There have been countless of posts about what is a Minimum Viable Product, this concept popularized by Eric Ries. Here is a great post I’ve found that says it all : A MVP is not your product; it may not even be the first version: it’s something that prove your assumptions to be true or false by investing as less as possible in development efforts.
Your MVP should maximize the feedback loop with the potential customers of the future product : I wrote an article back in 2012 about this (still in french), showing the difference between a MVP and the first version of your product.
For instance take this MVP I’ve built back in 2012 :
It’s supposed to simulate the final product (transferring photos between two devices, with no Internet connections. What we wanted to prove is the “Whaoo” effect, by actually demonstrating the benefit. And it worked ! People actually paid us few bucks to have it developed, just as they would have paid for an app on the Apple Store. We exactly invested 4 hours to build it, as it’s just 2 Keynote files running on each device.
The minimum marketable feature
Unfortunately, many people mix-up a MVP and the minimum marketable feature. For instance, you can see things like that to describe a MVP :
Unfortunately, I think both are missing the essence of what is a MVP; but are a cool way to describe how you start from a minimalist version of your product (the minimum marketable feature) to a full fledged version of it.
By providing a cupcake, you won’t validate any assumption related to your product vision, that would be a wedding cake.
- You won’t know more about your capacity of building a wedding cake,
- You won’t know if your target will like a wedding cake
- You won’t know if you’ll be able to reach them
… to name one of the few assumptions you could have regarding your product.
Valuable is more meaningful than viable
When I look for the best MVP to build in order to get relevant feedbacks and understand the product I want to build, I focus on 2 things :
- What is the core value delivered by the product,
- How can we deliver 90% of this value but to a limited audience
Technology can help you to automatize and industrialize a process. Once your product is built, it is supposed to deliver exactly the same value to 1, 1000 or 10000000 people. But you can deliver 90% of the value to 1 to 10 people very easily, and by doing this, you’ll understand the process you are trying to improve and will develop exactly what your customers need. No more, no less.
So if we take the wedding cake, your MVP should be ONE wedding cake that you would buy in a specialized store. Or it could be a website showing the perfect wedding cake with photoshopped photos. Or anything that will make you confident that people will actually buy your cake. Not a cupcake, unless you want to build a cupcake store.
Here is one slide I use in my workshops to explain it :
And this is also the way we’ve been building Mobile Angelo the past few months.
Definition of a MVP is useless
The conclusion of this post is that we should not bother about defining what is a MVP or what is not, but actually what it’s used for. The answer is specific to each project : what are you trying to learn and what do you need to build in order to find the answer ?
Wether you are a startup or corporation, If you want some help defining your MVP, Contact me and I’ll be happy to help.