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Minimum Viable Product 🚲

Stuart BolgerStuart Bolger
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In this blog, we explain the MVP model, why it's ideal for startups and give some successful examples of MVP strategies.

Minimum viable product (MVP) is just one of many product development approaches. The MVP is quite a popular technique amongst startups and, in particular, app and software development.

Put simply, the MVP is the most basic form of your product/service that people would be willing to pay for or use.

As author Aaron Walter puts it, don’t build something that’s functional but not reliable or usable. Build something that incorporates the user needs from the outset — however basic that may be.

mvp-model-aaron-walter

The MVP Bicycle 🚲

minimum-viable-product-bike Think of it like a bicycle. A bicycle must have two wheels, a frame, handlebars, a seat, pedals and a chain mechanism. To get you from A to B, this bare-bones bike will do the trick. However, over time, you realise that you need to add on extras to keep yourself comfortable, dry and visible during your journey.

It’s the exact same with the MVP approach. For a varying number of reasons, you might not be able to bring out the feature-rich product that you envisage at the time of your product launch. It might be due to financial constraint, it might be because of a lack of expertise. Whatever the cause, the MVP ensures that you are able to bring something to market that can be built upon.

Down the line you’ll add brakes, a bell, reflectors. A few months after that you’ll add mud guards, a gear selector and so on. These extras are simply improving the MVP bike.

And that’s the beauty of the MVP. Giving customers this very basic bicycle is dangerous and scary in many aspects. But the feedback that you gain is invaluable. Getting to grips with what your customers really want in addition to your MVP allows you to reach their demands and build loyalty. It’s a beautiful thing.

Companies That Built an MVP

Here’s a few examples of companies that have used the MVP approach:

Dropbox

A great example is Dropbox. Before Dropbox became an “always on” cloud storage solution for millions of users around the world, the team struggled to find a way to get users interested in their product. So instead of spending a lot of time and money on building their service (in the hope that users would flock to it), the team launched a simple video campaign. An explainer video as to how the product would work and integrate into your workflow was a hit. This allowed the team to validate their idea and really see the demand. This is when they started to build out the service we see today.

Airbnb

How Airbnb Began from Airbnb on Vimeo.

Airbnb is a great case study. Two guys who couldn’t afford rent in San Francisco in 2007 rented their apartment out for short spaces of time to people attending a conference nearby. Their company is now worth, as of late August 2016, in excess of $25 billion.

With their little experiment (done out of necessity), the founders realised the demand for the experience — an experience that could be replicated in almost every home around the globe. As such, the team focused on providing accommodation to high-profile events where traditional accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs would have been fully booked weeks in advance. From here the MVP was built upon and a large team was formed to create the worldwide service you see today.

Facebook

original-facebook-mvp

Yep. The juggernaut that is Facebook was not always this feature-rich online experience that you see today. Long before it had a user base of over a billion people, thefacebook was a simple MVP. In essence, the platform was just a load of user profiles that were linked together. No apps, no pages, no poking, no status updates. With almost viral success amongst American Ivy League colleges in its infancy, the platform’s user base grew rapidly over the first few months. And so too did the features. The MVP built in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room has been constantly built upon and has since led to the creation of the world’s largest online community.

The MVP approach is a simple method through which startups and entrepreneurs can get started. It might not have all the bells and whistles it should have when you launch. But having a road map in place for future product development is a sure-fire way to get investors interested.

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Stuart Bolger
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Stuart Bolger

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