Minimum Viable Product may not work for you!

Unveiling its underlying misconceptions.

The minimum viable product is that product which has just those features and no more that allows you to ship a product that early adopters see and, at least some of whom resonate with, pay you money for, and start to give you feedback on. — Eric Ries

MVP is an infamous ‘theory’ perceived to promote a lean, safe and successful launch process for startups and new products. It advocates building consumer products based on validated feedback received, with minimum development effort. But there are products I personally dropped out from, including; precisely not due to the shortcomings in the execution of MVP principles or lack of market fit, but failure in understanding the context of its application.

What if Apple had adopted MVP model for iPhone?

Considering integration of touch phone capabilities, iPod features and internet were the key selling points of iPhone at the time of its launch, Apple could have tested waters with a viable product that only had one of these options or everything on an inferior scale. You may imagine how big a failure the test would have resulted in. Apple could not do that because a phone or an iPod or internet or touch are not new to the market and anything less than an iPhone’s delight is not enough to capture mass attention and compete with the existing players with distinctive difference. This forced Apple to build more than just the minimum, even for its early adoptors.

As another example, take the mobile app market built for iOS, Android and Blackberry 7 platforms. Blackberry, failed in spite of bringing in some notable improvements to mobile OS, primarily due to deficiencies in its app ecosystem (which was an industry standard by the time it was released).

What should you consider doing?

If you are working on a product that operates on top of the existing market use-cases and features, with a mission to improve performance, provide a niche, or lower the cost, it is mandatory the product meets all the fundamental needs before building the ‘differentiator’ feature. This theory obviously does not confine to the merits of a lean startup or MVP, but success or engagement with early adopters would warrant this when you operate in an existing market.

So the ‘Minimum’ in MVP could sometime mean ‘Nominal’ and ‘Viability’ would many times be determined by the market based on the product’s overall usefulness. Unless you are building a disruptive product that was never conceived before, do not roll out an MVP to public or ask early adopters to pay for your product.

Hand pick the users who could provide valuable feedback, roll-out your product, get some learning and start moving towards the ‘Nominal-ity’ before hitting the market.

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