“‘Make something people want.’ That’s the fundamental problem. If you die, it’s probably because you didn’t make something people wanted.” – Paul Graham, Investor, Co-Founder of Y-Combinator
Whenever a startup endeavors to build a product, offer a service, or introduce a new idea, its founders make assumptions. They assume what customers want. They assume what customers need. They assume how the design of their offering should work, and they assume what marketing strategy will work best to sell what they’re selling. They assume which monetization strategy will be most sustainable and profitable and which laws they are required to comply with. They assume that their product is solving a problem.
It is okay to assume. It is, in fact, necessary to make assumptions about all of these things. Problems only arise when you don’t test your assumptions with a minimum viable product.
What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
The concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was first introduced by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup. In his book, Ries describes what a MVP is: “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”. Ries adds that your MVP should be “probably much more minimum than you think”.
Ultimately, your MVP should contain just the core features that make the product solve a problem for its customers.
What strategies can I use to build a MVP?
“A minimum viable product is not a product, it’s a process” – Yevgeny (Jim) Brikman
It is important to remember when building a MVP that it is not a one-time thing. In order to build a successful startup, you will have to repeat the MVP process over and over.
This is the general MVP process that startup founders will need to follow:
- Identify your riskiest assumption
- Identify the smallest possible experiment to test that assumption (with your MVP)
- Use the results of the experiment to course correct
The goal in following this process should ultimately be to use trial and error to find problems with your MVP quickly and find solutions efficiently by getting feedback from real users fast. Some refer to this as the “fail fast” approach.
Along with this MVP process, there are several other strategies entrepreneurs can use to develop a MVP:
- Make an explainer video that describes what your product does or what service you’re offering in 2 minutes or less. When Dropbox released its explainer video, their waiting list grew by 25%!
- Make a landing page that visitors can access when they click a link from an advertisement, email, or social media post. The page should clearly communicate the value of your product or service and call the visitor to action.
- Sell first, make second. This is also known as the “kickstarter approach.” In creating an online campaign that allows you to sell your product before it is made, you can simultaneously raise money to build your product while gauging customer interest.
Why do I need a MVP?
“Don’t burn your money on a product no one will want to use. Get creative and think hard about what is the minimum thing you can do now to make sure that doesn’t happen.” – Vladimir Blagojevic, Founder of Grant Snap & Writer at com
Like Blagojevic says, it is important to build a product that people want and need, which is why it is important to develop a MVP to test your idea. A study by CB Insights showed that the number one thing that causes startups to fail (42% of startups) is a lack of market need.
So, it is important to pick one strategy to develop a MVP that will work for your startup. Make a simple plan, execute it, correct, and then plan and execute again. Remember: it’s a process, not a product.
Here at Altitude Accelerator, we know that building a startup can be difficult. That’s why we created a blog series called #HelpMeStartup designed to clear up some common confusions among first-time startup entrepreneurs.
See how Altitude Accelerator can help by checking out our RevUp program for pre-revenue startups. Or register as a Altitude Accelerator client to get access to all our tech-startup focused programming and resources.
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