Vocabulary for Creative Startups

Vocabulary for Creative Startups (Part 1 of 10)

“We needed a vocabulary list.  I didn’t know what you were talking about when you first talked about ‘IPO’s”.

Yesterday I published a post on the definition of entrepreneurship.  And the minute I hit “Publish” I recalled the above piece of feedback we got about our accelerator.  Duh.  I should have realized that.  (One of many things we should have done better at the inaugural Creative Startups Accelerator!)

What makes many creative entrepreneurs especially exciting to work with is their unique training and education.  Creatives went to film school, design school, fine arts programs, drama departments. They understand music theory and creative writing, field of vision, and comparative literature.  They are uniquely suited to recognize emerging market opportunities because of the niche they fill in the expanding creative economy ecosystem.

Terms like “cash flow analysis” and “return on investment” are not necessarily words they have brushed up against.  Anymore than I knew what “timbre”, or “above the line” meant until I started spending lots of time with creatives.

So, at the risk of being pedantic, I’m going to draft a list of essential vocabulary terms and also start tweeting out terms on a weekly basis.  Here are my first five words – considered by yours truly – to be essential if you are learning to speak Startup:


An entrepreneur is someone who pursues opportunity without regard to resources currently under control.  (Read more on this…)


Ok. You know what networking is.  But, just to emphasize it’s importance I list it here. Networking is the most essential activity for any founder.  Your resources will come through people you know, people who connect you to more people, people who take a chance on you.  Tip: Network with other entrepreneurs.  They are more likely (research bears this out) to support you, partner with you, and introduce you to investors and others than people working in established businesses.

Lean Startup:Lean Creative Startup

The field of thought currently considered most sexy (wait a year, that will change) in founder/accelerator/startup circles.  Steve Blank, adjunct professor at Stanford (disclosure: Steve teaches in the same department as my husband, Trevor) laid out the construct.  Essentially, a “Lean Startup” is a new venture that recognizes its limitations (little resources under control) and therefore focuses all resources/energy on identifying the greatest value it can deliver to customers. The process is laid out in the image.  To execute on the process lean startups employ a rigorous method of prototyping a produce or service, and then testing the product in the market (discovery).  Careful analysis of findings inform the next (validation) – and rapidly produced – iteration of the product which is then retested.  Customer creation occurs as more customers are attracting to the finely tuned product.

Keep in mind that Lean can work better in some contexts: like app development. Your product is easily adapted by changing up your code.  Lean might be less useful in, say, festival production.  However, aspects of the larger product can always (should always) be tested and you should *always* be listening for customer feedback.

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