Why your product is not an MVP

When launching a startup, especially in the lean startup ecosystem, it's common to hear about minimal viable products or MVPs. However, there's a lot of confusion around what an MVP truly represents. Is it viable? Is it a product? Is it really minimal? Let's clear the air and dive into the world of MVPs.

A New Look at MVPs

Startups should strive to understand what can go wrong as early as possible. This learning process can result in finding a business model that works, or at least uncovering where it might fail down the line.

Consider a startup aiming to create a new online marketplace for Barbies. If eBay already serves that market well, why would anyone switch? Or, think about a startup developing an anti-theft lock for shared bikes. If bike companies don't worry about theft, would they be interested in such a lock?

The idea of an MVP is to test these hypotheses without wasting precious time and resources. Dropbox, for instance, famously used a video demo as its MVP, showing what the product might do. The positive response was enough to confirm they were on the right track.

The Art of Crafting an Effective MVP

Creating an effective MVP requires more than just chopping features from a fully-fledged product. It involves asking the right questions and finding the simplest ways to answer them. Here are some examples:

  • Automation and Efficiency: Can your startup automate a process that currently takes hours to do manually? Before coding, determine if there's a real market for that solution.
  • Design Importance: In many B2B products, aesthetics aren't a priority. Before allocating half your budget to a sleek design, ensure that it adds value to your business.
  • Customer Needs: Sometimes, a loud minority may demand a particular feature. Before developing it, determine if it aligns with the broader business goals. A simple button tracking clicks may serve as an MVP to gauge interest.
  • Understanding Customer Preferences: Instead of building a feature right away, why not explore options like surveys, video demos, or customer interviews? They may uncover unexpected insights.
Conclusion: The True Essence of MVP

MVPs aren't necessarily small, simple, or easy. They can be complex, and that's okay. The goal is to spend as little resources as possible to get the answers you need. An MVP is not just a stripped-down product; it's a tool for testing hypotheses, aligning with customers' needs, and ensuring that your startup is headed in the right direction.
Embrace the MVP process, but don't be confined by its name or conventional understanding. Think creatively, leverage existing tools, and ensure that your startup's approach is aligned with real-world demands. Remember, a successful startup doesn't just follow trends; it questions, validates, and builds on solid ground, using MVPs as valuable stepping stones to success.