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8 Techie Terms That Frustrate Non Techie People

Ged Carroll

When it comes to technology, there's something new every week — especially in Kansas City, where gigabit internet has fostered entrepreneurial growth and attracted tech developers from across the country.

Along with new products, businesses and ideas, are new words, phrases and jargon. And a lot of this insider language, which startup savvy people use casually, can be frustrating to someone from the outside. 

Ben Kittrell, who is a Kansas City entrepreneur and consultant, frequently acts as a technical translator for his clients.

"I have one particular client who is not shy about the fact that she doesn't know a lot of these terms. We’d be in meetings and someone would say something, and she’d always turn to me with a befuddled look on her face,” Kittrell told Steve Kraske on Up To Date.

He says his client is not alone. Along with the advanced jargon, there are a lot of common words that mean something different in the tech world.

"The cloud is a recent example. You never heard that before 2010 and now it’s everywhere,” Kittrell says.  

“It really happens out of nowhere, it will usually be something where people have been kicking it around for one or two years and then all of a sudden it’s everywhere." 

Kittrell writes a column in Startland News called “WTF: Words That Frustrate.” He helped us put together a glossary of start-up and tech terms for laymen:

1. Gigabit City — This refers to a city that has gigabit internet, which is fiber-optic, light-speed data transmission — like Google Fiber in Kansas City. It gives cities a distinction for being on the forefront of innovation. 

​“It’s true speed. It’s a very unique thing for Kansas City,” says Kittrell.

2. Smart City — This is a more nuanced term that relates to “the internet of things.” It’s the idea that you can have millions of devices connected to the internet and those devices have valuable information. In Kansas City, CISCO is leading the Smart City movement. They will deploy sensors all over downtown and then developers can come in and use all that information to develop apps that aim to improve the quality of life.

“Maybe it’s an app that hooks into your GPS and tells you, ‘Hey there’s a free parking spot right around the corner,” Kittrell says.

3. Lean or Lean Startup — Lean refers to a cycle of build-measure-learn when launching a startup. The ideas is to start early with a simple product, release it as quickly as possible, get feedback, re-build it better and repeat the cycle. It’s a process of constantly testing a hypothesis.

“You're running it very lean because you're not coming up with an enormous idea that has all of these bells and whistles," Kittrell explains. "You’re starting with a simple idea.”

4. Disruption — Disruption is a commonly, some say overly-used, term when it comes to startups. It refers to a new-business coming in with a totally new way of doing things that completely “disrupts” the leading status quo overnight. For example, Blockbuster became obscure almost instantly when Netflix disrupted the scene and started streaming movies digitally.

5. Bootstrapping — A bootstrap business is one that doesn't require any funding going in. Entrepreneurs rely on their own funds, sweat and hard work.

“I love bootstrapping. Doodlekit [my company] is an example of that. We both put in about $500 at the beginning, and never took on any angel investment or VC investment,” says Kittrell.

6. VC — A VC is a venture capitalist. A venture capitalist’s firm is essentially a more risky investment fund used to finance early to late stage startups. When a startup is in it’s earliest stages it relies on seed capital resources and then angel investors, who are individuals who generally give less than a million dollars. A venture capitalist probably doesn't come into play until the later states of a startup.

“Once you get some traction and users ... then you start talking to venture capitalists. Typically they’re more involved and take a bigger piece of equity in your business, but then their investments are more in the $1-10 million range.”

Kansas City has come under some scrutiny from entrepreneurs for the lack of venture capitalists in the region.

7. Burn Rate — Burn rate refers to how fast a funded startup is spending money. Since startups don’t generate profits, they’re typically spending someone else’s money each day.

8. Rockstar Developer — is a term used to describe a veteran programmer whose skill set goes beyond technical expertise. Sometimes referred to as full-stack developers, “rockstars” are extremely driven, eager to take on big tasks, and can have a hand in both the business and technical side of a startup.

“Where you see it most is in job ads, they’ll say, ‘We’re looking for a rockstar developer,’" says Kittrell. "Which means they're looking for someone who and operate at the front end, the back end, and everything in between.”


Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.