In lay terms, an MVP proves that an idea has legs and would hit the ground running without substantial investment or effort put into it yet. In business terms, an MVP is a version of a product that helps a founder collect validated learning about the problem they want to solve and the customer they want to serve. The goal of the MVP is to test fundamental business hypotheses or assumptions and help a startup founder learn about the next right step as quickly as possible.
One of the most fundamental benefits of an MVP is that it saves money down the road for startup founders.
In this video, Paul Howe, Founder and CEO of NeedFeed, talks about how $40 saved them nine months of work and approximately $2 million. By user testing an idea for a social purchase-sharing app through a $40 browser script that added purchase-related posts to the Facebook page on the browser, the team saved 2 million dollars it would’ve taken to build the entire feature in their app. They found that users had powerfully harsh opinions about the purchase-sharing feature and never built it. Instead, the founder pivoted and found success elsewhere, while two other purchase-sharing apps went all in and regretted it later.
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Before taking a look at planning and launching an MVP, let’s refine our perspective of the goals of a startup in the pre-launch phase.
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MVPs are experiments to test and validate an idea without investing a lot into it and with just enough features to do that. The purpose of an MVP is to allow a startup to test and experiment with a solution, iterate it, and repeat the process.
Since an MVP doesn’t demand a substantial investment, it can respond to changes easily, so the eventual product is functional and tailored to the customer’s needs. MVPs also help balance what a business can offer and what a market needs.
Most importantly, an MVP saves startup resources, which might go to waste once a product is built but not wanted by its intended market.
Here are the specific steps to planning an MVP and setting it up for maximum success-
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Most startups can do with a lean MVP developed and launched within weeks. Often, startups can condense the initial user needs by targeting a specific set of users, even if they’d eventually widen their market.
To do this, founders must focus on the highest-order problems they are attempting to solve and ignore all the bells and whistles until later in the development process. This set of highest-order problems would create the base for the subsequent iterations of the product.
It also helps to think of the MVP as a cheap experiment, not a special milestone in the product development process, to keep room for innovation and trials. Let’s see how big businesses came about as a result of lean MVPs.
Amazon started as an online bookshop in the early 1990s and only became an everything marketplace through subsequent iterations.
Airbnb was first called AirBed&Breakfast and had a basic website to provide accommodation to people coming to San Francisco for a design workshop. The site even lacked payment integration, so money had to be exchanged in person with the host. After testing the idea on three paying guests during the conference, founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia evolved it into the giant it is today.
Dropbox is another example. Instead of creating the entire product, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston built a working MVP and an explainer video and pretended that the real product existed. The video drew hundreds of thousands of people to their website. The beta waiting list for Dropbox went from 5,000 to 75,000 sign-ups overnight.
Twitch, on day one, was an online reality TV show called justin.tv that followed his life around in low-resolution.
Stripe was called /dev/payments in its early days and had no bank deals and only a few features. In fact, if you wanted to integrate Stripe into your website, the founders would come to your office and integrate it for you.
All these companies that started with lean MVPs saw massive success.
Few startups would need a complex or heavy MVP, such as those in significantly regulated industries like insurance or banking. Startups in these industries can take more work to launch. For instance, if you’re building a rocket, working in biotech, or creating a medicine, you would need significant proof of your product to be viable. In all other cases, MVP can start with a simple site that explains what you do.
Launching an MVP shouldn’t be considered the huge event it often is. Founders must do away with fantastical ideas about launches and their results or their importance. The only priority of an MVP launch is to get the first set of users or testers.
So, any launch where you get intended customers is a success. This could be friends and family launch where you only take your MVP to a known group of people or a press launch where you get all the buzz and attention from strangers. It’s easier to learn from your customers if they have something to use.
So, research and planning are all good, and a pitch deck can be useful, but it’s critical to place a product in front of your users to kickstart the process of MVP. Often, founders overthink this step. The basic idea is to take something to users- anything that can prove or disprove your central hypothesis and help build momentum for growth or iteration.
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It’s no news that it’s in your best interest to quickly build and launch an MVP. But this is easier said than done. Here are a few practical steps you can take to ensure a quick MVP rollout-
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Even the most skilled startup founders sometimes need help rolling out an MVP quickly and inexpensively. The idea is to avoid attaching undue importance to this iteration of your product and trust the process to land you where you need to be.
If you’re unsure of the process or need support and assistance, contact us at KiwiTech for a consultation around your startup MVP.