equity exist that give the shareholders different voting rights, i.e. class A and class B shares.
An exit occurs when a founder or investor sells the majority of their shares (typically all of their shares) to another party. Exits most commonly occur when either a much larger company operating in the same sector buys the start-up, known as a 'trade exit’; when a Private Equity firm buys a majority of the start-up, known as a 'PE buyout’; or, for the lucky few, the start-up launches an IPO and lists on a stock exchange.
A privately held company that manages and invests the wealth of ultra-high net worth families. Usually with tens of millions of pounds available to invest. Can be comprised of the wealth of a single family, or several families together all managed by the same Family Office. Historically private, risk-averse investors, there's increasing interest in investing into early-stage ventures offering higher returns, like start-ups.
The financial projections of a start-up, typically covering the next 3-5 years. A financial model should include at a minimum a P&L, cashflow detail and key balance sheet items - with more advanced financial models having a full P&L, cashflow statement and balance sheet for the whole 3-5 year period.
Friends & Family Round
The first time a founder raises capital outside of their own savings - raising funds from their family and close personal network. Founders may need this funding to get to prototype or MVP stage. Generally, investors in the pre-seed round want to see that founders have raised some cash from their friends and family. Round sizes vary, but usually the first £5-75k will come from here and the Founder's own investment.
The Front-End of a website is the part that users interact with. Everything that you see when you're navigating around the internet, from fonts and colors to dropdown menus and sliders
A Front-End Developer is responsible for implementing visual elements that users see and interact with in a web application. They are usually supported by Back-End Eevelopers, who are responsible for server-side application logic and integration of the work Front-End Developers do.
Full Stack Developer
A Full Stack Developer is a web developer or engineer who works with both the front- and back-end of a website or application - meaning they can tackle projects that involve databases and building user-facing websites.
Growth Hacking is a relatively new field in marketing focused on growth. Growth hacking uses digital marketing strategies specifically designed to build or expand your customer base. When you turn to growth hacking for your digital marketing strategy, you're taking more “traditional” digital marketing strategies and using them in unique ways to captivate and grow your audience.
High Net Worth Individual (HNW)
Defined by the Financial Conduct Authority as someone with an income greater than £100k per year, or net assets (excluding primary residence) greater than £250k. HNWs investing in start-ups are angel investors, bringing funds and expertise to a start-up.
Ideal Customer Profile is a hypothetical description of the perfect customer or business your company could have as a client. These tend to have the quickest sales cycle, the greatest customer retention rates and the highest number of advocates for your brand. ICP is very useful if your business utilizes ABM (account-based marketing) as it helps you focus on selling to targeted accounts that fit your company.
A start-up incubator is a collaborative program for founders and their start-up companies — usually physically located in one central workspace (but also virtual in some cases) — designed to help start-ups in their infancy succeed by providing workspace, seed funding, mentoring and training.
Intellectual Property covers patents, trademarks and copyrights. It is a good way to protect your “secret sauce”. Think of it like this:
• Patents: the DNA of your product. They are typically used to protect your design.
• Trademarks: they are used to protect your brand. Depending on which one you register, you can add a “™ “ or “®” (Registered Trademark) next to your logo.
• Copyright: they are used to protect your creative content (like film, music or art) and it allows you to use a “©” symbol on your content.
Kanban is a method for managing the creation of products with an emphasis on continuous delivery while not overburdening the development team. Like scrum, kanban is a process designed to help teams work together more effectively. A kanban board is a management tool helped to visualise the work and is split into a series of lanes which the team can move the cards (stories) through the board to ensure visibility with the wider team.
Lean Software Development (LSD) is an agile framework based on optimising development time and resources, eliminating waste, and ultimately delivering only what the product needs.
Lifetime Value (LTV)
The monetary value an individual customer will bring to a company over the course of their time using/purchasing the company's services and products. Typically compared with the CAC to form the LTF:CAC ratio.
Lifetime Value, sometimes referred to as Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV). This is a crucial metric to measure and monitor. It represents the gross profit a customer is expected to generate throughout the whole time you expect them to be a customer of your business. See also - LTV:CAC ratio.
This metric measures how much value a customer will generate over their lifetime with your business compared to how much sales and marketing spend is required to attract them to be a customer in the first place. Different sectors have different benchmarks, but a minimum ratio of 3:1 is a good minimum ratio to aim for.
A Minimum Viable Product is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide feedback for future product development. A focus on MVP development potentially avoids lengthy and unnecessary work.
Non-Executive Director. It's someone who sits on the board, bringing expertise and balance of opinion, but it's not involved in the day to day tactics like a typical Director would be.
Open-source software is a type of computer software in which source code is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.
A persona is a fictional character created to represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.
