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MVP Definition: Minimum Viable Product and Alternatives you May Consider

  • 11-12 min read
  • May 13, 2022
  • 👍 Rating — 4.8 (55 votes)

Building a minimum viable product (MVP) is a widely known practice that helped many entrepreneurs to save a lot of money and time in the early stages of startup development. Many world-known unicorns have started with MVP, for instance, Uber, Dropbox, Figma, and Slack. But what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the others. And definitely without a clear understanding of MVP purpose, you can lose more than win.

What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
A brief overview

Let’s start by defining the term MVP. Minimum viable product (MVP) is a term coined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Eric Reis, as a part of the Lean Sales methodology. It means a product with minimum features set used to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. Its main purpose is to gather insights, test your concept, and connect with the company’s target market by spending less time and money.

A cost reduction is achieved by limiting the functionality of the product and constraining the number of features to a few that satisfy the basic need of the audience. Later you can improve your product to retain early adopters.

In a reality, the notion of MVP is often confused with the term technology prototype and is not related to the development process. MVP (minimum viable product) is a way to test business hypotheses and validate the technology prototype’s sale. Such testing with the audience allows discovering the further iterations needed to enhance the value development.

Cases When MVP is Needed

Remember Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle framework? “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”

Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle framework

Why, How, and What – three questions your MVP should be built around. If your product is the answer to those questions than the minimum viable product should test your answers.

If you have an idea but you don’t know whether customers will appreciate it – ask them and do a marketing research! That way you’ll get the answers to the “Why question”.

Next, start development of a minimum viable product in order to get an answer to the “How question”. You need to test whether it is possible and profitable to build and maintain such a product. It may occur too pricey or too complex.

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INTERESTING FACT

Software minimum viable product has some additional advantages. It is much leaner and flexible, so it takes less time and resources in order to adjust product according to data gathered during research. Meaning you will spend less money in order to tweak and reshape your software MVP or mobile app prototype.

Maybe This Is Not the MVP You Are Looking for?

MVP You Are Looking for

With the boom of startups, the minimum viable product gained a sacred must-have image. Customers accept simple products. Nevertheless, one should understand that MVP is not a magic pill that solves all troubles. There is no MVP business! Here’s what David Schwartz, Senior Director of Product Management of Wix (One of the biggest website development platforms to date) said about MVP:

“People are mistaken about what MVP is. MVP is not a product you’re taking out there. The product you’re taking out there is called the First Phase. MVP is an experiment!”

And we had several cases when clients insisted on the development of MVP while all they needed is an experiment or deep market research. Moreover, there are also many reasons why you may dump MVP in your business and make a full-bodied product from start.

  • MVP is not a profitable product you can sell.
  • You can’t test all your assumptions with MVP.
  • The minimum viable product is not free. It does need time and money to develop as well as the product.

MVP won’t help you to cross the Chasm!

types of clients who need MVP

Mostly, a minimum viable product can live by itself for some time. It is acceptable and functional so innovators and even early adopters can be happy with it.

But there is time to get to the mass market in order to earn real revenues. To get there you’ll need to cross that Chasm. This is where most projects from Kickstarter end up. They get funded by innovators, praised by early adopters, and then die without winning the hearts and minds of the majority.

Here’s a list of successful minimum viable product examples and then unsuccessful products that seemed to conquer the market but failed to gain customers’ trust:

  • BETAMAX lost to VHS.
  • Microsoft Zune lost to iPod.
  • Myspace lost to Facebook.
  • HP’s Touchpad lost to iPad.
  • Pebble was eventually purchased by Fitbit.

That’s what Chasm does to great, innovative products.

One of the reasons Chasm happens is because entrepreneurs can’t step back and reshape their MVPs into a Mass-Market product. Indeed, making so may be really challenging, even after you struggled so much to make MVP.

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First of all, you should preserve the core innovation that was so popular among early adopter. Second, and it may be controversial, you should mask that innovation into more trivial shape. At this point, you may be criticized by innovators and those customers you’ve already acquired, but this is how you find a way to the heart of a grand audience.

Definitely, from such point of view, developing a full-fledged minimum viable product can be a huge waste of time and money. And the profitability of investing into MVP is reduced proportionally to the size of the innovator’s community you are targeting with the product.

Don’t go with MVP if innovators and early adopters of your targeted audience won’t drive to your product enough attention and investments that are needed to develop a complete product.

Alternatives to MVP

Riskiest Assumption Test

Riskiest Assumption Test

This approach address several uncertainties related to MVP. For instance, how “minimal” your minimal viable product should be? What hypothesis should it test? Should it explore only one assumption or all of them?

