A Comprehensive Guide for Building Your MVP Startup
The MVP concept is at the heart of Eric Ries’ Lean Startup method. He formulated and described it in 2011 in the eponymous book. However, the method itself had existed and been applied earlier, but no one had come up with an idea to document it.
Nowadays, the method has proved to be solid. Young entrepreneurs are looking to build MVP in order to validate their business idea or product. How do they approach the MVP implementation? Is it needed at all? Let’s figure it out.
Why would anyone even need to create an MVP?
The main reason for the popularity of this technique is its versatility. Without going into detail, the MVP model will work for almost any product or idea within any industry. MVP doesn’t impose any restrictions on what the early version of the product should be. In fact, it can be anything, even a short video clip, as is the case with Dropbox.
The second reason for creating an MVP is the lack of sufficient resources to develop a full-fledged product. So, the MVP can be used to attract investments or earn money from the first adopters. It is important to remember that the concept itself is not always a cheaper way to launch your startup. Depending on the size and complexity of an MVP, the production costs can be great.
Finally, an MVP allows you to launch a product onto the real market and do it fast. Its validation in the market brings invaluable knowledge. You will be able to collect feedback, measure it, and make the necessary changes. This cycle — build, measure, learn, repeat — is the key principle behind the MVP concept and the Lean Startup method.
So, this is simply the best way to minimize possible risks. And any entrepreneur strives for this.
Building your MVP Startup
We’ve tried to fit all useful information into one article in order to outline the key milestones for you.
Step 1: Define the type of an MVP you need
It is worth saying that there are three main approaches to MVP development: no-code/no-product MVP, Wizard of Oz, and Single-Feature MVP.
- In the first case, no product is actually created. The technique of idea visualization is used. Whether it is a video or a survey, it must be delivered to users through marketing channels. The received feedback is then analyzed from the point of view of idea validation.
- Wizard of Oz is a completely different story. While a product is being developed, some of its functionality is performed by living people. This is done in order to minimize costs. For example, Zappos started out as the Wizard of Oz MVP. Users placed orders on the site and it seemed to them that all the work was done by AI. However, all processes were controlled by people. Only when the customer base became too large, the Wizard of Oz MVP turned into a full-fledged product.
- When creating a single-feature MVP, developers focus on the product’s key component or key feature that should bring maximum value to users. Less significant functionality will be added to the product after the main features prove their relevance.
It is very important to decide which type of MVP you need. All subsequent steps will depend on this, up to the measurement of the MVP success.
Step 2: Choose a hypothesis to validate
The choice of the hypothesis you’re going to validate defines the stages of the development process. There are two main types of hypotheses.
- The hypothesis of a problem. Simply put, you launch an MVP in order to make sure that the identified market problem really exists and needs a solution. After validating such a hypothesis through the MVP, you can start developing an early version of the solution.
- The hypothesis of a solution’s value. If you know that the problem exists, you develop an MVP that carries a specific benefit — it solves this problem. A single-feature MVP should solve the main problem of the users, and thus, is best suited here. Once the solution’s value is validated, all additional functionality is added to the product and it becomes full-fledged.
Step 3: Development phase
This is when the actual development begins. In 99% of cases, the process depends on what has been chosen during the previous stages. Obviously, the development is not needed if you opt for a no-product MVP.
However, there’s general advice if development is necessary. First of all, pay close attention to feature prioritization. This is also true for a single-feature MVP. What will bring more value and how features will be added in the future should fully correlate with the needs of your target audience and their feedback.
Also, define the criteria by which you will measure the success or failure of your MVP startup. Here, everything depends on the MVP type and hypothesis you are going to choose. The criteria may be centered around feedback, early adopters, first profits, subscriptions, etc. But make sure to define them in advance.
What to do next?
After the MVP is launched, entrepreneurs will have to go through two more stages. First, you need to analyze the received data (feedback). This is the “learn” stage in the MVP development cycle. The feedback analysis is often more important than the development process itself, as this information helps to understand whether the MVP is successful and what to do next.
And here comes the second stage. The decision about what to do next is made based on two factors — MVP success and feedback analysis. Depending on that information, there are several paths you can take:
- Abandon everything. That’s the worst-case scenario. You may run out of money; may fail to validate the hypothesis; or may receive the feedback that shows no potential for your idea in the market.
- Modify the existing concept. In this case, your MVP may prove its usefulness, but only to some extent. It needs to be refined based on the received feedback. Note that you should still focus on the development of an MVP, and not a full-fledged product.
- Adopt a new concept. There are rare cases when your MVP is a failure, but you have managed to validate the hypothesis of a problem or collect unique and useful data. If you still have enough resources, you can abandon the previous solution and start implementing the new one.
- Turn the MVP into a full-fledged product. In the best-case scenario, you may validate the hypothesis thanks to a successful MVP. The feedback is processed and it is clear that you should no longer hesitate about turning your MVP into a full-fledged product.
As you have probably understood now, there are no unimportant details or stages in the MVP development process. Every decision you make affects the next stage. That is why we paid so much attention to this particular challenge in this article. Wrong decisions made during the phase of determining the type of MVP you need, will most likely result in failure, no matter how well the subsequent work is done.