Text by Jan Küster
Developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for your startup idea
Developing a Minimum Viable Product for your startup idea is essential to ensure that you are putting your resources in the right place. Too often, startups invest time and money in developing features that no one wants or needs. With an MVP, you can test your idea with real customers and figure out what they want and need from your product. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of MVP development and how you can use it to make your startup a success.
What is a Minimum Viable Product, and why do you need one?
A minimum viable product or MVP is the most basic version of your product that you can put out on the market. It should have just enough features to allow you to get feedback from customers and figure out what they want and need. An MVP can be a great way to test your startup idea without spending too much time or money on development.
The MVP is the antidote to perfection. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman said it best: "If you're not embarrassed by your first release, you've released too late." The reasoning here is that only the market can give you relevant information on the value of your product, and releasing an MVP saves a lot of resources from being deployed on the founder's view of perfection instead of putting the market demands at the center of product development. The entrepreneur's skill is to place resources where they are the most effective and drive value.
Building an MVP is a solid technique to prevent wanting to build to perfection and instead of feeling comfortable with products that are built iteratively. why minimum viable product? Because an MVP allows you to get feedback from users as quickly as possible and make changes based on that feedback - rather than building something that you think is perfect but might not actually be what users want or need. So, if you're looking to validate your idea and save time and money in the long run, go for an MVP!
What that means for the founding team:
=> Don't try to build perfection before you release a product. Getting relevant insights and feedback from the market is more valuable and drives better business and product roadmap decisions. Likewise, the product should be at a level of maturity that allows it to shine in the market and perform its value promise, at least in a rudimentary function. It should still feel unpolished and cringe to release, but not fall apart or miss critical functionality.
How do you go about developing a Minimum Viable Product for your startup idea?
Developing a Minimum Viable Product is a multistep process. To create an MVP, you first want to identify all the features that are essential to the basic usage of your product or service. We often refer to this to as the "walking skeleton" of your MVP.
The walking skeleton should be a very generic product that simply solves the problem you set out to solve with your venture. Once you have the skeleton in place, you want to add some "muscles, blood, and skin" to it. The MVP should not be complete at this stage, but should show hints of personality and performance.
By developing an MVP, you can reduce the risk of developing a product or service that no one wants or needs. It also allows you to get feedback from potential customers early in the development process, which can help you make necessary changes before investing too much time and money into your venture.
Criticism of the Minimum Viable Product process.
The Minimum Viable Product approach has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, with many startups and businesses adopting it as their go-to method for product development. However, the MVP process is not without its criticisms, and there are several reasons it may not be the best approach for every situation.
For one, the MVP only applies to specific scenarios. If you're developing a new product or service, it's important to consider whether an MVP is the best way to go. Most times, it may be better to develop a more complete product from the start, rather than try to release a stripped-down version and then build on it later.
Another criticism of the MVP approach is that it can lead to subpar products. In highly competitive markets, the MVP is just not good enough to survive a comparison with more enhanced competitors. How about a mobile phone without email or texting features, or a tablet without internet access? These days, customers expect more from their products, and an MVP simply doesn't cut it.
Finally, the MVP approach can often result in delays and cost overruns. Because an MVP is a bare-bones product, there's always the risk that it will need significant additional work after it's released. This can delay further development and ultimately lead to higher costs.
Therefore, it is vital to not blindly follow the MVP approach but carefully consider whether it's appropriate for your situation.
On the other side, here are some great examples of Minimum Viable Product development:
- Dropbox: The first version of Dropbox was a very basic file sharing service that only worked on two computers. It wasn't until later versions that additional features, such as the ability to share files with over one person, were added.
- Airbnb: The original MVP for Airbnb was simply a website where people could list their spare rooms for rent. It wasn't until later those additional features, such as the ability to book rooms, were added.
- Twitter: The first version of Twitter was a very basic microblogging service. It wasn't until later versions that additional features, such as hashtags and @mentions, were added.
As you can see, the MVP approach can be a great way to get a product or service off the ground. However, it's important to deliberate whether it's the right approach for your particular situation.
Achieving success as an entrepreneur is all about making the right decisions at the right time. Applying lean startup techniques will allow you to develop a product that meets the needs of your market. However, it is important to remember that not every market is the same. What works for one may not work for another. As an entrepreneur, it is up to you to assess the needs of your market and develop a product that satisfies those needs. So, what are you waiting for? Get started today!
Jan Küster coaches lean startup techniques and go-to-market-strategies in established corporations, university programs and various incubators. He co-founded the Founders Fight Club, hosts events and learning formats to promote the visibility of startups and the associated startup scene. Previously, Jan successfully established and subsequently led business development for technology projects in the areas of Chip Design, Software as a Service and Natural User Interface applications for both startups and early stage ventures of established corporations.