Types of MVP’s

Iñaki Aboitiz
Globant
Published in
5 min readJul 6, 2021

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Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

According to Marty Cagan, one of the inconvenient truths about product management is that more than half of our product ideas just won’t work, and the second is that those ideas that work, will take several iterations before reaching their expected business value. The key tool a Product Manager has to tackle this problems is experimentation based o iterative cycles of hypothesis validation using MVPs.

What is an MVP?

Agile & Lean methodologies (and Product Discovery more specifically) are crucial in today’s business landscape, because they help the Product team and organization have the tools to manage uncertainty and risk. The Minimum Viable Product is one of the main tools to achieve this goal, but confusion can rise when talking about what is an MVP.

As first conceived, the concept of an MVP defined by Eric Ries “…is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”. But, without the necessary context, there can be different interpretations of what this is.

Actually, the term has mutated to be used as a way to define the minimum expression of something you can ship into production, but also as something you put together in order to do an experiment. This is where the confusion generates.

This table shows how some important authors on product-related practices use the different terms to address the same ideas.

We will not try to solve this issue here, but rather state that what this article focuses on is the MVP as a tool for Discovery as stated by Eric Ries and the different archetypes there are.

MVP, tool for validated learning

An MVP has the purpose of validating a certain hypothesis so the team can learn about some aspect of the product they are creating. This means that the team needs to ideate a way of building a MVP that would help them do an experiment, with real users in a context that is as close to the desired use case as possible. Otherwise the insights the team can take from the experiment may not be useful for the team to apply in real life.

For example, if we want to see if our product is interesting for my set of customers, I have to build a version of that product that would help validate that hypothesis in a context as real as possible.

So, one can conclude the creation and application of an MVP is highly dependent on the specific product and hypothesis one is testing, which in turn means that MVPs can be very different from one and other.

The following are some of the most common MVP Archetypes:

Explainer Video

Just like a movie trailer, a good explainer video can help you explain your intention for a product and measure how many people are interested in it. Two great examples:

Kickstarter: As of May 2019, Kickstarter has received more than $4 billion in pledges from 16.3 million backers to fund 445,000 projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology, publishing, and food projects. This platform is basically a marketplace of explainer video MVPs.

Dropbox: In the beginnings of Dropbox the 3-minute video demonstrated the product’s intended functionality and resulted in signups increasing from 5,000 people to 75,000 overnight

Piecemeal

This type of MVP leverages existing solutions to deliver a new product or service. It is yet another way to deliver value to the end user without spending too much time or money.

Groupon: Starting from a customized WordPress website the Groupon team create a very basic deal-offering website. This allowed them to test their demand and gather the insights they needed to build the company they have today. There is a very good medium article by Alex Ponomarev that gives more insights, which I strongly recommend.

Product Hunt: Ryan Hoover used a service called Linkydink to invite people to his group. Once he had over 150 subscribers, he started collecting product recommendations and then he knew he had something. Today Product Hunt is one of the most popular product communities in the world.

A screenshot of Product Hunt’s MVP using a linkydink

Landing Pages & AdWords

Just like the explainer videos, landing pages and AdWords can help you do quick & cheap experiments that can help you validate interest on a product. Some examples of companies that use this technique:

Zynga: For their game development process, the company follows a mix of landing pages and adword MVP tests to gauge interest in a planned game or particular aspect of the game.

An example of the screen you would be presented when clicking into one of the Zynga’s MVPs.

Spotify: When they launched with a single landing page, they focused on the single feature that mattered most: music streaming experience as a subscription. Allowing them to validate the demand for their product.

Concierge

The team solve the problem for the users manually to deliver the intended value. This is used to validate if there is demand before creating an automated solution or even helping to learn about the problem.

Zappos: The first version was made by the team uploading pictures of shoes from a local store to a website and then mailing the shoes to the users to test if people would buy shoes online. Afterwards, the shoe sellers were the ones that had to upload their own images.

A screenshot of Zappos first MVP

Recommended toolkit for creating light weight MVPs:

List of recommended tools for MVPs

Simple webpage tools:

Tools useful for Automation:

Must Have:

Some cool articles to dig in deeper:

This great article by Ross Krawczyk has a lot of interesting examples of MVP, some of which I shared here.

This article by Marty Cagan, in my opinion one of the most important authors on product-related activities digs in deeper on the WHY of this article.

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