The Role of MVPs and the Product Evolution to Achieving Product Market Fit

Abhishek Blog Header

by Phillip Simango

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was first coined by Frank Robinson and further popularised by Eric Ries as part of his description of the Lean Startup Methodology. By definition, MVP is the version of a new product which enables its creators to acquire the maximum amount of provable customer knowledge with the least amount of effort. An MVP is more than a proof of concept, and deviates from being merely a technological prototype. It is widely agreed that an MVP should be simplistic, with the core features to validate a product’s value proposition to its’ target customer. The necessity of having the right MVP can simplify the process of ensuring a seamless product market fit. Ultimately this would save the company time and money.  

On TECH Uncensored, Hessie Jones spoke with Abishek Mathur and Stephen McCabe to discuss the vital elements that need to be considered in the development of an MVP and how they can be a make-or-break factor for startups in today’s uncertain landscape.  

Leverage the MVP to Create a Differentiated Purpose

The purpose of a minimum viable product (MVP) is to efficiently validate the core value proposition of a product or service while minimizing resources and maximizing learning. 

In our TECH Uncensored episode titled “Everything You Need To Know About Building Your First MVP”, Stephen McCabe explained how the initial stages of proving a concept, individuals often engage in manual and hands-on processes to demonstrate the feasibility of an idea. Typically, this manual approach takes significant effort, and may not accurately reflect the scalability or long-term viability of the concept. 

However, an MVP takes the proof of concept a step further by incorporating features that allow for automation and scalability. Instead of solely relying on manual efforts, the focus shifts to identifying the core value of the product or service and determining how to automate its delivery. By automating key functionalities, an MVP enables rapid iteration and testing at scale. According to McCabe, building an MVP enables one to take “a non-automated process proven to a small market and [brings] it to more people”. 

The MVP streamlines the validation process by focusing on automating core functionalities, therefore allowing for more efficient testing and iteration to achieve product-market fit. 

Bridging the Gap Between the Idea and the MVP

One of the major difficulties which founders face is in bridging the gap between their solution concept and their MVP. Stephen McCabe recommends this methodology:  

“It’s very easy to include all of these processes because they’re cool, but remembering that if we work from the problem back[wards], we can very easily see that, my problem solution only has a journey of about three screens …”. 

Therefore, reverse engineering the end goal or final version from the customer’s perspective is a good starting point. Envision what the final or end product would look like and consider all the features and functionalities you believe would make the product complete. Then, identify the core functionality of the product, while keeping in mind the final outcome. Probing questions at this stage prove most useful, such as “What is the core problem this feature addresses?” and “Is this feature absolutely necessary for the product’s functionality?” 

Lastly, justify a feature’s presence will help determine if it is truly necessary to the final product. By following this process, the core functionalities that remain are what will be deemed as the MVP. This can serve as the launch pad from which additional features can be added and iterated later for improvement.  

“Hold Your Customer Closely” ~ Michael Seibel

McCabe mentions the importance of understanding your customer, particularly early adopters of your MVP. These, in large part, will give voice to your product’s robustness against the competition. In addition, he asserts these early adopters will form the driving voice behind your product at the onset, stating 

“… if we don’t have infinite marketing dollars and we have drip feeding, word of mouth marketing backing us right now, [and] we’re getting to that point of building that MVP and getting in a healthy position traction-wise, holding on to your customers, listening to them, and rewarding them for being those early adopters that took the plunge is crucial”. 

Developing this rewards system for customers in its early stages can benefit the company the long term. Additionally, establishing loyalty from early adopters helps validate an MVP’s market fit. The influx of adopters of a product serves as an indicator of market demand, an indicator that potential investors judge for potential investment.  Without this market validation it can become increasingly difficult for startups to remain afloat as they seek to bring their solution to a wider audience.  

On a recent TECH Uncensored episode titled “Establishing Product Market Fit Is Crucial To Success”, Hessie Jones spoke with Abishek Mathur, the VP of Product Management at Pipe. Mathur spoke about the importance of taking the necessary steps to understand the ideal customer profile to ensure they are addressing their specific pain point(s). In validating true product market fit Mathur asserts: 

“To say yes, it’s solved a problem and I want to use it; I want to buy it. I want to keep coming back… that’s … in a very simplistic terms [what describes] product market fit, what does that mean for your business? What does that mean for your customers? Customers have a problem and they’re looking to solve that problem. If your product can solve that in a good way and you can effectively distribute that that solution to your target customers well… this is a positive sign. 

"Hold Your Problem Closely” ~ Michael Seibel

Founders must also remain focused on the problem at hand.  In the development of MVP’s, particularly in the initial stages, it is entirely possible for a team to become distracted in the addition of new features or iterations of their solution that they become distracted from the original solution which they were creating for. Mathur argued the founder(s) must remain focused on original problem to continuously validate a true product market fit at every stage of a product’s development. This is done through frequent, and tight market research: 

“…speak to at least 50 to 100 companies or 50 to 100 people to try to get that level of volume. If you’re saying speaking with only 5-10 people… there could be biases that are introduced, you could be overlooking…  to get to that 50 to 100 number of people is when you start to approach critical mass. This creates a stronger signal for the problem that you’re solving for”. 

In addition, continuing to research the market problem helps deter the chance of developing a solution that fails validation. As per Mathur, 

“… doing this at the early stages is so important because what you don’t want to do is build something for a market that doesn’t exist or for a problem that doesn’t exist”. 

“Hold Your Solution Loosely” ~ Michael Seibel

So far, we have addressed the importance of maintaining a deep understanding of your customer’s true pain points through consistent market research to validate a problem’s existence. Secondly, we delved into the importance of maintaining a close relationship with your early adopters, due to the pivotal role in validating demand for your solution. Siebel mentioned the importance of “[holding] your solution loosely” 

McCabe explained that this “speaks to the efficiencies of a startup … and how they should make sure they’re moving”. One of the core requirements of an early solution is to remain relevant to a customer and have a lasting market fit. Therefore, “… solution needs to be malleable”. 

Mathur explained how some firms may “overengineer their solution” at the MVP stage due to a deeply entrenched “builder” mentality that is typically found in many founders. While it may be of great benefit, it is crucial to ensure that whatever is being built is built with purpose and the solution built truly addresses the core problem of the customer. He states; 

“ …One thing that every founder should be careful of is not to get into that rhythm of building so much that you don’t know the actual purpose of that build. And in the earlier stage of the company, the purpose of building something is to validate that something is going to solve for the core user problem”. 

The journey to building a working MVP correctly requires immense attention-to-detail. From building robust relationships with your ideal customer, to remaining deeply in tune with the problem you are solving for, the building of an MVP can make or break the rate at which a solution is accepted by the market and its long-term success.  

If you are interested in learning more and listening to this discussion further, please click here to listen to Hessie’s latest discussion with Abishek Mathur: “Make or Break: Establishing Product Market Fit is Crucial to Success” on TECH Uncensored. 

For more on Hessie’s discussion with Stephen McCabe go to “Everything You Need To Know About Building Your First MVP 

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