Minimum Viable Product, or MVP, is sure to show up prominently in any startup glossary. And like most other jargon, it is often misunderstood.
But before we get into that, let's come up to speed on the popular notion of the MVP.
An MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, is the most basic version of your product that still delivers your core offering. Before investing huge amount of time and money, a bare bones version is built in order to get the validation. The product at this stage would be ‘minimum’ in that sense, but would still need to be viable, providing the solution it was created for.
Aiming for an MVP helps entrepreneurs avoid the rookie mistake of spending too much resources to build a product before validating the market need. While startups may want all the ten revolutionary features in their first version, developing them would take, on average, five extra months, and, chances are, users may not even end up using some of them.
While the idea behind MVP may sound simple enough, startups often make the mistake of spending too long on developing them. I built my first prototype in three months, but could not see it through because users did not need it. My second attempt took four months for building and three for testing.
When I took a step back recently, I realised that spending four months on building the MVP is far too excessive. We had done all the right things: cut the feature bloat, honed in on the two key functionalities, and built them. But that's how long it took. I couldn’t imagine having finished it under three months.
From talking to other entrepreneurs, I see they are faced with the conundrum that has become common to all of us: Why does building the MVP take so long?
The reason may be that we have got the notion all wrong: for all but the most tech-intensive products, one doesn’t so much have to ‘build’ an MVP as to ‘put it together’. And this often doesn't need much coding at all.
Let's say you are starting a website that offers personalised fashion tips. You can launch the site in a day or less, without having to wait for the complete website to be up and running. Here are some steps that may help you do that, within a practical timeframe to achieve the tasks:
If you are still worried about not spending enough time on your MVP, below are some of the companies that built on their MVP as they expanded:
A. Started with an incomplete product
Back then, these companies had to build their e-commerce website. Today, with Shopify, even that can be done in no time.
B. Started by combining existing products
C. Started without a product (!)
This list can go on but I will conclude with an anecdote: a friend told me last week that he had a great business idea. He'd planned it in detail - he already knew the 12th feature he'd introduce in Month 22. But he hadn't launched yet – it all seemed too daunting , he said. So this is what we did - we took one of these to-do books, and made a list of starting tasks. It wasn't that long - only three items, one of which was finding a name - which he had already had, so we ticked this with a glorious flourish. Sometimes all it takes is writing down a list and ticking off the first task on it to get us started on something exciting.
I hope to build many MVPs over my career, so any lessons from your experience would be quite handy. Comment here or tweet at @jithamithra.