What’s really an MVP and why should you build one?

You had a great idea for a startup, you want to build an app that “knows” when your wife is mad at you and automatically orders flowers to be delivered at her office.

It sounds like an awesome idea, so now all you need is to go into your computer and spend the next 6 months coding to build that app, upload it to the App Store and make 1 Million bucks!

If only things worked like that :-)

What happens in 6 months when you upload your new perfect app to the App Store and no one buys it… Maybe your dad downloads it because, well, he is your dad.

You get depressed, you say every app in the App Store just “got lucky” and that it’s not for you, so you go back to your job and forget about building apps or becoming a business owner.

What if I told you there is a way to test your products before committing months of resources to building them?

It’s called an MVP

MVP stands for “Minimum Viable Product” and they allow you to see if your new idea is a good one without investing too much effort & resources.

Would you rather find out that no one is going to use your app (and this happens a lot, has happened to me) in 6 months or in 10 to 12 days?

Don’t waste your time creating “the perfect app” when you can just test your idea with an MVP

Now that you are sold on the idea of building an MVP (If you aren’t read the first part again) let’s talk about what an MVP is and how we create one:

Product

This is the easiest one to define, and most people only look at this one, the product is your idea, that app, website, side-project you want to build, this is when you define what it does, what problem it solves and how you’ll make money out of it.

Minimum

This is when you start to cut features out to make sure you only leave those needed for the user to receive value.

For example: I wanted to build a CRM for insurance brokers (I did, It crashed and burnt) I didn’t build an MVP, it took me 9 months to finish that product, it made around 1,200 dollars total. (from my step dad who is an insurance broker and a few friends he convinced to use it)

What if instead of doing that I would have just look for the key features needed to launch?

  • User Authentication
  • CRUD policies, clients and insurance companies.
  • Show fee reports.
  • Let them know when a policy was about to expire.

That right there would have taken me a weekend working with a framework like Django or Rails and could have saved me from 9 months of agony.

Remember, it’s not about building the perfect product, it’s about testing if there’s market for it, trust me, when you have people paying you for your first version that motivates you to keep improving :-)

Viable

This is the hardest part, you’ll need to define what viable means for you, for me it’s that it adds value to my clients and people want to actually pay for it.

Then you’ll need to define and test if what you are going to build meets those requirements, maybe you cut too many features out in the minimum part and you’ll actually need to add 1 of those for the client to want to pay. Or maybe you can actually cut another feature out because they don’t really need that.

Going back to my CRM example the viable/valuable part would be the fee reports + expiring notice. That’s it, those were the 2 main things that people needed (and that was the only thing they used, it accounted for about 20% of what the platform built)

Once you have that in mind I want to give you an extra advice, I know most people, specially developers, just want to jump into building the thing, but I’ve been doing something differently lately that has helped my business a lot.

Build an Email List!

My last 2 ideas started as an email list, I just setup a Landing page, and spent 30 bucks in Facebook ads (which is A LOT of money if you are in Colombia, you can reach a lot of people with that budget).

Idea #1 died, it collected 2 email addresses in 2 weeks, and they both left their email thinking it was for something else, so I didn’t even have to waste time building an MVP for a product no one wanted.

Idea #2 is currently at 6 subscribers with 11 days to go, so there’s some curiosity there and I might get to building the MVP

What are you going to do with your next idea, spend 6 months building it or just 2 weeks?

By the way, I’m documenting the process of building Idea #2 with a weekly video showing what went wrong and what did worked, check out Week 02 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HX0PoHoRsA