Birth of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
The year 1999 was prime for MVP. A pair of shoes had captured the attention of a young man. The only place he could find that pair was in a nearby mall. His lack of options prompted him to come up with the idea of selling shoes online. And thus, MVP was born!
Instead of pricey market research, he established a basic website. Then he went to a shoe store, snapped pictures, and posted them online. After receiving the order, he bought and dispatched the shoes. Despite losing money on every sale, he discovered that clients were eager to buy shoes online. That was the beginning of his online shoe-selling business plan. This is how Nick Swinburn built the company Zappos which was later acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion USD.
Ever consider the similarities between Facebook, Airbnb, and Uber? Yes, they are all incredibly prosperous businesses. However, there is more to it: they all began as minimal viable products, and this was not done randomly.
So, What Is An MVP?
When Frank Robinson first used the phrase Minimum Viable Product back in 2001, he was referring to a product that was “large enough to result in adoption, satisfaction, and sales, but not so large as to be bloated and risky.” Creating an MVP would provide the highest return on investment (ROI) with the least amount of risk. These days, we refer to it as a minimal marketable product rather than a minimum viable product. Then, in 2011, Eric Ries introduced the concept of an MVP as a tool for validated learning and an imperfect version of a product that allows companies to get something tangible in front of their potential users and discover what they truly want.
MVPs aren’t the end-product; they’re a means to it.
“M” is for PRODUCT MINIMALISM – How to consider constraints when building your next product
We are talking small here. The tricky element of the MVP activity is prioritizing user-valued features. Basecamp’s MVP strategy was “less is more.” Their product just did what they intended, and it worked. Basecamp has added many features since its inception but maintains its ‘less is more’ philosophy. Basecamp’s funding is confidential, but its $100 billion valuation in 2015 says a lot!
So, what helps to keep the scope to a minimum?
- Budget limits? Test your business hypothesis leanly.
- Deadlines. When you know you have limited time for a project, you will be more motivated to prioritize features.
- Cost breakdown. A detailed feature list with prices is a sobering exercise but is necessary.
- Value versus cost. Your limited scope should start with high-value, low-cost features.
Ensure your MVP plan focuses on testing assumptions, not reducing functionality for speed. If your MVP stays faithful to your USP, you can add nice-to-haves based on early adopter feedback.
In the above example, the product’s scope increases with each iteration as additional features are added.
“V” IS FOR PRODUCT VIABILITY – Think “viability” before building your next product
Viable business hypotheses can be tested. An MVP is the smallest object used to test a hypothesis. Zappos founder Nick Swinburn proved people would buy shoes online before investing in inventory and a website. MVPs are often viewed through a “minimal” lens. Just working products are not enough. A clear vision for long-term success is needed. Otherwise, you might as well launch your MVP into outer space Teams focus on adding, removing, altering, or tweaking features throughout the process. This gives them a finished product at each stage that may not be viable for business reasons. So, pivot away and pivot often!
How do you establish and sustain viability?
- DESIRED BY THE MARKET
“Minimum” in MVP refers to a set of customer-important features and is not related to ease of technical execution. “Viability” measures a product’s ability to fulfil customer needs in a novel way.
Buildability is achieved by seeing technical feasibility through a minimalist lens, as the product’s main objective at this stage is to test assumptions.
- PROFITABLE FOR THE COMPANY
Asking customers to buy something will reveal more than asking if they will. We need to ask ourselves,” “What can we provide that will evolve over time and grow into a life of its own?” Build the MVP knowing it’s a seed for a profitable product.
“P” IS FOR PRODUCT QUALITY -How to think “quality” when building your next product
Lean-wise, MVPs does not have to be a product. It is a prototype, not an actual application.
Eric Ries defines a product as an iteration that seeks market input on our idea. Software is not required. “Products” can also be clickable mockups or explanation videos. In Zappos’s case, the dummy website is wrapped in a transparent concierge service.
What is the right level of quality to include in an MVP?
It’s not about how long you spend producing a product or how much lipstick you put on a hoggish product. So, what then makes a quality product?
- Performance — a product’s primary operating features
- Features — the “bells and whistles” that supplement basic functioning
- Reliability — the probability of a product malfunctioning within a specified time period
- Conformance — how well a product’s design and operating characteristics meet established standards
- Durability is a measure of product life with an economic component
- Serviceability is the speed, competence, expertise, and ease of repair of the product
- Aesthetics is how a thing looks, feels, tastes, sounds, or smells
- Perceived quality is a product’s image or reputation
In conclusion, the fundamental tenet of the MVP is to focus on the overall product rather than just its features. In our upcoming blog post on minimum viable products, we will go over MVP features, MVP creation, and other relevant takeaways. Do keep an eye on this space for more articles on Minimum Viable Product.
Authors Bio :
Sushant Tarway, Senior Product Analyst at Tavisca, is a passionate product thinker and the author of this blog. He is driven by the need to design and construct an adaptive product ecosystem that enables people to think imaginatively about how to address their problems. He currently works with engineering teams to design and create products that provide them with the resources they need to develop solutions for a variety of user needs