Minimum Viable Product for Startups

Minimum Viable Product for Startups is the key strategy used for fast and quantitative market testing of a product or product feature for startups.  After your Startup idea is created, but before you fully developed it, this critical step creates the strategy to avoid building products that customers won’t want in the long run.

A Minimum Viable Product has just those features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information.  The term was coined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Eric Ries for web applications. Why is a Minimum Viable Product for Startups so important?  The minimum viable product is not just something broken you release because it’s easy, according to Vlaskovits. It’s about targeting your ideal early adopter customer and getting them to help you build a product that can truly impress and succeed with a broader market. This means specifically trying to filter out users who aren’t your target audience. “Thinking that the product is going to do it [alone] is the biggest trap,” Vlaskovits said. How Do I Develop an effective MVP for my Startup? Get creative and think hard about what is the minimum thing you can do now to make sure your Startup is heading down a viable path:
  • Select one MVP strategy you think would work for you. There are 7 inspirational MVP strategy examples are in The Ultimate Guide to Minimum Viable Products.

  • Create a simple plan to execute on it (remember the “minimum” in MVP)

      Asher Maury states in his article, How I Created My Minimum Viable Product, “For me the minimum viable product goes back even further to Steve Blank’s concept of the “Customer Problem Presentation” outlined in his book “The Four Steps to the Epiphany”.  The Customer Problem Presentation is a scripted interview with your target customers done either face to face or over the phone. During the presentation:  you first outline the top 3 problems you are addressing,  the current solutions to those problems, and then your solutions to those problems.

  • The biggest mind shift following a customer development process is from thinking you know something to testing everything you know.

What is missing with the Minimum Viable Product plan?  The alternative is to focus on creating a Minimum Delightful Product (MDP). Start Blender’s article challenges, The idea of minimum is just like it is in MVP: build only what you need. The interesting part is making the product delightful instead of merely viable. Delightful products users fall in love with. They immediately become part of a user’s life or work. When a product is delightful it just makes sense.

But it begs the question, what makes a product delightful? This is a question that I’m sure has been pondered by many others wiser than me, but I believe delight is the result of three elements coming together:

  • Product gestalt-defines the soul of the user experience. You can’t achieve a great gestalt by simply accumulating the right features. It comes from the right elements working together so users stop thinking about the technology and simple achieve their goals.

  • Design-As humans we have always found happiness and joy from beauty. Products that are beautiful are delightful.

  • Quality-Unfortunately, all too often MVP becomes VCP (very crappy product). Ironically, this comes from losing sight of a very core agile concept: when something is done it’s done. Put differently, if a feature is built it should work without problems. The feature may not include all the functionality you can imagine, but what it does include has to work well.

Keep dreaming and creating, but take to heart the importance of the MVP or MDP of your Startup and do the hard work on the front end to be sure you have a product that users will pay for and you can afford to move on to your next great Startup!

Resource links related to Minimum Viable Products for startups

1.  How to Think about Minimum Viable Products by Darrell Etheringto 2.  How I Created My Minimum Viable Product by Asher Maury  3.  Minimum Viable Product vs. Minimum Delightful Product   4.  Minimum Viable Product for Startups by Will Dayble   A great walk through on how a team can develop the MVP on a whiteboard  5.  The Problem with a Lean Startup -the Minimum Viable Product  6.  How to Create a Minimum Viable Product  7. Why a Landing Page is Not a Minimum Viable Product   8.  Making Sense of Minimum Viable Products   9. Minimum Viable Product and Minimal Marketable Product by Roman Pichler 10. The Ultimate Guide to Minimum Viable Products