In the vast world of business methodologies, there are many ways to get your startup off the ground. Developing a minimum viable product, or MVP, is an increasingly popular technique with proven potential for gains. Here’s how it works and why it might be right for your expanding enterprise.
What Is a Minimum Viable Product?
Although its origins lie in decades of business practices, the formal idea of the MVP dates back to the early 2000s. During this era, the modern software industry was truly coming into its own. Growing companies sought to strike the ideal balance between the risks associated with product development and the ROI that came from launching new goods and services.
The MVP is essentially a product that includes just enough features for you to deploy it to real users. Contrary to an unfinished work, MVPs are sufficiently functional for customer to find value in your product and for you to maximize learning per dollar spent and continue developing your product to real customer feedback rather than assumptions.
An MVP is NOT your FINAL version.
The MVP vs. Traditional Product Development Lifecylces
Typical product development lifecycles commonly revolve around leveraging significant investitures to prepare products for the market in their final forms. For instance, automakers usually finish polishing their new vehicle lines before letting consumers take one for a test drive. In such cases, the company sells the products with the primary intention of making a profit.
With MVPs, your purpose is to create and release products in stages and chart out a viable long-term strategy along the way. MVP products commonly serve as jumping-off points for other offerings, substantive content to drum up market interest and practical learning tools.
Why Do Young Startups Love MVPs?
You can deploy an MVP with minimal effort, and they mesh well with lean startup strategies. Companies that focus on this kind of incremental progress gain the ability to build progressively and do more with their resources.
Many entrepreneurs are flush with ideas, but they’re often short on human capital. Reducing the number of steps involved in creating products can make it easier for small teams to keep up with demand, troubleshoot problems and run the business.
Managing Costs Effectively
Expenditure control is another benefit of MVP-oriented strategies. If you decide to release a partial app built on an existing framework instead of writing all-new code, you’ll save skilled labor that translates to money. Deploying MVP products in small quantities also reduces the overhead that you have to sink into a launch.
Getting Things Done Faster
Entrepreneurs don’t always have time to fine-tune all of their ideas. The pace of business is already fast, and when you’re trying to gain a market foothold, events seem to go by even quicker.
Shorter product life cycles grant you the freedom to save time that you can spend elsewhere. They also let you fix outstanding issues quicker, which is important when you want to impress early adopters.
Honing Outreach Approaches
Startups need market share and buzz to sustain their growth, and MVPs offer both. Companies that release early versions of proposed projects drum up significant interest that spreads by word of mouth. Many consumers also jump at the chance to become a part of a test audience.
Minimum Viable Product Successes in the Real World
Understanding the theoretical benefits of MVP strategies is all well and good, but what about practical inspirations? These three famous companies are prime examples of how to do MVPs right.
When Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs premiered their first consumer computer, the Apple I, it was a far cry from the slick iPhones and Macs of the modern era. The earliest for-sale models were just hand-built circuit boards.
The Apple I was unique because it could work with keyboards and home TV sets, and Jobs was able to garner interest from early computer users. The company famously sold 100 units to a computer store, purchased the parts on a net-30 payment plan and completed their first order before the invoice was due. Today, Apple Inc., is one of the world’s biggest firms by revenue.
Kickstarter is a hotbed of MVP offerings, but the site itself follows similar development philosophies. The company’s creator came up with the idea about a decade before the formal launch.
Early on, Kickstarter’s founder created concept sketches and test platforms to gauge what people thought. Many of the refinements that he identified through these processes remain visible today.
Virgin Atlantic fulfilled a very specific role in its earliest iteration. The first flights exclusively traveled between New York and London.
That’s how things stayed for months while the company ironed out the kinks, honed its service concept and eventually leased another plane. Today, Virgin Atlantic is one of the world’s best-known airlines for discerning travelers.
Five Simple Steps to Creating Your Own MVP
So how can you transform your inspired thought into an MVP? Start with these basic tips:
1. Dream It
Devise a concrete idea that you can execute, mock up or develop in incremental steps. Your concept should include a barebones business plan in addition to your slimmed-down app or product.
2. Fund It
Secure funding. Whether you use your personal bank account, solicit crowdfunding, take out loans or lean on amicable relatives, you’ll need to invest in your idea.
3. Assemble Your Team
Determine who can help you get your MVP out there, and approach them with the concept. Aim for a mix of individuals who have experience in business and in the field that you’re trying to conquer.
4. Build the Prototype
Using the resources that you’ve gathered, create the MVP. By sticking to your existing plan, you can begin to refine your business model in addition to your product line.
5. Test It
Getting your MVP into consumers’ hands is the payoff. No, you probably won’t become a millionaire overnight. Nonetheless, early trials will reveal critical information about demand, your business management skills and what you need to do differently for the next cycle.
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