Use this jargon to describe your startup—and you’re sure to annoy journalists

Best. Activation. Ever.
Best. Activation. Ever.
Image: Photo by Hal Horowitz/Invision for Microsoft/AP Images
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As tech journalists, our job is to decipher the lingo that startup entrepreneurs love to throw around at events like SXSW.

In an effort to help entrepreneurs craft a more compelling pitch, I’ve compiled a short list of the jargon that most irked top tech journalists covering this year’s festival. Please consider banning them from your next spiel.

The “Uber” of

Desperate to quickly convey what their apps do, entrepreneurs all over Austin likened their product to Uber, the popular app that connects taxis with the riders in need of them.  Fast Company’s Noah Robischon says he was pitched apps touted as “the Uber of food, the Uber of laundry, and the Uber of hair.” He was not convinced.


This describes the anonymous apps like Whisper and Secret that were SXSW favorites this year.  Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic admits he actually likes this trendy word…perhaps because it rolls off the tongue more easily than transitoriness or impermanence.

“Between the demos”

When one demographic (ie. the tech community) bridges the gap to another demographic (i.e. regular people). Although when pressed, self-professed hater of jargon David Pogue defined his new venture, Yahoo Tech, with this unsatisfying phrase.


Quartz’s own Zach Seward says tech brands invited him to numerous activations (i.e. fancy parties) at the festival this year.  He is unclear why the word “launch” is no longer sufficient.

As payback for listening to them vent, I asked these journalists to describe their own media outlets using only lingo, no real words. They found this challenge surprisingly taxing, as you’ll see in the video below.