If you think about launching a successful startup, you must have already heard of MVP, i.e. minimum viable product. This notion is a key element of modern tech businesses. As such, it can guide you through the most challenging phase of your venture and give you a range of valuable hints. In this piece, we are going to explain the meaning of this concept. After that, we will dedicate a series of articles to various practical aspects of this framework.
The term itself was coined twenty years ago. Since then it has been reassessed and refined several times. Now, after extensive scrutiny and discussions, it can be defined as a ‘version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort’.
At first sight, it sounds easy. However, many teams still fail to grasp it, overstretch their resources and fail. So, let’s take a closer look.
If you want to offer something new to the market, you can’t help taking significant risks. That is to say, your idea – translated into a usable product – must meet these three criteria simultaneously:
- It must be relevant in terms of customer demand, tailored to solve a real-world problem, and ready to fill a particular demand
- It also must be a ‘workable thing’, which means it should function properly to satisfy your early adopters
- At the same time, it should be expedient. As an aspiring startup, you inevitably have to deal with limited resources and narrow time horizons. It is virtually impossible to focus on everything. Correspondingly, you can not afford to work on advanced features, the fanciest possible look-and-feel, and countless niceties.
As a result, you are caught in a challenging dilemma.
The product you offer shall never be too raw, otherwise, you will never succeed and conquer your market share. On the other hand, you are never in the right position to offer a ‘polished’ solution. It should not be surprising: running a startup is always a race against time (unless you enjoy a productive relationship with a generous and patient investor).
The MVP concept is intended to lead you between the devil and the deep blue sea in this dilemma. Its main purpose is to obtain as much customer feedback as possible while spending the minimum sufficient amount of resources.
MVP As an Experiment
As you might have already guessed, the concept of MVP treats your app or solution as a full-fledged scientific experiment. Namely, you offer the smallest limited version of your product to get feedback. If it is positive, then your initial assumptions are correct and you can gradually improve the product. If it is negative, then you can quickly cancel your R&D plans and redirect your efforts in a more promising direction.
To create such an MVP, you need to adhere to strict criteria:
1. Plan and prioritize the product features that you are able to deliver and release. Once again, you need to develop the core functionalities only.
2. Develop the solution based on your assumptions and introduce it to the market.
3. Reassess your solution against the background of user experience and feedback from the early adopters (via interviews, surveys, ‘roasting’ discussions at meetups and industry events, etc.)
4. Adjust your plans and outline further activities. Then repeat the entire cycle.
If you apply the aforementioned stages properly and your assumption is correct, you are likely to succeed with your MVP. After all, a lot of groundbreaking projects were built within the MVP framework. Let’s name some of them as a source of inspiration.
Examples and Implications
1. Airbnb was launched in 2007 as a page to rent out a single loft in San Francisco.
2. Product Hunt, a vibrant hub for startups and tech entrepreneurs, was born without coding at all. Initially, it was just a mailing list for sharing info about interesting products.
3. Hubspot, a popular toolbox for marketers, was started as a blog with valuable professional insights.
4. Kickstarter was a simple website for crowdfunding with extremely limited functionalities and a simplified interface.
All these amazing products were built on the same foundation:
1. Correct assumption
2. Plain yet effective and easily manageable core capability
3. Adequate analysis of feedback from the early customers
4. Gradual evolution
If you dream big, the MVP path might be a good pattern to follow. For sure, there is no guarantee that your underlying assumption is correct. The MVP is not a panacea for all possible woes. However, if you apply this framework, you will save time, energy, and resources for multiple tries to hit the jackpot. More than that, for a product owner or a business person with limited resources and short time-to-value it is the most valuable option.
Indeed, if such a person applies the MVP approach, they mitigate the pressure associated with time, costs and risks during the most vulnerable development stage (i.e. when the earliest version of a product is still in progress). In this fashion, in a relatively short space of time, they can test a hypothesis and most value-adding functionalities to answer their main question: whether the project is worth the spendings.
And remember: the team of Evercode Lab will be happy to help you with your MVP. So do not hesitate to contact us for a substantial talk.