“Make something people want.’ That’s the fundamental problem. If you die, it’s probably because you didn’t make something people wanted.”
Paul Graham, Investor, Co-Founder of Y-Combinator
It might sound too obvious, but the reason we reiterate it is that today many products are built that don’t intend to solve any of the actual world problems. Product may have great features but those features not always address a problem. These products are most likely to fail the day when customers realize that they don’t add any particular value to their lives. Which is why building a Minimum Viable Product (“MVP”) is important. MVP is essentially a technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters.
Term ‘MVP’ was popularized when it was referenced as part of Lean startup methodology. The primary benefit of an MVP is you can gain understanding about your customers’ interest in your product without fully developing the product. The sooner you can find out whether your product will appeal to customers, the less effort and expense you spend on a product that will not succeed in the market.
To break the down the understanding an MVP is
• Test a product hypothesis with minimum resources
• Accelerate learning
• Reduce engineering waste
• Get the product to early customers as quickly as possible
Building an MVP can save plenty of time and money, making MVP would mean after careful consideration of all elements of your products – each feature that it could have – we choose the element that is most important and essential to prove people what you’re building.
It all sounds good in theory, but let’s look at how each of these points was actually built into great MVPs by some of the today’s most successful companies.
In 2007, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia wanted to start a business, but also couldn’t afford the rent of their San Francisco apartment. There was a design conference coming to town, and they decided to open up their loft as cheap accommodation for conference attendees who had lucked out on the hotels nearby. They took pictures of their apartment, put it up on a simple website, and soon they had 3 paying guests for the duration of the conference, a woman from Boston, a father from Utah, and another man originally from India.
With this experiment, they soon realized that people from all walks of life, not just students are willing to stay in some one else’s home rather than staying in a hotel. This is what made them start AirBnB (Then called Airbedandbreakfast).
Andrew Mason started with a website called The Point, a platform to bring people together to accomplish things they couldn’t do alone, like fundraising or boycotting a retailer. But the site wasn’t gaining much momentum, so they decided to try out something else.
Using the same domain, they set up a customized WordPress blog called The Daily Groupon and began posting deals each day manually. When someone signed up for the deal, they manually generated a pdf document and emailed them. This simple website reassured the team that there was a market for such products and it was worth exploring. They didn’t develop the entire coupon website at the onset instead, they took what resources they had and made a piecemeal MVP out of them to test the hypothesis of whether people would be interested in what they were offering. Starting from a customized WordPress website and manually emailing PDF documents to a mailing list isn’t exactly what you’d call scaleable, but Groupon’s MVP was successful in answering that question for them.
These companies succeeded because they created a simple experience to test the demand for the product and did not get obsessed with too many features. The goal of having an MVP isn’t about getting it right, it’s maximizing learning with minimal effort so you don’t speed down the path of no return.
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