Entrepreneur Shihab Muhammed explains the difference between MUP and MVP from his startup journey
Shihab Muhammed joined a SaaS company directly out of college. For nearly 15 years, he has seen this space from the best seats in the house as he worked through, , and .
No matter what product he helped build, Shihab noticed the secret to success lay in building a minimum usable product (MUP) instead of a minimum viable product (MVP).
He says you need to think about customer acceptance first and build something comfortable for people to use. From thereon, you need to take continuous feedback and action to build a brand, turning the company to become as big as Zoho and Freshworks.
Minimum Usable Product
Shihab gives SurveySparrow’s example to explain the importance of the Minimum Usable Product.
The idea for SurveySparrow comes from Shihab’s own experience with unengaging feedback platforms. He knew he needed to build a product that people can use.
“This meant customers will only buy my product when SurveySparrow’s name does not appear anywhere. I knew that businesses will not want to use my brand or URL,” says Shihab.
Thus, the early days of SurveySparrow saw a simple product that SMBs could use easily to collect feedback. While a few big players, including Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey, were already operating in the field, Shihab focused on usability rather than viability.
“Yes, the big names had a lot of features and were collectively valued over a billion dollars. But, I saw that as an opportunity to target an in-demand market and give customers what they want,” he adds.
Within 50 days of its launch, SurveySparrow had already accumulated over 1,000 customers.
How continuous feedback helps?
When Shihab received his first 500 customers, he made sure he collected feedback at every touchpoint possible. Then, he acted on those feedbacks, improved the product, sold it to the next 500 customers, and collected feedback on those same touchpoints from this new set of people.
In Shihab’s words, “People who pay for your product want to see your features improve. I want SurveySparrow to become this customer-led brand that listens to its users around every corner.”
He also focused on the necessity of collecting feedback from the employees as they are the ones “who will take care of your customers for you.”
Feedback should sit at the heart of every SaaS brand, he says.
Hiring and grooming talent
Shihab agrees Zoho has become what it is today by maintaining a solid work culture within the company.
He followed the same principles at Freshworks, when he was still its third employee, and later, in SurveySparrow.
He says, “The hiring idea at Zoho was to catch the talent young. They used to look for people who could solve problems and had the right attitude to aspire big and go for it.”
When he started SurveySparrow, Shihab shifted from the SaaS hub of Chennai and started hiring from
Kochi. “I wanted the right people for the job — good designers, coders, and writers who could solve problems,” he says.
Emerging trends in the SaaS market
In the early 2000s, Shihab saw the SaaS market was majorly sales-led. Salesforce dominated the market that directly sold to C-suites.
Then came the era of marketing-led SaaS companies like HubSpot, which had a great internal marketing team. Recently, it is all about being product-led and selling premium packages. Shihab advises young entrepreneurs who aspire to start a SaaS company to think hard about data security.
“Even SMBs now ask about ISO and other compliances, and they include data security in their company policies,” he says.
To know more, listen to the podcast here.
01:00: The launch of Shihab's SaaS career at Zoho
07:00: Freshworks' early days and Shihab's joining story
11:00: How to grow at a high-growth startup
18:00: The idea and inspiration for SurveySparrow
24:00: Emerging trends in the global SaaS market
34:00: How to keep learning as a founder.
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