Minimum Viable Product: Meaning, Purpose & Examples

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A minimum viable product means a product which usually has one basic set of features. It is released to a handful of people to test a new business idea and gauge people’s or your potential customers’ reaction to it.

Building a startup is a journey full of experiments. You have to come up with an out-of-the-box idea, build the product and finally plan and invest in effective marketing to deliver the product. This is the hygiene that usually every startup follows.

However, a number of entrepreneurs deny the above-mentioned flow, saying that building a product is not necessary in the first place. As surprising as this may sound, this strategy works! Businesses like Dropbox and Airbnb have adopted this and today, they speak for themselves. 

If you look forward to replicating the success of Dropbox and Airbnb, you need to think about building a Minimum Viable Product or MVP.

Interested much? Read this article to find out more about the minimum viable product.

What is Minimum Viable Product or an MVP? 

A minimum viable product means a product which usually has one basic set of features. It is released to a handful of people to test a new business idea and gauge people’s or your potential customers’ reaction to it.

The basic purpose of an MVP is to collect feedback before releasing a full-fledged product. To put it simply:

  • Minimum The most rudimentary skeleton-like foundation of the proposed solution
  • Viable– Sufficient in itself for early adopters 
  • Product– Something tangible that a user can see, touch or feel

What is the purpose of an MVP?

Wondering why not a maximum viable product? While you are planning to launch a new product or service, all you are trying to do is validate your hypothesis on the world and the world’s people. 

Patrick Collison rightly quotes, “You are trying to figure out in the early days of starting a product: are we wrong or is the world wrong?”

It is crucial to test your innovative hypothesis with the smallest amount of money, time and features, hence minimum! Listed below are the main benefits of having a minimum viable product:

Prevents building something no one wants

Let’s assume you created a mobile application that helps people count the number of times they stepped out of the house. Building this took month-long efforts and thousands of dollars to design and develop.

You finally handover the product into the hands of people and within a few days, realize that no one needs such an application. 

This is where a minimum viable product comes into the picture. It helps you save time and money that you spent on a product that did not deserve it in the first place. 

The key is to build the basic foundation of the product to understand the customers and analyze if they are willing to pay for what you have to offer.

Assists in understanding your own product offering

The next step after having an MVP ready is to gain user feedback. You will come across cases where your product/ service will be used for a different end goal than what you initially intended. Sounds awesome, right? 

Let’s take an example of Bumble. This dating app noticed that many people were finding the platform helpful for networking. This observation led the Bumble team to develop something called Bumble Bizz, a platform to connect professionals.

Validates your thesis quickly 

Before you start working on creating your product, you already have a thesis in your mind, don’t you? Creating and rolling out an MVP helps you to validate your hypothesis. 

If the user you invited to test your MVP on is willing to pay for your solution and use it in an intended way, then it’s a win-win for you. If not, you might have to look to some pivoting strategies.

How to create or develop a minimum viable product?

Now that you know the basic of an MVP, here’s how you can get started:

1. Identify & understand the market needs

The first step is to identify if there is a need for your product or service in the market. Go for detailed competitor analysis and establish how will you make your product stand out. While you come to the conclusion of this exercise, you should have the following two things in place:

  • Long term goal: Since you will have an understanding of the market by now, you must be able to project a long term goal and have a concrete answer in place for questions like what are you planning to achieve, what will be the target metrics etc. 
  • Success criteria: Success metrics differ from business to business. It is essential for you to have a definition of success when you start, so as to have easy tracking in place. 

2. Map your user’s journey

While you design your product or service, it is essential for you to map the journey of your potential customer. Spend time and learn about their behaviour and patterns.  The key is to step into your user’s shoe and then take the decisions.

3. Create a pain and gain map

Once you have empathized with your user’s journey, precisely jot down the pain points they might be facing and next to each point, write the gain your product or service will provide them with.

This exercise allows you to determine if you have the greatest potential to add value!

4. Decide what features to offer

At this stage, you are all set to filter and figure what features you want to offer in your MVP. Asking the question of what my customer wants versus what my user needs will help you have the correct priorities in place. 

Pro-tip: At this point in time, the only features you add must be connected to your product’s overall goal. 

Minimum Viable Product Examples

Wondering how are the above-mentioned pointers being practised in real life? Let’s have a quick look at some examples!

Instagram

When he started, Kevin Systrom developed and raised funding for a mobile application which he named Burbn. This app was aimed to enable people to check-in and share their views of various locations. 

The app did not turn out to be an instant success and Kevin realised that people were more interested in photo sharing functionality. Hence, the Burbn team changed its focus on a single feature: photo sharing. We all know where ‘Instagram’ stands in our lives today!

Airbnb

Today whom we call the founders of Airbnb once faced a hard time when they had to accommodate guests coming over for a conference. All the hotels in the city were full and there they discovered Airbnb! The idea was to host the guests in their own apartments on ‘air’ beds. 

A true example of the skeleton-like foundation was enough to signal that their solution aligned with a common problem across nations. 

PS: This seems like one of the shortest MVP runs, doesn’t it? 

Amazon

What initially started as an online bookstore back in 1994 is today one of the leading e-commerce globally. The concept back then was to sell books at a lower cost. We can say that the idea behind Amazon then and now is pretty much the same, what has changed is the number of features and product on the platform. The first version of Amazon is a typical example of an MVP project where everything went from small to huge! 

Wrapping up…

If you are planning on starting something new, you should definitely create a minimum viable product. The best part is that once you launch an MVP, you can collect realistic feedback and make changes in your product or services. We hope this article will help you through your business journey. 

Takeaway? It is recommended to continue to test, learn and measure and keep testing until the product or service is finalised. 

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