What Is a Minimum Viable Product?
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a low-cost usable version of a product idea. It contains basic core features that communicate the product’s essence and offer users value.
As Michael Seibel, Managing Director at Y Combinator said, “when you think of an MVP, think of something ridiculously simple.”
With a minimum viable product, your goal is to validate a product idea and test its viability in the market to determine if the product is worth developing further.
The MVP approach corresponds to the concept “ship early, repair later.” Frank Robinson introduced it in 2001, but Eric Ries later popularized it in his 2010 book The Lean Startup. It’s a proof of concept that should take a short time to launch but remain iterative based on user and customer feedback learnings.
An MVP is extremely simple, quick to build, and validates the product hypothesis. This is the bedrock of a lean startup approach. MVPs served as the springboard for many billion-dollar companies such as Airbnb, Stripe, and Dropbox.
Characteristics of a Minimum Viable Product
A minimum viable product should be the first version of the product you’re building. It should have enough features to drive adoption, ensure customer satisfaction and get sales.
- You should be able to build it quickly. Think of a version you can complete in weeks instead of months.
- Condense the functionality to what your initial user needs. Forget about trying to address all your user’s problems and all potential users. Focus on a small set of users and the features that solve their highest-order problems.
- It should provide potential customers with insight into the final product value. This doesn’t have to be software. Instead, it could be a landing page or an explainer video.
- It should serve as a starting point. Once early adopters validate the core value, you should take those validated learnings to continue your experiment that improves the final product.
The Objectives of a Minimum Viable Product
Thirty-five percent of startups fail because many spend months building a product, only to discover that there is no market need. The objective of a minimum viable product is to test your assumptions by putting the product in front of real users early on and using their feedback to course-correct.
Here are some objectives of an MVP:
- Cut down time-to-market for new products or features and avoid spending resources on a product that may fail to find product-market fit
- Attract customers and investors sooner and prove your offering has value by building something small that people can use and interact with
- Introduce the product to a small segment of users whose feedback can provide validated learning to validate product viability with real-life data
- Find out which of your assumptions are wrong and iterate based on user feedback so the final product you build is exactly what customers want (aka customer validation)
Advantages of a Minimum Viable Product
Developing a minimum viable product allows you to test assumptions about your product and get feedback from customers with minimal investment. It is also a great way to reduce risk and get your product to market quickly.
Here are some of the pain advantages of an MVP:
- Launch with minimal resources: Early-stage adopters validate the core value and test your product’s feasibility without incurring the cost and time required to develop a full-fledged product.
- Get quick feedback from customers: By releasing a minimum viable product, startups get feedback from real users and customers much faster than if they had worked on the product for months or years before releasing it.
- Test the market and assess demand: Product teams start the learning process early and go through it more quickly. Companies test market adoption and reaction before building the desired final product.
- Focus on the core features of your product: Based on user feedback, you can continuously improve on the features users actually need. This helps you create better customer-satisfactory products.
Related: How to validate a startup idea using a pre-launch landing page and less than $500 in PPC spend
Types of Minimum Viable Products
There are two types of minimum viable products:
Low-fidelity minimum viable products
- Provide data about how valuable the product is for customers
- Discover the most effective solution based on an understanding of customers’ needs
- Determine if the problem is worth solving
The goal of a low-fidelity MVP is to test a few key assumptions about the product or service before investing more time and resources. Low-fidelity MVPs often use explainer videos, prototyping tools, or a simple landing page. The key is to create something just good enough to measure interest and test the most important assumptions about the product.
Here are some common types of low-fidelity MVPS:
While a landing page is not exactly a product, it helps you gauge the interest and demand for the product you want to build.
You can use it to collect data and build an audience of potential users. With a landing page, share the proposed value of the product you plan to release. Offer your visitors early access in exchange for their contact or other essential information. Buffer’s famous landing page with a product features and pricing description is the perfect example.
Explainer videos as an MVP involve showing and telling your audience what your product can do using engaging visuals with a straightforward explanation.
The goal is to get people eager to use your product. Plus, it’s ideal if you need to explain how a software, service, or app works. A very popular example of this type of MVP is Dropbox’s explainer video.
This type of MVP is very effective because it validates your idea and helps you raise capital to build your final product. With this type of MVP, you can build a loyal audience for your launch and confirm that people are willing to pay for your product.
Oculus is a great example of this type of MVP. The company started a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, raised over $2.4million, and was bought by Facebook for $2 billion.
High-fidelity minimum viable products
- Test your value proposition
- Acquire early users to determine product demand
- Create marketing strategies for growth
High-fidelity MVPs should be deployed to users as soon as possible because they are typically close to the final product in terms of features and design.
The benefit of a high-fidelity MVP is that it allows for user feedback to be collected much earlier in the development process. You can then use this feedback to make informed decisions about the direction of your product.
Here are some common types of High-fidelity MVPs:
This is a manually-offered service to a small group of test users to get close-range feedback and use that to refine the product and identify areas for automation.
While this may not be suitable for every project and requires careful designing, it gives you the advantage of closely interacting with customers and gathering deeper insights.
Wizard of OZ MVP
This product appears to be fully functional but has certain parts that are manual. AngelList, for example, started with an MVP that involved manually doing email introductions between founders and investors.
This involves using a combination of third-party tools to create a new product experience.
Rather than developing your product from scratch, a piecemeal MVP leverages existing services such as chat, email marketing, or cloud storage tools to create a unified usable product that helps verify demand. Groupon is a classic example of this MVP.
Minimum Viable Product Examples
Way back in 1994, Jeff Bezos built a basic MVP website where he listed books for sale. Whenever someone paid for a book, he would manually order it from the distributor and ship it to the person’s address. Hello, Wizard of OZ MVP. It’s been said that within a month, Bezos was hitting $20,000 in weekly sales.
In 2009, a company called UberCab wanted to offer people a way to order car service from their smartphones without having to pay cash. The founders created an MVP that allowed people to text their address and UberCab (the founders) would help them find the closest driver. Then UberCab would text the driver the pickup location. Over time, Uber built more advanced features and reported an average of 91 million users when it went public in 2019.
Dropbox used an explainer video MVP to show what its file-sharing software could do. Using this MVP, Dropbox validated its product viability, grew its beta waiting list from 5000 to 75000 people and leveraged feedback from a targeted community of early adopters.
Learn how to build an MVP
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