The startup MVP – why your minimum viable product offers the maximum value potential

How was this content?

Every successful entrepreneur has a unique story about how they turned their idea into a business and the many choices they made along the way.

The launch phase of a startup especially is a critical time, and how an idea is accepted by early customers can go a long way to determining its long-term prospects.

For some founders, it’s tempting to tinker with their idea until it’s perfect.

That’s a noble goal, but the journey to perfection is often long and costly, and means forgoing the chance to gain vital feedback from early adopters. As many entrepreneurs have found, these first customers are one of the best sources of advice when it comes to what is and isn’t working.

So, how can you get your product or service in front of customers quickly, and in a way that will help you build a stronger product over time?

That’s where an MVP – or Minimum Viable Product – is the answer.

What is an MVP?

An MVP is a basic version of your product and service that demonstrates the core benefits of your idea and enables you to gain feedback quickly. The concept was popularized by American entrepreneur and author Eric Ries in his 2009 book, The Lean Startup, where he described an MVP as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”.

Many of the world’s most famous cloud-based startups began with an MVP. Airbnb, for instance, was born when the founder rented out his own apartment online. Even Amazon began with an MVP, with Jeff Bezos personally shipping books from his house.

What do I need to create my MVP?

If your MVP is to be any guide to your future success, it must include enough features and benefits to attract potential customers, and incorporate ways for you to understand how they are using it and collect feedback about their experience. An MVP helps you get an idea to market quickly, but there is no point putting something out there if you aren’t willing to listen and respond to feedback.

Getting your MVP out there

There are plenty of decisions you need to make between defining a startup idea and releasing it as an MVP:

  • What kind of MVP do you want to create? Your options range from a basic product proposal or a demo video through to a working cloud-based prototype, or even a feature-limited version of the full product or service. While a demo might be faster to roll out, it won’t give customers the same “hands-on” feel they would get from using a basic version, especially if you want them to eventually pay for it.
  • What software will you use? Which cloud service will you host it on? You will need to decide what software tools you will use to build it, and which cloud service you will host it on. These early decisions can have significant consequences for your long-term options, so choose cloud tools and services that will suit your needs well into your startup’s future.
  • How much of your idea will you build? Whatever you build must demonstrate the value of your idea and do so in a way that piques consumers’ interests. You also want to make sure that your MVP is easy to use and works well enough so that customers won’t encounter bugs or broken features.
  • How much of your idea can you afford to build? Writing software and hosting it in the cloud has never been easier, but it still takes time, and hiring developers will still come at a cost. The more complicated your idea, and the more you aim for perfection, the more it will cost you to build.
  • How much do you want to reveal about your idea? Many startups begin in “stealth mode”, choosing not to share too much about their ideas for fear that they may be copied. While this can protect your intellectual property, at some stage you will have to show your idea to the world if you want to attract customers and gain feedback. Few ideas are unique, and if you spend too long in stealth mode, you risk being overtaken by competitors anyway. It is important that when you launch your MVP you are already working on future versions, and incorporating the feedback you gain along the way to stay one step ahead of would-be competitors.

Maximizing your MVP

Whatever choices you make, remember that your MVP is a test run, and that test will only yield results if you also have ways of collecting information about customers’ experiences.

This can include gathering statistical data, such as the number of users and how long they spend using the MVP, and also include customer insight from comments, feedback forms, and even what they say about you on social media.

Be sure to create plenty of ways of collecting both sets of data, especially insights into how much customers are willing to pay to use a full version of your service.

Ultimately, an MVP is a great way to test out an idea without the expense and time required to build a full version, and to get the vital feedback, you’ll need to create even better versions in the future.

This makes MVPs one of the most critical tools when it comes to helping all entrepreneurs prove what’s possible.

How was this content?