fume date
n. The date on which a company runs out or is expected to run out of cash.
Was it a success? The WebTaggers guys say they will not know until the wire transfer date, Aug. 15, when WebTaggers anticipates that funds from investors will have traded hands. After that? Jan. 1, 2001, the 'fume date,' which no one really wants to think about — the point at which, if no venture capital is coming in, the partners must admit defeat.
—Courtney Barry, “10 Months, 10 Minutes, $10 Million,” The New York Times, June 07, 2000
1994 (earliest)
William A. Sahlman strides to the front of the room with the poise of a star pitcher taking the mound at Fenway. His course, Entrepreneurial Finance, is one of the most popular at Harvard Business School. Its nickname, 'Burn Rates, Fume Dates, and Wallpaper,' refers to the speed at which cash is used, the day it runs out, and worthless stock certificates.
—“Burn rates, fume dates, and wallpaper,” Success, September 01, 1994
Today's curious phrase probably comes from the idiom running on fumes, which refers to something (usually a car) that is so low on gas that it must be running on whatever fumes remain in the tank. Since a startup company's relationship to money is analogous to a car's relationship to gas, the date that a company runs of out money would be its "running on fumes date," or just its fume date.
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