It's no secret that the best method of launching a new software startup is to start with a minimal viable product — aka an MVP. There has been much written about the importance of starting with an MVP. Lean Startup enthusiasts swear by MVPs and successful entrepreneurs like Reid Hoffman have famously stated that…
“If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late.”
An MVP is the foundation for build, measure, learn. Building an MVP means creating an initial product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and provide feedback for future product development. It is the lowest common denominator for getting to product-market-fit — a product that customers actually want. Achieving product-market-fit is the difference between success or early failure. It’s a grind that takes a lot of iteration — often taking 2–3x the amount of time it took to create the initial product.
It is widely believed that a startup has product-market-fit when customers engage in the repeated use of the product and show a willingness to pay for it with their time, attention, or money. But is this true? Many startups appear to have product-market-fit but actually, only have partial product-market-fit — which means that the product is probably only half right. When a product is half right, customers like your product enough to use it on occasion, but they can take it or leave it. In other words, they don’t love it.
The formula sounds simple enough. Build a very basic product that solves a problem and attracts early customers. When you have your first few customers, use that traction to raise money and then spend that money to acquire more customers. That’s the Silicon Valley formula for building a successful startup. So why don’t more startups, despite raising lots of capital, ultimately become successful?
I believe it’s because they’ve skipped a step. They started scaling when their MVP initially showed signs of traction, but before customers actually fell in love with the product.
They used their MVP to get initial traction, but they needed to go one step further, they needed to build an MVPPL. A Minimal Viable Product People Love.
Why build an MVPPL?
In a crowded market of product choices, getting to love is way more important than getting to like. Like usually means your product is half right. Love means your product is ready to scale and will be successful regardless of marketing spend. It’s better to have 10 customers who love you than 1,000 customers who like you. Customers in love, love spreading their love. Love is the foundation for word-of-mouth growth — the ultimate (and only sustainable) growth hack.
Building a minimal viable product people love (MVPPL) requires you to get up close and personal. You must go to where your early customers are. Meet with them in person. Listen to what they like and don’t like about your product. Watch them use your product. Remove some features and eliminate steps to reduce friction making your product super easy to use. Make the simplicity of your product the beauty of your product. Customers love beautiful and they love simple. Beauty and simplicity equal delight, but getting there is hard!
Focus on getting 10 customers to love your product because the Internet is littered with thousands of startups that people like…. but the startups' people love, are the startups that are having successful IPOs this year. People don’t just like using Airbnb, Pinterest, Lyft, Uber, and Zoom — they love using them.
Remember. Love is all you need. So learn what it takes to go from MVP to MVPPL and you will build a successful startup into a meaningful company. When you have 10 customers that love your product, I’d love to hear from you.