A Proof of Concept is a realization of a certain method or idea in order to demonstrate its feasibility, or a demonstration in principle with the aim of verifying that some concept or theory has practical potential. A proof of concept is usually small and may or may not be complete.
The valuation of a company including the most recent round of financing raised. If a company raised £500,000 at a pre-money valuation of £4.5m, the post-money valuation includes the funds raised, which would make it £5m. Post-money valuation is used to determine equity ownership %.
The valuation that a company raises funds at, excluding the value of the funds they are seeking in their current round. This is the valuation founders will tell investors, i.e. "We are raising £500,000 at a pre-money valuation of £4.5m". Pre-money valuation is often shortened to just "pre", i.e. "We are raising £500,000 at a £4.5m pre". When the £500k is raised, it is added to the pre-money valuation of £4.5m to create the post-money valuation.
Where a start-up is not generating any revenue. They may have no customers and still be developing their MVP, or they could have a launched product but are more interested in onboarding customers using it to learn from their feedback, as opposed to charging for it.
Follows the Friends & Family round, this round is the first time external investors are brought in. Some form of prototype or MVP is expected (but this can vary by sector). Typically angel investors make up most of this round, but SEIS/EIS funds and some very early-stage VC funds. Round sizes can vary, but generally this round seeks to raise £150-500k.
Private Equity (PE)
Private Equity (PE) as a general term refers to shares that aren't listed on a public exchange. PE funds are institutions that specialise in making large investments in late-stage companies.
A Product Manager is a professional responsible for the development of products for an organisation. Product Managers own the business strategy behind a product, specify its functional requirements, and generally manage the launch of features.
Find out more about Product Managers here.
Production environment is a term used mostly by Developers to describe the setting where software and other products are actually put into operation for their intended uses by end users. In short, any updates to the software are made available to the end user. See "staging environment" for the step before production.
A prototype is an early sample, model or release of a product built to test a concept or process. It is a term used in a variety of contexts, including semantics, design, electronics, and software programming. A prototype is generally used to evaluate a new product or feature with an end user to gather feedback and insight to inform your next move.
Read more about prototypes here.
QA stands for Quality Assurance. QA Engineers (also QA Testers or QA Analysts) examine and evaluate every application to identify errors and user-experience problems, as well as prevent software regressions.
Find out more about QAs here.
Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Paul Graham popularised the term defining it as: "Ramen profitable means a start-up makes just enough to pay the founders' living expenses".
React or ReactJS
React is an open-source, front-end library for building user interfaces or UI components. It is maintained by Facebook and a community of individual Developers and companies. React can be used as a base in the development of single-page or mobile applications.
Return on Investment (ROI)
A concept used by both founders and investors to determine how much value will be generated by an investment. Founders need to consider for example the value of the return they will see by investing in new features or staff, whereas an investor will consider what their equity stake could be worth on exit against their original investment.
The way by which a start-up generates or plans to generate revenue.
A runway describes how long your cash will last and when you think it will run out. The key here is knowing when to start pitching for investment so you can time it to come in before you run out of cash.
Software as a Service - a model whereby software is licensed to customers on a subscription basis.
SAM, or Serviceable Available Market, is the segment of the Total Available Market (TAM) targeted by your products and services that's within your geographical reach.
A scale-up is basically a high-growth company. The OECD defines high growth as a company that has achieved growth of 20% or more in either employment or turnover year on year for at least two years, and have a minimum employee count of 10 at the start of the observation period.
Scrum is a framework that helps teams work together. Much like a rugby team (where it gets its name) training for the big game, scrum encourages teams to learn through experiences, self-organize while working on a problem, and reflect on their wins and losses to continuously improve.
Follows the Pre-seed round. Angels can still invest in this round but expect more interest from funds and early-stage VC. Some degree of commercial traction and revenue is expected at this stage, but this can vary depending on the sector. Round sizes vary but can be £500k-2m. Bridging rounds between Seed and Series A exist in different forms, such as 'late seed' and 'growth' rounds.
The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme was introduced in April 2012 by HMRC to help small, early-stage companies raise funds through individual investors by providing a series of tax reliefs on investments made into qualifying companies. It does this by offering tax reliefs to individual investors who buy new shares in your company. You can receive a maximum of £150,000 through SEIS investments.
Following the Seed round, the Series A round is usually led by Venture Capital funds, given the amount of capital being raised and higher valuations; as such expect rigorous a due diligence process. Companies raising a Series A round are usually revenue-generating, but can still be pre-profit. Round sizes can vary, but generally north of £3m.
Servant-leadership is an important behaviour skill required for projects developed in Agile. At Founder and Lightning, the Delivery Managers act as servant-leader - they lead a team as a servant, putting team members’ needs above theirs. As a result, this creates a more positive and productive work environment, which improves productivity and performance.
