Your MVP is not minimal, viable or a product – TechCrunch

When I talk about minimally viable products with product-driven startup founders, I often find myself in a frustrating conversation. The term MVP is such a profound misnomer; a good MVP is not viable, and it is certainly not a product. Chances are it’s not as minimal as you’d like it to be, now that I think about it.

In the world of lean startups, founders need to stay hyper-focused on figuring out how to fail as quickly as possible. Ideally, you fail, which means you end up with a functioning business. Many of the “try to fail” approaches involve looking at your business opportunities and considering where your business could fail in the future. Then go find that part.

There’s no point in building the world’s best Beanie Babies sales platform if the entire customer base is already happy using eBay and wouldn’t switch even if your product is superior. There’s no point in making a great lock especially for rideshare scooters if it turns out that the scooter manufacturers don’t care if the scooters are stolen. It would be great if there was a way to find out if someone would buy your product before you write a single line of code.

So where do MVPs come in? As a startup you have a hypothesis; an MVP is the smallest amount of work you can do to confirm or disprove your hypothesis† Eric Ries – yes, the man who wrote “The Lean Startup” – uses Dropbox’s famous MVP as an example. It was not a full-fledged product, full of features. It was not a product with many features left out. It was a video showing how a product might work. The answer to that video was the confirmation the company needed: If they build it, they will be able to find a customer base for the product yet to be built. So they did: they built the product and became a huge success.

Designing a good MVP

Designing a good MVP means thinking outside the box. How little code can you write? Can you get away with no design? If your biggest question is whether you can attract customers at a reasonable cost to acquire customers, can you just run an ad campaign and checkout page and then refund whoever makes an order? If that sounds nice, but you’re concerned about brand risk, could you create a fake brand and get a response to your product?

The trick is to think carefully about the hypothesis – what needs to be true about your product, the market, the problem space you are entering, the customers you hope to attract, and the competitive landscape? How sure are you that your assumptions are correct? Designing a good MVP is an art, but it starts with a really good question. Here are a few examples:

  • Is it possible for us to reduce four hours of manual accounting tasks to a script that can be run in three minutes? This is a technical MVP – you’ll probably need to hack some code to see if you can reliably automate manual tasks.
  • Can we find someone willing to pay to automate this task? In some cases the answer will be “no” – yes, you can save a junior accountant some time, but in some industries people just don’t care how much time junior staffers spend doing manual tasks. In this case, you need to determine if you can find 20-30 customers willing to pay for it. Remember that someone who says “oh that sounds like a good idea” is different from reaching into his pockets and actually pay your money.
  • Is design important to this product? A lot of B2B software is horribly ugly. It’s not because good designers don’t exist, but because it’s just not a priority; the people who have to use the product may prefer a better design or simpler UX, but the decision makers don’t care and the users don’t have a say. In other words, don’t spend half your development budget on making something more user-friendly if you can’t find a business case for it. Especially if it turns out that you inadvertently develop the wrong feature set.
  • Will an incumbent copy and destroy us? If you have some incumbents in your space, do some research and see how they have responded to other startups. If they tend to acquire them, great. If they tend to copy their features and innovations and then crush them, less great. A little Googling (and of course reading TechCrunch for your industry) can save you a lot of headaches in the future. If the incumbents routinely steal innovations, invest more in patents and set aside some money for lawyers.
  • Does this feature make sense for our customers? A very loud minority of your customers may be asking for the same feature, but you wouldn’t be the first company to launch a new feature with much fanfare, greeted only by a collective shrug. Loud customers don’t speak for your entire customer base, so be sensible in how you catch up — if a feature doesn’t add significant value to your company’s overall business objectives, don’t prioritize it over those that do. One way to design an MVP around this is to just add a button to your UI and track how many people click it. Throw a “coming soon!” message when clicked, for example. Yes, it’s annoying for the users, but it’s a lot “cheaper” than spending several development cycles adding a feature that hardly anyone will use.

In a nutshell, the key is to think very carefully about what the question is, and then come up with elegant, low-lift ways to ask that question. Could a survey work instead of a shipping code? Can a video demo give you the answers you need? Can you call 50 clients and ask them tentative questions and see if they suggest the position you are considering as a possible solution to the problem? They can surprise you in two ways: your customers can either overwhelmingly like what you’re proposing (great!), they can hate it (also great – it means you don’t have to waste time and money developing something they don’t do). want) or they have a completely different way of solving the problem that hits the sweet spot, is cheaper to develop, and helps them feel involved in your process.

I don’t have a suggestion for a better name for MVP, but don’t fall into the trap of seeing it as a product, viable or, necessarily, small, simple or easy. Some MVPs are complex. However, the idea is to spend as little of your precious resources as possible to get your questions answered.

Leave a Comment