How to Develop Your Best MVP

Photo by Evan Clark

Lean startup methodology stresses the use of a minimum viable product (MVP) for fast, iterative learning. The ideal MVP is the cheapest/fastest test for your hypothesis. There are probably many schools of thought on how to do this, but in my opinion the best way to develop your MVP is look at your solution through the lens of a bootstrapper. By arbitrarily assuming you have limited or no funds for an MVP that will likely change, you’re pushing yourself to be even more creative.

What a Minimum Viable Product Is (And Isn’t)

By definition, the minimum viable product is a “product” that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning with the least amount of effort. However, taken at face value, that may be a bit misleading.

First, an MVP is not about developing a cheap or incomplete product. In fact, what you may end up with may not even resemble a product. Hand drawn mock-ups of what a website may look like or videos to describe your vision are common MVPs. In later stages you may end up with apps or prototypes with base functionality, but particularly in the early stages describing your MVP as a product can be a bit of a misnomer.

Second, the focus is on developing something that you won’t get attached to and doesn’t require significant resources (time/capital). MVPs should be designed to be nimble so you can quickly iterate and optimize the product you eventually will commercialize.

Act like You’re Bootstrapping It, Even If You’re Not

As you go through the process, I recommend you pretend you’re a bootstrapper. It may seem like a small and unnecessary trick, but believe me it works. By the time you’ve narrowed in on the question you need to answer, developed some ideas for testing, and started to draw up a plan, it’s easy to just act. But a bootstrapper doesn’t have that luxury. When you’re careful with your capital, you focus on making strategic decisions.

The best way to do that is to take a step back before you run. Looking at the problem fresh — or tapping a second set of eyes — may help to identify a faster, cheaper solution. So act like you are short on cash and see what you can dream up that’ll be quick (and cheap!). Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

Bootstrapping Has It’s Benefits — Leverage What You Can

Beyond speeding up your learning cycle, bootstrapping has other benefits. It forces you to focus on revenue generation, growth, customers, and true business fundamentals. Not to mention the added benefit that it can help to make the most of every dollar and extend your capital runway.

Bootstrapping isn’t for every business model, but the applying bootstrapping-style thinking should be considered by all as a way to drive toward success.

I’m a tech scout, proposal reviewer, and consultant specializing in identifying and developing early-stage innovations. Learn more by checking out my website, experience, or blog.
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Thanks for your time! -Julia Allen