Venture Capital

Venture Capital Glossary

Last Updated:
April 4, 2023

As with every discipline, venture capital has its distinct terminology and acronyms. If you are a beginner looking to get into the industry or a founder looking to raise your first round of VC funding, here are the most common terms used in the venture capital industry.

We recommend you familiarize yourself with these terms before applying to intern at a venture capital firm or submitting your pitch to a venture capital fund.

If you come across any terms or VC acronyms that need to be added to this list, let us know so we can add them.

Let’s dive in!

Venture Capital Acronyms

ARR: Annual Recurring Revenue MRRx12

ARRG Ratio: Average Recurring Revenue (ARR) / Growth Rate

ARPU: Average Revenue Per User

ACV: Annual Contract Value

AOV: Average Order Value

AUM: Assets Under Management

CAC: Customer Acquisition Cost

CLTV: Customer Lifetime Value

CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

COGS: Cost of Goods Sold

CRC: Customer Retention Cost

CRM: Customer Relationship Management

DAU/WAU/MAU: Daily/Weekly/Monthly Active Users

EBITDA: Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation Amortization

FY: Fiscal Year

GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation (EU regulation for data protection and privacy)

GPs: General Partners- the managers of the VC fund who decide the allocation of investments.

KPI: Key Performance Indicator

LPs: Limited Partners- the investors who invest in VC funds.

LPA: Limited Partnership Agreement- a document between the LPs and the GPs

MRR: Monthly Recurring Revenue

MoM: Month over Month

MOIC: Multiple on Invested Capital

MVP: Minimum viable product

ROAS: Return on Ad Spend

ROI: Return on Investment

SEC: Securities and Exchange Commission

YoY: Year over Year

Venture Capital Terminology

Accelerator: A program designed to provide capital and mentorship to accelerate the growth of an early-stage startup. Most accelerators offer initial capital in exchange for equity in the startup. Popular accelerators include Techstars, Y Combinator, and 500.

Accredited Investor: A person or entity that meets specific Securities and Exchange Commission requirements for income, net worth, or specific professional qualifications. Accredited investors qualify to invest in more restrictive investment opportunities. Traditionally, most angel investors who would like to invest in a startup are accredited investors.

Angel Investor: High-net-worth individuals who invest in a startup in the early stages of development in exchange for equity. Most often, angel investors invest during the seed round.

Anti-dilution Clause: A contractual clause allowing investors to maintain their ownership percentages even if new shares are issued.

Board of Directors: A group of people representing the interests of a company’s shareholders. The board’s goal in early-stage companies is to ensure the company achieves its mission. The board is responsible for making fundraising decisions, adopting internal rules, recruiting the management team, etc. While the management team oversees all day-to-day operations, the board supervises the executive team and CEO.

Bridge Loan: A short-term loan startups can use to fund operations until a longer-term financing option is available. Usually used when a startup runs out of cash before being able to close a new funding round.

Bootstrapping: When entrepreneurs don’t want to give their equity to VCs, they can bootstrap or use their resources to launch a startup.

Burn Rate: This is the pace at which a company spends money, usually venture capital, before reaching profitability. Burn rate is an important metric used to measure the company’s runway- the amount of time it has left before running out of money. The burn rate is usually quoted in terms of cash per month.

Carried Interest or Carry: The percentage of a venture capital fund’s profits paid to the fund manager or GP (typically 20%). The profit made from the fund determines how much carry the GP earns.

Capitalization Table: An official document showing a company’s capital structure and the different types of equity securities. Cap tables include the specific ownership level of an investor or employee.

Capital Call: Also known as a drawdown, is a request by a GP at a VC, PE, or other investment fund to its investors to transfer a portion of their committed capital they previously agreed to invest in the fund. This allows the fund to manage cash flow efficiently by calling for funds only when they are needed.

Cash Flow: the net amount of money moving into and out of a business over a specific period. It measures the organization's ability to generate and manage the money it receives and spends, reflecting its financial health and operational efficiency.

Convertible Note or Convertible Debt: is a type of loan that can be converted into equity, usually preferred stock, of the borrowing company under specific conditions. It is often used by startups  as a means to raise capital without immediately diluting the ownership stakes of existing shareholders. The conversion feature allows investors who hold the debt to convert it into shares of the company at a later date, typically at a discounted price.

Common Stock: A type of company security frequently issued to founders and employees. During a liquidation event, preferred shares take priority over common shares.

Convertible Preferred Shares: A type of share that gives the owner the right to convert these preferred shares to common shares after a predetermined period or specific date. These are the most common type of equity used by VCs to invest in companies.

Come Along Rights: The right of an investor to sell shares if the founder or other key employee of the company sells their shares. This right protects investors from being stuck in an investment after the founders have sold all their stocks.

Committed Capital: The total amount of money that investors have agreed to contribute to a fund such as a VC or PE fund over a specific period of time. This is the investor’s promise to provide funding up to their committed amount.

