Starting from scratch is hard.
An entrepreneur has to figure out what to build, and resources (both time and money) are limited. In order make the journey a little bit easier, here are three big ideas to keep in mind when building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
1. Figure out the minimum feature set, and get that in the hands of users as soon as possible.
Beware of scope creep, but don’t be afraid to build and test many ideas. In my experience launching MVPs, it has always been tempting to make things future-proof. Unfortunately, striving for perfection in the early stages is not advised -- things may change quickly depending on customer feedback, and it always hurts to abandon a masterpiece. Spending more time building product and features is more important than perfecting the glue that holds it all together.
Cloud technology and other software services can also help speed up development cycles. Personally, I’ve used AWS, Heroku, SendGrid, and MailChimp -- all have free-tier pricing or startup credits.
2. Look to establish authentic demand.
People in your network are great first users, but make sure they are representative of your target users. We’ve found that friends and friends of friends can be extremely polite. Solicit real, authentic feedback, and be weary of asking leading questions.
Start thinking about actual usage or engagement metrics. This doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve previously used a daily email with a table of users sorted by last activity. Beside each user, the number of widgets (or whatever your product does) they’ve created was shown. This should evolve as the product/company does; these metrics can validate customers’ success and help predict (and prevent) churn in the future.
What a user is doing (or not doing) with your product will inform if their feedback is realistic and aligns with received value.
3. Get customers on-board with the post-MVP vision.
Early adopters should get value from the MVP, but it won’t be perfect. Help them understand why they should stay engaged. Having early adopters that align with your vision will help in building new features and future iterations.
Help users understand why they should stay engaged
They may also be able to refer you to other potential customers. We’ve had an MVP customer introduce us to one of their vendors. That vendor became a partner, and introduced us to another customer. That customer eventually would go on to write a testimonial and case study, which helped us establish credibility in the market.
Building an MVP should help determine if an idea is viable -- it does not have to be expensive, perfect, or complete. Help early adopters see your vision, iterate on their feedback, and validate the value of your product.
"You’re selling the vision and delivering the minimum feature set to visionaries, not everyone." -Steve Blank