First things first: an MVP is a minimum viable product. Meaning a very early, limited version of your product or service, but with just enough features for customers to be able to interact and provide valuable feedback for further development.
If you are coming from the corporate world, you’re probably used to doing a lot more behind the scenes before putting anything in front of customers. But in the startup world — especially digital — releasing an early version of your product/service can be relatively quick and cost-effective, which is critical if you’re bootstrapping.
Creating your MVP quickly becomes the priority after you’ve identified and validated your business idea (or the problem you are solving) and mapped out your intended business model. It’s a firm belief at Demium that time is off the essence when it comes to getting something out the door. Most entrepreneurs work to the mantra: “Done is better than perfect.”
Sometimes it’s a difficult pill for perfectionists to swallow, but it’s more important in the early stages to test your product/service and find out how it’s faring with customers. You need to know as soon as possible if you’re achieving traction that validates your business model assumptions.
When you are first starting out it’s easy to get caught up in things like sales and marketing, investors and other tasks to do with running a company. Don’t let it — that side of the business can wait. Demium’s incubation teams will help keep you focused on building your product, particularly by introducing you to the lean methodology.
Lean isn’t about being super cheap, it’s about adhering to efficient processes that enable you to learn and evolve your product in an orderly, measurable way. The core principle of lean is the build-measure-learn loop. So once you’re clear on the problem you’re solving for, you can build a product in response to this, measure its performance in the hands of a customer, and then apply the feedback you receive to the next phase of development.
So, how will you know when you’ve got something suitably minimal to launch? This is a question we’re often asked by our entrepreneurs. There are two key factors to take into account first:
- Have you got enough to test a valuable hypothesis? You need to be able to focus on continually learning and testing assumptions.
- Think about the minimum viability required by a customer. This is particularly important for techies, because front end and usability are just as important as back end, if not more. And bugs are a no-no!
One of the most common mistakes we see is teams working too slowly or trying to develop something more advanced and forgetting they need to validate along the way. Or they think their untested assumptions are of value to potential customers. This can waste critical time, money and resources. Plus, it’s important to learn that the ‘product’ in MVP doesn’t necessarily need to be entire. In some cases, a startup might test a hypothesis by building a landing page for a website and gauging initial customer interest before building anything.
Here are our top tips for developing your MVP:
- Be very clear on the problem you are trying to solve.
- Know your target audience. They don’t have to be a big audience, but they do need to be engaged. You need to live and breathe this audience’s problem, truly understand why they need your product and how it will make their lives better. This is usually best achieved by talking to them as much as possible.
- Know your competitors. This might seem obvious but sometimes startups get so caught up in themselves they neglect to look around and this can hurt the business later. At a bare minimum, knowing how much competitors charge for their product/service will help in your business modeling.
- Nail your metrics and ensure they are tied to your success criteria — they must be measurable, meaningful, practical and actionable.
- It helps to utilise a range of tools when building a fast, cost-effective and a well-considered MVP. Our Incubation teams will be on hand to assist with this, but you’ll also find some of these recommendations in our blog post all about essential tools for entrepreneurs.
- Never stop asking “why”. Remain curious.
- On the basis of why, continually learn and adapt or reiterate the assumptions you gain by witnessing your audience’s response to your MVP.
- Focus on a single user journey at a time — as you refine one feature, you can consider building in additional ones, but it’s important you recognise the mandatory features vs the nice-to-haves.
- And like we told you in our Idea Generation post, do not fall in love with your solution! After all, what if customers don’t take to it in testing? Remember, you have to be obsessed with solving the problem, not with your solution. The only people you want falling in love with the solution, is the customers.
That all might seem like a lot to take in, but following these guidelines will significantly help raise your chances of building something that customers want and are willing to pay for. Plus, Demium’s incubation team is made up of experts, who will happily keep our entrepreneurs on track in the development of the ideal MVP.