Why MVPs Suck [at the risk of being unpopular]

Rachel Klausner
5 min readJun 15, 2017


“Minimum Viable Product” — or MVP — has taken the product world by storm. Silicon Valley lives by it and product teams write it in big bold letters on their exposed brick walls.

Ok product world, you’re not going to like this, but at the risk of being unpopular, I’ll just say it:

MVPs hold us back.

MVPs enable mediocre work to be pushed.

MVPs just kinda suck.

I recently heard a genius comparison from Steve Vassallo of Foundation Capital. Steve compares initial product launches to first dates: Do you really want your first impression to be — “I had a minimally viable time”?

…and I really just want some fresh challah

What is MVP anyway?

According to Wikipedia, Minimum Viable Product “is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future development.”

“Just enough”??? Is that the new design standard these days? Minimally viable does not sound like a product state to strive for.

Better Ways to Learn

The initial reason behind implementing the MVP had been to tackle the main issue of learning. MVPs were the answer to testing to see if a design works and if the product resonates. It was the minimum cost necessary to learn.

We simply have better tools for this today. This is where concepting and prototyping come in. You can learn much earlier, faster and cheaper — without engineering lifting a finger. Prototyping and design sharing tools such as Invision, Marvel, and more allow designers and Product Managers to concept, learn and iterate with user tests. So while initial iterations in your prototyping can be minimally viable, a finished product should not.

Who Loses with MVP

The Minimum Viable Product concept has been used for far too long at the expense of:

  1. Your users
  2. Your product’s potential
  3. And your only shot at a first impression

Let’s break each one of those down:

1. How your users lose

Who wants to use a minimum viable product? Is that the new design standard we set for ourselves? Minimum viability often lends itself to sloppy work and a lower standard of design. This standard places the bar at the minimum level of viability in the market — or at the lowest level of the competitive landscape, just enough to make it into the market, disregarding new value you are delivering to your users.

2. How your product’s potential loses

When you start the design process with the MVP in mind you are already looking at the product through a lense of constraint. This curbs creativity, forcing designers to think about the product in terms of features instead of solutions. You could miss out on very profitable solutions because of this lower ceiling you’ve set for yourself. The divergent creative process always yields many interesting potential directions that an MVP puts cement barriers around.

3. How your only shot at a first impression is lost

Designers should put on their product marketing hats, and if it’s hard for you to think with that lens, I encourage you to speak to product marketers (of which Bluecore has a few excellent ones!!). They will explain the importance of a product’s first impression; as we all know, you only have one shot to make a first impression, make sure it’s a strong one. Does this mean you need to wait to ship until everything’s perfect? Absolutely not. Let’s just shift our mindset from thinking of something we are creating as minimally viable to something that is most valuable. Setting the MVP standard for prototypes rather than the initial product allows you to savor that first impression while still learning from your users.

A Solution: Most Valued Product

So I don’t want to leave you hanging with “ok, the industry standard sucks, good luck Pied Piper.” I would like to push teams to think about what you strive for in a product and come up with a strategy that fits your business, team, and vision.

When I think about product strategy I actually think the product gods were onto something with MVP, I just think the definition wasn’t optimal for a design-driven, user-focused world.

What if MVP wasn’t a negative term like “Minimally Viable,” but a positive one; one that put the focus on the user rather than the engineering constraints? How about something like:

MVP — Most Valued Product

Let’s now look at the two side by side:

Minimum Viable Product vs. Most Valued Product

The Minimum Viable Product places a standard at the bottom of the value spectrum in a competitive landscape, where the Most Valued Product places the standard just above the competition. Where would you like to land your product?

Competitive Landscape with Minimum Viable Product vs. Most Valued Product

With any product, in any industry, the question to ask ourselves is “How do we provide the most value to our users?” to ensure we land above the competition, not below.

[Perk of this route: for all those startups that have already painted MVP on their walls, there is no need to hire decorators. #winning]

And Some Fun Alternatives

MAP “Most Awesome Product” — this was a great suggestion made by Steve Vassallo. Doesn’t everyone want their product to be the most awesome? Love this.

Along the same lines as the new MVP, this sets the bar for you to win against the competition: WOW — Worthy of Winning 🏆

Or if you are breaking boundaries in every sense (looking at all you VR folks), maybe you want to go with EPICExceeding Possibilities In Creativity.

Do you have any suggestions? Would love to hear thoughts, as well as your own strategies 😊