Leveraging Language: How Learning the ‘Lingo’ of the Tech World can Benefit Sexual Health Entrepreneurs and Innovators
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, more than ever before, the incredible role that technology can play in our lives. When it comes to sexual health, leveraging technology gives us the opportunity to meet young people where they are in creative and innovative ways. But the tech world can also be intimidating - there are new terms, new concepts, and new funding structures. And if you’ve never worked in tech before it can feel hard to break in.
We’re here to help. Whether you’ve always wanted to explore the world of tech and sexual health, you have an idea, or you’re already working on a project, think of us as your guides. Power to Decide hosts Innovation Next, a unique incubator program that brings sex education into the 21st century by teaching innovators the process of design thinking (also called human-centered design) and supporting them as they develop technology-enabled ideas to prevent teen pregnancy. okayso, developed through Innovation Next, uses technology to connect young people with questions about sex, relationships, and identity to teams of volunteer experts who provide personalized support.
Together, we’ll share our knowledge with you in a series of blog posts about the “sex tech” world. In this first blog, we’ll talk about the terminology used by the tech world, positioning you to “speak the language” when you’re interacting with tech folks. In the second blog, we’ll share tips for navigating tech philanthropy. And in the final blog in the series, we’ll provide our insights into how to take advantage of incubators and accelerators.
To start, terminology.
Lots of people enter the tech world through fundraising. Tech companies host all sorts of competitions and funding opportunities. Although they aren’t explicitly for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) programs, many SRH programs might be a great fit. So, let’s review some of the terms associated with fundraising.
|Incubators||Brief programs designed to "incubate" ideas with the hope of building out a business model for a company or organization.|
|Accelerator||Longer programs (typically three to six months) that focus on "accelerating" or scaling an existing business or idea, through small seed funding, mentorship, and pitch/demo days, sometimes attended by investors and media.|
|Equity||Shares (ownership of) a for-profit company.|
|Venture Capital||Money invested in a for-profit company by an individual or group of investors in exchange for some amount of equity in the company.|
|Bootstrapping||The practice of using your own resources (typically money) to build your venture or product, rather than soliciting outside investment.|
|Pitch||A presentation, usually for potential funders, that explains the problem you're trying to solve, your solution, and how you're going to get there.|
|Deck||Slides (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.) used in a pitch.|
|A one page document covering the major aspects of your pitch.|
|Early stage||An idea or business that has yet to be launched.|
Unlike some more “formal” grant programs, the tech world frequently funds early stage ideas. So, lots of people who are using tech funding may find themselves developing and testing concepts. Here’s some language related to that.
Developing and Testing Ideas
|Problem||The problem or challenge that you want to try to fix (lack of information, lack of access, etc.)|
Another term for the problem that a user has. It's called a 'pain point' because it's enough of a hassle for the user that they will consider switching their behavior. Your solution is like the medicine that makes their pain go away. Pain points can be big or small; they can cover the entire problem (e.g., "I need a way to access birth control without going to a doctor's office."), or they can be one small issue within a larger process (e.g., "This app asks for my insurance information, and I don't have insurance, but I can't skip the question."). To identify your pain point, try these sentence roots:
|Solution||The way you plan to fix the problem you've identified.|
|Human-Centered Design/Design Thinking||A methodology for understanding problems and developing solutions that prioritizes developing a deep understanding of and radical empathy for the people with the problem and involving them directly in the design of the solution.|
|Agile||A method of designing solutions where each piece of the solution is tested and refined instead of developing everything together and then releasing it.|
|Iterating||A process of testing a solution idea, getting feedback, tweaking the solution, then testing again, etc.|
|Prototype||A model of your solution that people can interact with.|
|Lo fidelity prototype||A very basic prototype; for example, a drawing on a piece of paper.|
|Hi fidelity prototype||A more complex prototype; a mock-up of your solution.|
|Wireframe||A set of images that display the functional elements of your solution (i.e., which buttons do which things and where they go).|
|Validation||Proving that there's a need and demand for what you're making.|
If you’re fortunate enough to move from concept to development, understanding the language of product development can be especially useful. Let’s check that out.
|Product||The thing users will eventually use.|
User Interface (UI)/User Experience (UX)
|The design of your product as seen by the user and the way they move through your product to solve their problem.|
|Stack||All of the programming language, frameworks, tools, and databases needed to create the product.|
|Full stack||An engineer who is able to work with both the front and backend tools in the stack.|
|Back end||The code that creates the product.|
|Front end||What the user sees when interacting with the product.|
|Development shop||A company that provides the coding for the product.|
|Minimum Viable Product (MVP)||The core features of the product needed to test whether or not there is product-market fit (see below).|
|Accessibility||Designing the product to remove barriers to stage.|
If all goes according to plan, the product you develop to improve sexual and reproductive health will be wildly popular, and you’ll be thinking about growth. Here are some terms to help you keep your eye on the horizon.
|Scale/scalability||The ability for what you're doing to eventually serve a large number of people without having to significantly change your solution.|
|Product-Market Fit||When the solution meets the needs of the target audience in a way that they will use.|
|Metric||A regular measurement of how well your product is doing. Common metrics include; users/day, users/month, conversion rates, and retention rates.|
|Traction||Clear evidence that your product is growing and that people want to use it.|
|Conversion rate||The percentage of people who go from learning about what you're doing to taking the action you want them to take (downloading, creating an account, donating, etc.).|
|Retention rate||The percentage of users who continue to use your product over time out of all the users you have ever had.|
Language is an important factor in helping people feel like they belong in a new environment or group. We would love to see more sexual and reproductive health innovators and entrepreneurs joining and feeling comfortable in the tech world. We hope this has been a helpful tool to start learning the language of tech. So the next time you hear someone say, “We need to finish iterating on our latest prototype so the front end developer can adjust the MVP because we need to update our deck before our pitch to the VCs,” you’ll know exactly what they mean.