Over my 15+ years helping startups build and launch products, I have literally seen it all. One of the classic phrases I hear all the time is MVP ("Minimum Viable Product"). MVP has become a buzzword that has be thrown around so often that now the concept is misunderstood and misused by too many people.
This misunderstanding of the MVP has made for more entertaining meetings with people and companies that willingly or unwillingly misuse the term, demanding an MVP. The term has somehow morphed into a slang used to reduce the cost of a project, to increase the speed of a project getting to market or a combination of both. This blog post is my contribution to any future conversations about MVP’s. Here’s what an MVP is and what it is not.
What an MVP is NOT:
- A fully featured product, forget the bells and whistles.
- A term that can be used to have a low-cost product developed.
- A partially functional product.
- A cheaper version of a final product.
- An excuse to rush a project to reach to market sooner.
So, what IS an MVP?
- An opportunity to validate beliefs
- A product created that fulfills the needs of the intended customers with no more than the core essential functions and features.
- A well-built product addressing fundamental customer needs.
Upstack has partnered with a number of successful startups and have built MVP’s as well as fully developed products and one of my most remarkable experiences has been building an MVP for Mealpal. Within two months, or to be more specific, six weeks of meeting with the founders, my team was able to hand over the barebones, MVP Mealpal app. Fast-forward a year, numerous rebuilds/updates and $35 million in funding it is impressive to see what has been possible with a well-built MVP. All of this thanks to a great team of developers and brilliant entrepreneurs that had the focus, discipline, insight and vision to guide the process to its most essential state.
This experience is the essence of a MVP and there are so many lessons to be taken from it.
- Creating an MVP is a balancing act of knowing what elements to keep and what elements are not necessary.
- Founders must be willing to make sacrifices and be decisive.
- It is important to learn as much about your market, industry and customers as possible.
- Building an MVP is an enormous test that founders are put through of knowing their market and their product, then stripping that knowledge down to build a minimal viable product that addresses those core elements.
- A true MVP allows the fundamentals to be tested.
- After product launch, there will be feedback and an estimation on the viability. Use that information to help decide what to ultimately build as a final product.
- Get proof of concept using your MVP and use the data to solve critical problems and improve the final product.
After all I’ve shared here, would I recommend building a MVP? The answer could be yes or no as it depends on a number of factors. In my experience, most founders don’t have the laser focus and ability to cut a product down to its core or possess the insight in the market and about their own customer. My advice would be to go extreme MVP by getting creative to test and prove that the concept works. A craigslist listing or a 1-800 number, though not scalable, can provide more information than a MVP or fully featured product that does not resonate ever will and it will save you a lot of time and money. The data and experience gained from that will ensure that a quality product is built from the onset. This is the advice I give so many startup companies and founders because working 15 hour days and burning through cash doesn’t ensure success. It is always better to take the time to get the fundamentals right and then build the best possible product based on that information and that, will never come fast or cheap.