Just over a decade ago, two friends were sitting in their San Francisco apartment, dreaming of starting a business but barely able even to afford rent. Until, one day, they noticed a design conference was coming to town.
Designers themselves, the duo wanted to open their accommodation to fellow creatives: a cheaper alternative to the inflated prices of hotel rooms just down the road.
A few photos later, their loft-room was ‘available for rent’ via a pieced-together website. And three guests quickly snapped up the offer – a woman from Boston, a father from Utah, and a gentleman from as far afield as India – each paying for the privilege of a single airbed in a shared loft space, breakfast included.
Brian Chesky’s and Joe Gebbia’s minimalist Airbedandbreakfast, as it was known, kick-started the development of what is now $31 billion-dollar giant, Airbnb.
A minimum viable product is a product with the smallest possible feature-set able to capture the attention and satisfy the needs of your company’s earliest users.
It allows you to test your idea – or, ‘product hypothesis’ – with minimal investment and very few resources.
In Airbnb’s case, their MVP was:
An MVP offers accelerated learning during the product design phase. It validates your assumptions while hinting at new ideas, offerings, and opportunities to create value.
For Chesky and Gebbia, the in-person interaction proved their hypothesis was true: ‘people of varying demographics are willing to pay to stay in a stranger’s home.’ Moreover, it demonstrated what customers expected from the experience and so helped them design and build-out their online offering.
Hundreds of wildly successful companies have grown from modest MVP beginnings (Groupon, Zappos, Twitter). Still, founders often remain skeptical of – or completely misunderstand – the concept.
Entrepreneurs believe customers will only accept product perfection. They chase the wrong priorities. In trying to create an exhaustive feature-list to satisfy all, the MVP becomes confused, and the venture ultimately fails.
The idea behind the MVP is you design a simple product for customers who already understand your vision: the kind of people who are willing to participate early, in spite of the imperfections.
Grasp this concept, and countless advantages await:
At its most basic level, your MVP will prove if there’s a market for your product. If no-one shows interest, at least your MVP has saved you $$$.
There’s always the risk of going too minimal.
So, be sure to define the precise problem your product solves and include the necessary features to satisfy customer requirements. As much as too many features confuse the user experience; if you over-filter, your product becomes overly-crude, customers leave dissatisfied, and they still have their problem.
Your focus is on striking a feature balance: enough to solve the underlying problem but leaving anything that is not a ‘must-have’ on the backlog, as customers will tell you what they need next.
Future releases will offer the improved solution, solving problems quicker, cheaper or better.
Your MVP can do more than resolve product-market fit. It’s a valuable marketing tool.
When the Dropbox team had their idea for an always-on filesharing service, they realized the vision would be near-impossible to validate. So, rather than piece together a crude version of what had to be an intricate technical ecosystem, they created a brief ‘explainer video’ that took users through the product’s value proposition.
Less than three minutes of video footage increased Dropbox sign-ups from 5,000 to 75,000 overnight – all without writing a single line of code.
The video MVP became a powerful tool in Dropbox’s sales and marketing arsenal. By providing users with a glimpse of their product, and showing off the intuitive functionality – people wanted in.
If you’re just setting out, your budget is limited, and you’re not 100% sure of what features your customers want – you need to build an MVP.
Let’s say you’re looking to build a mobile app.
First, consider building a web app that works on desktop with several key features. Then, implement it as a Progressive Web App on smartphone. The process will be quicker, smoother, and cheaper – allowing you to test the market with a dynamic solution.
In truth, how you approach your MVP depends on the service you want to offer and your level of expertise. Alas, you have to come up with the idea yourself, but we recommend engaging a software house to help you take your vision forward.
If you can find a team with experience in your space, their knowledge can be pivotal in shaping your product and guiding you towards multi-billion-dollar success ;-))
Redvike is a specialist Software House based in Krakow, Poland. We work with driven entrepreneurs to create ambitious products from scratch. To read about our previous success stories, see our case studies here.
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