Crowdfunding: The practice of funding a startup by raising small amounts of capital, usually via the Internet, based on donations, lending, or equity models.

Debt Financing: A type of funding provided to startups by a lender or investor such as a bank. Like a traditional loan, a company that takes debt financing borrows money and pays it back with interest. With debt financing, borrowers do not need to offer equity in return.

Dilution: When subsequent funding rounds occur, existing investors will own proportionately less of the company than before since additional capital is issued as part of a new financing round.

Due Diligence: an investigation of a company done by prospective investors to assess the viability of a potential investment and confirm that the information provided by the company is accurate.

Drag Along Rights: A provision found in the term sheet or shareholder rights agreement that allows the majority shareholders of a company to compel the minority shareholders to participate in the sale of the company.

Down Round: A round of fundraising in which the company is valued at a lower valuation than previous rounds.

Equity Stake: The percentage of a company owned by the holder of some shares of stock in that company.

Equity Financing: When companies raise capital through the sales of shares. Equity financing usually comes from venture capitalists during a round of financing.

Elevator Pitch: A short and concise presentation an entrepreneur gives to a potential investor about the investment opportunity. The pitch should be straightforward enough that it can be shared during an elevator ride.

Employee Stock Option Pool: A pool of shares reserved for employee compensation. Employee Stock Option Pools help attract the necessary talent to grow the company.

Friends and Family Round: The initial investment provided to a startup company by the friends and family of the founders. Companies raise Friends and Family rounds to get started before seeking angel investments or a formal seed round.

Fair Market Value: The value of a company based on what investors are willing to pay for it. FMV is usually derived from comparable companies that have recently had a financial transaction associated with them.

Fund of Funds: Are funds that invest in other funds. For many investor this investment vehicle allows them to gain exposure to more venture capital investments. By investing in a fund of funds an investor can gain exposure to much more deals and diversify their portfolio compared to direclty investing in only a few deals.

Full Ratchet: A type of antidilution protection in a venture capital term sheet where if another VC later pays a lower price for shares in a company, the VC that bought shares earlier with the “ratchet” protection gets a price adjustment to that lower price. Ratchets are not standard in typical early stage investments.

Growth Equity: A type of investment opportunity in relatively mature companies that the company will use to expand their operations, acquire a company or enter into new markets. Growth equity investors benefit from high growth potential and less risk than investing in earlier-stage startups.

Initial Public Offering (IPO): A process by which a private company issues stocks to the public markets and gets listed, becoming a public company. When a company IPO’s new disclosures must be filed since the company now needs to adhere to reporting requirements set forth by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Incubator: A program that helps entrepreneurs refine their business idea, develop a business plan, and grow their company from the ground up. An incubator differs from an accelerator, where a company has already developed its minimum viable product and is looking to scale growth rapidly.

Internal Rate of Return: A metric to measure the success of an investment. In the context of venture capital, IRR represents the annualized percent return an investor’s fund has earned over the lifetime of the investment. The higher the IRR, the better the investment is performing.

Investment Fund: A pooled investment that allows investors to invest money alongside other investors in various instruments, including venture capital, private equity, shares, etc.

Institutional Investors: An entity that accumulates the funds of multiple investors. Examples include mutual funds, hedge funds, pension funds, and insurance companies.

Individual Investor: A person who allocates their personal capital to various types of investment vehicles, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or real estate, with the aim of achieving financial goals. Unlike institutional investors, individual investors manage their funds and make their own investment decisions.

Late Stage Venture Capital: Investments after a venture-backed company has developed its product, proven product market fit, has meaningful revenues, and is close to a potential liquidity event such as an IPO. Compared to early-stage VC investments, later-stage investments have fewer risks.

Lead Investor: An investor who leads a group of investors into an investment and takes on the most work in negotiating the investment terms, doing due Diligence, and monitoring the company after the closing. Usually, the lead investor will work with the company to determine the pre-money valuation and spearhead raising the round.

Letter of Intent: A document that outlines the preliminary agreement between a startup and a venture capital firm before the investment is finalized. The LOI typically includes key terms of the proposed investment, such as the amount of capital to be invested, the company's valuation, the structure of the investment (e.g., equity, convertible debt), and any specific conditions that must be met before the investment is finalized.

Liquidity: Refers to the ease with which an asset or security can be converted into ready cash without affecting its market price. Highly liquid assets have many buyers and sellers, facilitating a faster transaction with little price movement. Liquidity can also refer to a company’s ability to meet its short-term financial obligations.

Liquidation Preference: A provision that gives investors preferential payouts when a company is sold or experiences a liquidity event. For example, a VC investor who holds preferred stock with a liquidation preference might receive their share of returns before common stockholders such as employees and founders can cash in on their shares.

Lock-up Period: A predetermined span of time following an initial public offering (IPO) during which early investors, company insiders, and employees are restricted from selling their shares.

Management Fees: The fees that a venture capital fund charges its limited partners (LPs) every year. These fees compensate the GPs for the work and cover ongoing expenses related to the fund. Typically, a VC fund charges between 1%- 3% of the committed capital.

