Minimum Viable Products (MVP)

by ayd

A minimum viable products helps the process of learning as quickly as possible, therefore taking you through the BML feedback loop as quickly as possible with as little waste in the product development phase.

Traditional product development usually involves a long period of incubation as it strives for perfection, whereas the goal of MVP is to begin the process of learning and not end it. The goal of an MVP is not to answer product design questions or technical questions, but rather to answer the big two business hypotheses which are the value and growth hypotheses.

MVP are marketed to early-adopters. Early-adopters are a special breed of customers who are willing to accept an 80% solution as they use their imagination to fill in what features a product is missing. These customers are critical to helping an enterprise through their BML feedback loop as they will help identify the demand for such a product/service and the most critical feature needed in the update.

There are many ways of creating a MVP

  1. The Roughcut MVP
  2. The Video MVP
  3. The Concierge MVP

The Roughcut MVP is a very quick method of just putting together something that resembles in someway the product you ideally want to ship in the future. Best explained by the example of Andrew Mason at Groupon when they initially launched their service.

All we did was we took a WordPress Blog and we skimmed it to say Groupon and then every day we would do a new post with the points embedded. It was totally ghetto. We would sell t-shirts on the first version of Groupon. We’d say in the right up, ‘This t-shirt will come in the color red, size large. If you want a different color or size, email that to us.’ We didn’t have a form to add that stuff. We were just, it was so cobbled together. It was enough to prove the concept and show that it was something that people really liked. The actual coupon generation that we were doing was all FileMaker. We would run a script that would email the coupon PDF to people. It got to the point where we’d sell 500 sushi coupons in a day and we’d send 500 PDFs to people with Apple Mail at the same time. Really the first, until July of the first year was just a scrambling to grab the tiger by the tail. It was trying to catch up and reasonable piece together a product”

The Video MVP is not even a product, but rather the concept of the product laid out before you begin development. Best explained by the example of Dropbox’s MVP. Dropbox is a cross platform file sharing service developed by Drew Houston. “The challenge was that it was impossible to demonstrate the working software in a prototype form. The product required that they overcome significant technical hurdles; it also had an online service component that required high reliability and availability.” Rather than build the software which would have taken several months without knowing whether their growth and value assumptions were supported, Houston instead made a video outlining the basic features of the product to see whether people would sign up for the beta program, thus acting as a proxy for consumer demand.

The concierge MVP is a way of testing the assumptions of a service. Rather than build a prototype and then having to reengineer the product due to customer requirements, the concierge MVP begins with the customer being offered one-on-one service for the monthly subscription. As the growth and value assumptions are tested and the customer numbers begin to grow so that the founder are to busy to scale their business do you start to engineer a product that is scalable.