The Secret Language of Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurese 101

As an entrepreneur, you have to walk the walk and also talk the talk -- and recognize when other people are talking it, too. While you might think you and the people you do business with all speak English, trust me -- there’s a whole other language you have to master, and it’s one in which seemingly straightforward statements are not always as they appear.

With just some quick vocab tweaks, you can go from entrepreneur-wannabe to the next Silicon Valley big shot -- or at least sound like it. All of these terms are critical to speaking like a true entrepreneur and picking up on what other people are actually saying to you. Keep in mind that while these definitions do not apply in all cases, more often than not, they’re spot-on. Pull up your chair for your first lesson in Entrepreneurese 101.

It’s a really crowded space: I probably know nothing about the industry you’re talking about, but I want to sound like I do. (Note: This statement has nothing to do with a room that has a lot of people in it.)

Bootstrapping: We are completely broke, i.e., we take the BoltBus to NYC and subsist on free stuff that gets sent to us.

We’re swamped right now: 1. I can’t deal with you right now; also: You’re annoying me (See: “Check back with me in 6 months”) 2. (In rare cases) We’re actually super busy right now.

Check back with me in 6 months: I have no interest in working with you.

Let’s reschedule this for another time: I don’t want to talk or meet with you and am trying to push it off as far as possible.

This week is crazy for a call, so why don’t you just shoot me some ideas via email?: You are not worth taking the time for a phone call.

How’s 5pm for our call/meeting?: Meeting/talking with you is not worth taking time out of my workday for.

We were recently featured in X, Y, and Z publications: We’re legit, we promise!

(In an email reply) Name (cc’ed) will take care of this (without a position listed): The person cc’ed is an intern but we don’t want you to know that.

That sounds really interesting: I have no idea whether your offer is good for my company or not, so I’m going to say the most neutral thing possible for now until I talk to my advisors.

Our company would never, ever agree to that: We agree to this all the time, but we always start out our negotiations by saying we never do it.

I’m sure you’re very busy, but if you have any time for a quick call…: I want to flatter you.

(At a networking event) Do you have a card?: Wow, you are super legit, I just met you at this networking event and it would be a total score if I could wind up with your real email address.

(At the end of a meeting) Here’s my card: Yes, we already correspond via email, but I feel cool giving out my card, even though it has absolutely no use to you at this point.

Cross-promote: We don’t want to spend money with you.

We don’t have any marketing budget for this: I just want you to give me free publicity.

We’ll consider this for coverage: I’m archiving your email never to see it again.

Sorry for the last minute notice, but I won’t be able to make our call today: Something more important came up.

My office: My apartment

Next week is pretty open for me: I have absolutely nothing scheduled.

We have a really short lead-time: We have no other clients right now.

We’re undergoing expected site maintenance: We have no f***ing idea what is wrong with our site right now!!!

Only one of us will be able to attend the event: The other two don’t want to go.

Our web team is slammed right now: My technical co-founder is really busy.

Just wanted to follow up: Haven’t heard back from you and I think I’m probably annoying you, but I really want you to get back to me.

(From a reporter) I was hoping you could answer a few short questions: Please fill out this extensive interview that will take you all day to respond to.

Do you know so and so?: I saw you’re connected to him on LinkedIn so can you please intro me? (But I’m going to pretend like I don’t already know that.)

Are you going to be at X event?: It’s been hard to nail you down via email so I want to pitch you in person.

Let me intro you to so and so: I’m going to do you a super easy favor to get our relationship off on the right foot.

Let’s grab drinks: I want our relationship to seem cool and casual rather than business-y so that you’ll like me and want to work with me.

We’re interested in acquiring you: We want to take advantage of you and screw you over.

Nice to “meet” you: Used in reply to an email intro; trying to be cutesy about the fact that you were just introduced yet have not actually met in person, therefore you aren’t really “meeting”.  We get it.

My assistant will be in touch to schedule: I’m important enough to have an assistant and can’t afford to waste time checking my Google calendar (though I also probably don’t have a Google calendar and have a much more legit calendar, like Microsoft Outlook).

Minor redlines: Major changes

We usually charge X, but we’ll do this for you for Y: We always do this for Y.

I have another call in 5 minutes: I want to get off the phone with you.

Let me check with legal: Let me put the phone down for a minute and ask my co-founder.

Let me check with accounting: Let me put the phone down for a minute and ask my co-founder.

Let me check with the web team: Let me put the phone down for a minute and ask my co-founder.

So there you have it! Start working these terms into your everyday speech and picking up on when others use them, and you’ll have your own IPO in no time. Want to take some of these up with me? Shoot me an email at Stephanie@hercampus.com and I’ll try to get back to you -- but just FYI -- I’m pretty swamped right now.

About Stephanie Kaplan

Stephanie Kaplan is the co-founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Media, the #1 online community for college women and marketing platform for companies looking to reach the college market.

6 Responses to The Secret Language of Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurese 101

  1. This is a pretty funny list; I've heard or (I admit it) used most all those lines before.... it's so true!

  2. Nick Tart says:

    Hey Stephanie! That was an entertaining list. I try to be as transparent as possible but I'm definitely guilty of a few of those. My favorite was the first one ;). I'm always amused by people who drop buzz words to try to sound more intelligent!

  3. Kristin Eide says:

    Hahahaha. Thank you so much for writing this. Most of these phrases are far too familiar to me.

  4. Stephanie:
    I usually charge for my comments, but your post was so clever I’m doing this for free.

    I’m really swamped right now, so I don’t usually read, but the topic sounded so interesting that I made time after 5pm to get to it.

    I have another post to read in 5 minutes, but before I hit ‘publish’ I’m going to run this comment by legal. If there’s a problem I’ll have my assistant get in touch with you.

    Kudos to you for getting so much traction (you forgot that one!) on this post. It really was fun!

  5. Glen Hellman says:

    Wow. Do I feel lazy and stupid. Your post was truly a gazillion times better then my tech cocktail post. Why don't you have your girl call my girl and we'll do lunch. Seriously very nicely done.

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