Portfolio Company: A company that a private equity or venture capital firm owns or holds an interest in. Investing in a portfolio company aims to increase its value and earn a return on investment via an exit or other liquidity events such as an IPO or sale.

Pro Rata Rights: These are provisions that allow investors to maintain their ownership percentage in a company by purchasing additional shares during future financing rounds. These rights ensure that investors can protect their stake from being diluted when the company issues more shares.

Protective Provisions: Are clauses in a venture capital investment agreement that give minority shareholders, typically venture capital investors, the right to veto or approve certain actions by the company. These provisions are designed to protect the investors' interests by requiring the company to obtain their consent before making significant decisions that could affect the company’s direction or the value of its shares.

Post-Money Valuation: The valuation of a company that includes the capital provided during the current round of funding. For example, if a VC firms invests $10 million in a company with a $20 million pre-money valuation, the post-money valuation is $30 million.

Preferred Stock: A type of ownership in a corporation with higher claims on assets and earnings than common stock. It typically grants holders the right to receive dividends before common shareholders and may include a fixed dividend rate. It is often issued with a specific number of shares and may offer features like convertibility into common stock or redemption by the issuer after a certain period of time.

Private Equity Firms are a type of alternative investment firm that invests in and takes ownership stakes in companies that are not publicly listed. They raise capital from institutional and high-net-worth accredited investors. For example, leveraged buyouts and venture capital investments are two subfields of private equity.

Recapitalization: A corporate reorganization designed to change a company’s capital structure. This process usually involves exchanging one type of finance for another, such as debt for equity, equity for debt, etc.

Right of First Refusal (ROFR): A provision in the stock purchase agreement that is signed during a venture capital fundraising. a ROFR requires any shareholder who wants to sell stock (common, preferred, etc.) to give the VC the option but not the obligation to buy shares from existing shareholders before they can be sold to an external party.

SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity): Similar to a convertible note, a SAFE is an agreement between an investor and a company that provides the investor with rights for future equity in the company without determining a specific price per share at the time of the initial investment. SAFE investors receive future shares when a priced round of investment or liquidation event occurs.

Series A Round: This is a company’s first significant round of venture funding. Typically, Series A investors purchase 10%-30% of the company in exchange for an investment to capitalize it so it can continue developing and marketing its products. Series A rounds are usually followed by Series B, C, etc.

Seed Round: The earliest round of funding where angel investors, founders, friends, and family invest in a startup. At this point, the company is developing its product and is not yet generating revenue.

Shares Outstanding: The total number of a company’s shares that have been issued and are currently held by shareholders. Shares outstanding are used in various metrics and calculations suck as Earnings per share (EPS) and market capitalization, to evaluate a company’s financial health and market value.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): A business model in which a company provides its software to the customer as a service with a monthly or annual subscription fee instead of selling a perpetual license and maintenance agreements. SaaS companies have metrics that are different from other types of businesses.

Total Addressable Market (TAM): This represents the total market demand and revenue opportunity for a product or service. TAM is calculated by multiplying the average revenue per user by the total potential customers in the market. In other words, if every single person who could find value in a product or solution would purchase or start using it, how big would that measure be?

Term Sheet: a nonbinding document that includes the basic terms and conditions under which an investment will be executed. Term sheets cover a company’s valuation, investment amount, percentage stake, liquidation preference, voting rights, etc. Once the term sheet is signed, it indicates that the investor and the company would like to proceed with the transaction.

Unicorn: A privately held startup company with a valuation of over $ 1 billion. Unicorns are characterized by their rapid growth rate driven by innovative business models, technologies or services that disrupt existing markets or create new ones.

Vesting: When something that is promised is delivered, and ownership is officially granted to the recipient. For example, when startup employees are granted shares, they vest according to a predetermined schedule. Under a vesting schedule, employees only receive their equity compensation after a period of employment to ensure alignment of interest between the employer and the employee.

Warrant: The right to purchase a stock at a later date at a fixed price.

Decoding Venture Capital: Essential Terms and Acronyms for Beginners and Founders

Navigating the complex venture capital (VC) landscape can be daunting for beginners and seasoned entrepreneurs. With its jargon of terms and acronyms, understanding VC is crucial for anyone looking to dive into this field. Whether you're an aspiring VC intern or a founder aiming to secure your first round of funding, familiarizing yourself with these terms is your first step toward success.

Our comprehensive list serves as a starting point, covering everything from the basics of VC acronyms like ARR, CAC, and CLTV to essential venture capital terminology such as accelerators, equity stakes, and IPO. Each term not only demystifies the jargon but also provides insights into the mechanisms of venture funding, investment strategies, and startup valuation.

Remember, this list is a living document reflective of an industry that's as dynamic as the startups it funds. We encourage you to contribute, suggesting terms or acronyms we might have missed, ensuring this resource remains current and comprehensive.

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