Entrepreneurs need a Minimum Viable Mission
How defining your MVM is more important than building an MVP.
Entrepreneurs are visionaries. They want to change the world, and they know how the world will look like once they change it. The problem is always how to get there.
Here’s what normally happens: you experience or see others experience a problem, and then you imagine a world where that problem is solved, and how much nicer life would be then. You come up with an idea for a solution, and only then do you start the building adventure.
Building a product is like climbing the Everest.
Many are not fit for it, and not even all the fit have the persistence for it. Most simply fail. It has been such a tough problem, that Lean Startup practitioners came up with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept to mitigate building risks: build the smallest possible product that solves the customer’s problem.
The MVP concept has helped many entrepreneurs to make the most out of their limited resources (time and money), but oddly enough there are some MVPs that are simply too big to build. The minimum isn’t minimum enough.
The paradox of an inviable MVP happens when the customer’s problem is too complex or in an evolved stage. Conceptually, the entrepreneur might have figured out perfectly in his head what the problem is and what solution needs to exist. But in practice, building the product is a challenge analogous to fitting an elephant in a car. It’s one complex product being squeezed into one complex problem.
In other words, the entrepreneur does a mistake to makes his mission equivalent to his vision. It’s a very straightforward and honest choice, but if you have real insights on how markets behave, you will know better that you need a smarter strategy.
How about slicing your vision into smaller missions that are chained as a long-term strategy towards your final goal?
Chop your customer’s complex problem into multiple tiny problems, pick the easiest and focus on that one (your Minimum Viable Mission). Over the course of the years, if your offering is succeeding, expand your business by including more products for those other tiny problems. Hopefully at some point you will be able to tackle the whole complex problem once you have a good company infrastructure to support your endeavors.
For instance, let’s see how we could define a Minimum Viable Mission.
Just imagine that your vision is to land people on the moon. Your MVP for that problem is way too difficult to build: it requires enormous fundraising campaigns, a battle for great talent, many years of planning, etc. Nearly impossible.
Instead, how about selling simple and easy-to-use solar panels for households, win that market, acquire more companies, build better solar panels for other markets, then grow that business, establish partnerships to put those panels on satellites, eventually start building your own satellites, then building rockets that launch satellites, and some day, rockets that launch ships with people. There you go.
Of course it’s not as simple as it sounds. As an entrepreneur passionate about space travel, you have to place yourself in a position where you are basically a home appliances salesman for many years. You need persistence to face tasks that are clearly not your passion. You need to know how to actually do this all. You need leadership. And you need to succeed the first mission in that chain, to get the business machine running. It’s a strategy much less motivating then “throwing all you worries aside” and doing only what you love. Nevertheless, it’s a smart strategy.
Good execution of the Minimum Viable Mission is what allows you to leave the “revenue-less” world of a ramen-driven startup, become self-sufficient, and then have more opportunities for bigger problems.
Rockstars aside, most startups have humble resources and cannot pull off anything fairly sophisticated. They have to focus on a very simple product. I like to call these…
Iminimallediate products: minimal and immediate.
This is what you should build for your Minimum Viable Mission. Your product should be minimal as in “really does just one thing”. And immediate as in “once I click this button I will get value out of it and it will improve my life”.
Think Pinterest: open website → see amazing pictures.
Think Same.io: click button → share my screen with my friends.
Think Instagram: choose a filter for my picture → see it nicer than before.
Think Google: type my search query → see results.
I don’t want to suggest that the current state of these products are necessarily iminimallediate, but I’d like you to appreciate how instant benefit of one single function is a must have attribute of your product.
Running a lean startup is all about being aware and careful of founder bias: the optimistic opinion that doesn’t care how markets actually behave. If you’re able to properly balance founder enthusiasm and strategic thinking, defining a Minimum Viable Mission and building an iminimallediate product could be your gold pot.
…Or simply the first coins in your piggy bank.