Planning a start up? Not focusing on your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) can kill it.
What is an MVP?
If you’re a sports fan, you know what an MVP is – every major league game has one. But if you’re founding a startup, you should know about a different type of MVP – minimum viable product.
If you have prior experience of being involved in developing and launching a software application – you know how elastic they are in terms of timelines and budget. Delays of 2 to 3, even 5 times of what you originally planned are very common.
You will also have seen that the delay is not because the development team was slow or incompetent. It usually is a case of planning too large a project in one shot.
As an entrepreneur, you are inclined to make your product ‘perfect’. “Oh just-these-3-more-features-and-it-will-be-perfect”, is a very common attitude. This cycle of adding features goes on and on until you have a bloated application. The launch is delayed by months or even a year or two and there is a big hole in your pocket. It is a very sorry state.
And when you are finally ready to launch your beloved application, there are no takers. Things you thought would appeal to your target customers aren’t as useful as you thought. Heck! The core idea on which the app was based on turns out to be flawed and there are no takers. You’ve wasted months and a ton of money!
MVP to the rescue.
MVP – Minimum Viable Product
The MVP approach means releasing your application in chunks.
What is your first chunk?
Make a list of your product’s first set of features – absolute minimum set of features without which the app doesn’t make sense. Leave everything else aside.
Do you need payment gateway integration right from the start? If it can happen offline, skip it for now. Offer cash on delivery or check payments. Is social sharing necessary or can it wait? If it can wait, let it wait till the next iteration.
Let the core essence of your app shine.
It’s tempting to compare your app with the other famous apps out there – Whatsapp, Amazon and so many others, and want to have all those features in on day one. Bad idea. In fact, if you really think back, a lot of features that you see today came in over time. But Whatsapp was popular despite not having them because the core essence of the product won a lot of fans.
Make a list of features that would go in the MVP. Consult with your prospective users. Show them paper prototypes.
How is MVP different from milestone based development? Milestones could be internal, but MVP has to be launched to the public or to external beta testers.
Once your MVP is launched, make a list of 30 of your customers and meet them in person and see how they are using your product.
You will get a lot of insights .. You will know if the product is worthwhile, and whether it is solving the problem a problem for them. See what things are exciting them. Find out what is the missing feature most of them are asking for. Ask questions about the features you thought would round it off – you might find that many are not such a big deal to users. (see – you just saved yourself months of development time!)
At the end of this exercise, you would be super excited. You would have the pulse of the customer and you know how to chalk the next leg of your journey.
As a rule of thumb, your MVP should be launched within 3 months. That includes a 2-week buffer for fine tuning. So a development schedule of 2.5 months is the limit. This is a general rule and will fit 80% of cases. It could vary depending on your product. But the idea is to have only the must-have use cases and cut out all the nice-to-haves.
MVP saves you time and money. More importantly, you will know which segment of your target market is most interested in your product. The final product fits their needs perfectly, you know who your customers are, how to best reach them and what exactly to pitch them. This is marketing Nirvana and the odds of your success are greatly in your favor.