Developing an MVP: Your Key to Success
You don’t have to spend zillions of rupees building something only to find out nobody wants it. Now, you have the superior option of building a minimum viable product (MVP). Whether you are looking to launch a new mobile app or a new a yoga studio, an MVP will quickly set your big idea in motion.
There’s No Need To Lose the Shirt off Your Back
A minimum viable product is a bare-bones version of a product that allows you and your team to collect meaningful data about your potential customers quickly and with little effort. It’s a combination of your pitch, product and metrics.
MVP = Pitch + Product + Metrics
Everyone loves a great story, especially the animation studio Pixar. They’ve released 14 box office blockbusters in a row, meaning they clearly know how to tell a good story.
Former Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coates came up with 22 rules of storytelling that Pixar faithfully employed. Take a look at them here:
This list is not comprised of mere rules; it is a step-by-step process for storytelling at its best. By following these rules, you can enhance your personal story and encourage others to be just as passionate about your idea as you are.
Take a look at Rule 4, which gives a basic story outline.
Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
Investors are emotional not rational
Use this model to tell the story of your idea. Practice your elevator pitch, and get ready to tell your story to your customers, friends and family. If you actually find yourself in an elevator from time to time, then get used to pitching your product. Your investors are counting on you!
Talk about market size, potential problems and solutions and describe who your customers are. The general rule is to tell your story in 8 slides and no more. Anymore will result in death by PowerPoint.
140 characters mindset. = People’s attention span very short
Essentially, try to develop your product and its story so that someone will actually be willing to pull out their wallet and give you some money. Remember, your idea doesn’t have to be perfect or overly complicated.
Traditionally, the hardest part of launching any website or app is getting those first crucial signups. Target early adopters, and once you have your first 5 customers, treat them like your best friends.
You might even go as far as to treat them like royalty! Take them out to lunch and make them feel valuable by asking for their analysis and feedback on the value proposition, the user interface and user experience. Work out how your product will fit into and enhance your users’ lifestyle.
According to Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, the key metric is growth. Paul Graham suggests that if your startup is growing 7% every week, then everything should fall into place. If you are growing at 1%, then you haven’t figured out exactly what you are doing yet!
Startup Growth blog post http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html
MVP = Email newsletter
Product Hunt compiles a list of the best new products every day, and it allows you to discover the latest mobile apps, websites and technology sites. Product Hunt actually began as an email list. Contributors submitted links to products, and each day subscribers received an email that showcased new and interesting products.
MVP = Video + Email
Before developing the successful and popular service for which it is famous today, Dropbox first had to figure out whether or not customers would even be interested in their product. They first made a simple explanation video showing what it was like to use Dropbox before spending time building the application. The video allowed them to see what user reception would be based on the number of people watching the video and the number of signups.
MVP = WordPress blog + PDF Coupon + Email
Groupon became one of the fastest growing companies of all time! However, in its early days, the company actually wasn’t incredibly successful. To test their big idea, they created a web page that sold one item e.g a t-shirt. If someone expressed interest and bought the t-shirt, they would email that person a coupon PDF. Therefore, if they sold 500 t-shirts they would send out 500 coupons.
MVP = Landing page + team of people in the background searching for information online.
In 2009, a company called Aardvark developed a social search engine. Instead of searching for information on Google, you could ask questions (mainly subjective questions) to a network of individuals. Essentially, users could ask questions to an extended network of people instead of relying on an algorithm.
To test the concept, Aardvark built a series of minimum viable products (MVP) so users could go to a web page, ask a question and get a response. Users believed the service functioned by using some fancy algorithm.
In reality, the service functioned with the help of a team of people who would search for the answer, cut and paste it and send it back to the user.
MVP = Landing page + Email
Buffer is an app that allows you to queue up your social media posts/tweets so that it can post them for you according to a schedule you determine beforehand. Before building the app, the founder created a simple landing page that described what Buffer did and listed a plans and pricing button. If users clicked on this button, users would be taken to a data capture form where they could leave their email address.
Enter Fred Wilson
Fred Wilson, VC & blogger, believes that if you can identify the atomic unit of your product or service, then you can design your MVP around that feature. The atomic unit is the one thing you want customers to do. If you want customers to do 2 or 3 things, your MVP will be required to do too much as a result.
“And one thing I always like to think about is what is the most fundamental object of all in your service. I like to call this the “atomic unit.” — Fred Wilson Co-Founder of Union Square Ventures.
More Atomic Unit examples from Fred Wilson
- In Twitter, the atomic unit is the tweet
- In SoundCloud, the atomic unit is the sound
- In Tumblr, the atomic unit is the post
- In Codecademy, the atomic unit is the lesson
- In Kickstarter, the atomic unit is the project
- In Disqus, the atomic unit is the comment
- In Instagram, the atomic unit is the photo
- In LinkedIn, the atomic unit is the resume
Every startup is built to eliminate hypotheses
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to eliminate hypothesis.
Example of hypotheses -
- Do people want to buy fresh fruit online?
- Do people want to track their fitness using an app?
- Do people in New York City want healthy food delivered to their offices for lunch?
If you have no hypotheses, then how do you know if you need to make changes and evaluate the initial success of your MVP?
One of the tools we can use to test out hypotheses is the business model canvas. This tool allows you to capture information in 9 boxes. It provides an easy way to write down your initial hypothesis and related assumptions.
This gives you a one page snapshot that describes the business model of your startup. The main box you need to fill in is the value proposition. For example, what do your potential customers get out of your proposed solution?
The next box you need to fill in is the customer segment. Who are you really targeting as your user? Hint: The answer is not everyone! Narrow down your customers. Make sure you update this information every week, so that you can keep track of everything. This practice will save you a lot of time and money in the long run, and it will also help you learn faster.
Collect Revenue Before Building
A great way to build your MVP is to create a campaign on Kickstarter. By using this crowdfunding platform, you can interact with and determine your customers directly. It also serves as a pre-order platform. People who fund your product are rewarded with the promise of receiving your product once you hit your minimum funding goal.
Remember: “If it isn’t simple, it won’t succeed.” — Megan E. Holstein
Instead of rushing to code the next big thing, build an MVP first. Work out what your story is and be able to explain what makes your story special. What problem are you solving? Having your pitch, product and metrics will enable you to have a mature discussion with your users and early stage investors — if that’s your thing.
If you do want to attract investment, make sure your product looks amazing! That will help generate a good reputation via word of mouth. Remember that investors are different from customers, and you really want to pursue customers instead of investors. Remember that no product exists without metrics or a pitch.
And last but not least, launch something!