In tech, shipping is a term used in building software which refers to getting the product to the end user.
Software regression is when an active piece of software or feature stops working. It usually happens after changes or updates in the code that didn’t pass acceptance criteria on QA (quality assurance) testing.
SOM, or Serviceable Obtainable Market, is the portion of Serviceable Available Market (SAM) that you can capture - that means, it's your short-term target.
Source code is any collection of code, with or without comments, written using a human-readable programming language, usually as plain text.
A Sprint is a set period of time during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review. We tend to break down large chunks of work into a series of manageable sprints. These sprints could be daily or weekly usually. Sprints are part of the Agile methodology.
A staging environment (stage) is a nearly exact replica of a production environment for software testing. Staging environments are made to test codes, builds, and updates to ensure quality under a production-like environment before it is available to the end user.
A start-up is a company in the early stages of operations. Start-ups are usually seeking to solve a problem of fill a need, but there is no hard-and-fast rule for what makes a start-up. Some might say a business is called a start-up due to their growth aspirations (high growth = start-up). However, in reality a company is considered a start-up until they stop referring to themselves as a start-up.
A start-up studio, also known as a start-up factory or a start-up foundry, or a venture studio, is a studio-like company that aims at building several companies in succession.
TAM, or Total Available Market, is the total market demand for a product or service.
Technical Spike is a type of user story that helps you evaluate options and choose the best technical approach. In other words, picking a distinct part of the product and getting it working without worrying about how it looks or how it fits into the wider product. It's a throwaway experiment to learn and to prove that something can be done in a particular technology.
A generally non-legally binding document outlining the key terms of an investment by a fund, VC and occasionally by angel investors - such as valuation, voting rights, board seats, use of funds and restrictions.
Timeboxing is an approach to task and time management that sets rigid constraints on how long a given task or project can take to complete. The term comes from agile software development, in which a time box is a defined period during which a task must be accomplished.
“Traction” is evidence of having found your product-market fit. Traction can be generated before you’ve built a thing - using Smoke Tests for example - but is more commonly (and robustly) demonstrated using metrics such a sign-ups, repeat use, paid-for subscriptions and renewals.
UI stands for user interface and it’s how a person interacts and controls an application or a device. For example: on a website, it’s the pages, buttons and icons; on a mobile, it includes the touchscreen and lights.
Ultra High Net Worth Individual (UHNW)
Similar to an HNW (High Net Worth Individual), but ultra High Net Worth individual will generally have a net worth in the tens of millions.
A unicorn is a privately held start-up company which is valued at over $1 billion.
A user story is an informal, general explanation of a software feature written from the perspective of the end user or customer.
User experience is a person's emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful, and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership.
Validation is the process of analysing and testing a business idea before building the product. It’s a crucial step to identify market need, check risks and estimate timeframes to help new entrepreneurs forecast success rate.
Valuation is the process of calculating the value of a company or asset using objective measures and evaluation of all aspects of the business. See also "pre-money valuation" and "post-money valuation".
Venture is a new project or business created to make a profit. As it happens with all investments, ventures often involve financial risk.
Venture builders are organisations dedicated to systematically producing new companies, which they help grow and succeed. There are five core activities in which venture builders engage: identifying business ideas, building teams, finding capital, helping govern or manage the ventures and providing shared services.
Venture Capital (VC)
Venture Capital is a form of Private Equity financing that is provided by Venture Capital firms or funds to start-ups, early-stage, and emerging companies that have been deemed to have high growth potential or which have demonstrated high growth.
Vesting is the process or earning full rights to something. For example, employees typically gain rights to stocks or equity gradually over time, according to a vesting schedule. Vesting schedules can have a cliff designating a minimum length of time a professional must stay in the company before they vest.
Waterfall is a method of building software where each phase of development is completed and fixed, before sequentially moving on to the next.
Waterfall can be an efficient method if the project is non-complex, small and the requirements are unlikely to change. Teams using waterfall need to ensure that the handovers between each phase are clear and unambiguous, as correcting changes late on can be expensive and wasteful.
- The requirements are set and documented
- Then all the designs are fully created
- Next, all the software is built
- Before being released, the software is tested against the original requirements and designs
A white label solution is a product that offers functionality off the shelf and can be procured by other companies so that they don’t need to build a bespoke solution. The solution can usually be customised to suit a particular customer journey or functionality and can often be be embedded seamlessly into a customers existing product.
Work In Progress Limits restrict the maximum amount of work items in the different stages of the development process. This ensures the team to complete single work items before moving onto the next task which improves focus, visibility and efficiency.
Anything as a Service - A general term referring to the delivery of a wide array of products and tools to customers on a subscription (generally) basis. This could include for example PaaS (Platform as a Service).