The risk assumption test has a single answer to all these questions: Test the biggest uncertainty you have. Meaning you don’t want to build more than needed to test the largest unknown.

Of course, along with our work, we had customers that wanted to test several theories or couldn’t decide which one to choose. We’ve asked them about the main assumptions behind them. Find a core unknown that can ruin your project and test it!

Minimum Loveable Product

Minimum Loveable Product

It is a term coined by Brian de Haaff, founder of the road map software Aha!  MLP suggests entrepreneurs develop a product that aims at customer satisfaction of a small targeted audience. That way you will save money on added features that aim to the wider user group.

In addition, advocates of MLP site that minimal viable products are usually built to prove entrepreneur’s business concept (processes, logistics, product structure), rather than audience interest. Such MVPs are fast, cheap and crappy, thus they fail to get users’ interest and die. Meanwhile, the idea behind business MVP could be great, it just lost behind the crappiness of the prototype.

The difference between MVP and MLP

MLP principles MVP principles
Goal is to disrupt Goal is to increment
Problem can be understood Problem cannot be understood
Market can be analyzed Market cannot be analyzed
Customers know what they want Customers do not know what they want
Many product alternatives exist Few product alternatives exist
Make architecture decisions because technology is sufficiently stable Avoid architecture decisions because technology is unpredictable
Dedicated effort to the opportunity Lean effort because success is unlikely
Focus Pivot
Customers love your product Customers tolerate your product

Kano model

We suggest you get familiar with Kano Model in order to avoid such mistake.

Kano Model of avoiding crappy and cheap products

Kano Model examines each product from customer satisfaction perspective. It classified customer preferences into five categories and suggests to keep in sight only those product features that leads maximize customer satisfaction.

  1. Must-be Quality. A functionality that is not new and taken for granted.
  2. One-dimensional Quality. The presence of these features results in the rise of customer satisfaction, the absence of those features decreases it.
  3. Attractive Quality. The most innovative set of features, that create WOW effect, but risk being misunderstood by users.
  4. Indifferent Quality. Features that not affect customer satisfaction. E.g. Programming Language or Framework used to develop an app.
  5. Reverse Quality. Over exaggerating these qualities result in loss of some customers. E.g. Oversimplification of the product may divert tech geeks. The complication may divert users with low tech savviness.

Focus on first two qualities if you’re building MVP for a unique product. Spend more efforts on second and third qualities if you’re entering a high competitive market.

Minimum Marketable Product

It is a term presented by Mark Dene and Jane Cleland-Huang in their 2003 book Software by Numbers. MMP means a product comprising a minimal set of features needed to test a feasible marketing model.

Actually, this term brings together the MVP and MLP. You have already understood your target audience, gathered the feedback, and have a full understanding of the problem your product is going to fix.

The New MVP Alternatives

The lean startup methodology has an approach is based mainly on the end-users feedback: a well-known build-measure-learn feedback loop. In the evolving digital environment, there are newly emerged MVP alternative methods to validate the business idea or startup model.

Minimal catchy offer

It can be presented even in one sentence. The key characteristics are clarity, effectiveness, and speed. If you are still considering whether it is worth investing in the MVP concept it could be a good alternative. It can be a short slogan or a condensed, but efficient video, allowing the target user to understand the value proposition your business idea offers.

Example: MasterCard slogan “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.” was a part of an ad campaign presented by a TV commercial, where a dad takes his son to baseball games, pay for a hot dog and drink, however, the time spend together is priceless.

Black Hole strategy

The black Hole strategy is focused on the look of alternatives or hidden instruments able to influence the regular behavioral patterns of target users and changes the way people used to act in particular situations.

Example: Many software development companies offer courses to educate new developers. However, due to the current situation, where everyone is trying to educate themselves, a better variant will be to create a platform supporting self-education.

Lean investor

This method is a part of lean startup methodology and proposes investing in startups using incremental investment, and iterative development. You can start with simple experiments, refuse and analyze failures and expand investments in successful deals.

How Altamira can help you with MVP launch

The choice of a software development company is a crucial aspect. You need to choose a partner, who has extensive experience in MVP development and can guide future development smoothly.

Our developing teams have profound experience and cross-industry expertise allowing them to help companies build MVPs that have enough value and can impress. We deliver solutions for HoReCa, real estate, healthcare, logistics, automotive, manufacturing, fintech, sport, and education, guiding customers through the whole product development cycle.

Numerous successful projects we have completed allow us to build MVPs quickly and include all the necessary features without exceeding the budget and time frames. Awareness of possible challenges and pitfalls allow our development team to overcome them in a professional way.

By choosing us as a development partner, you get:

  • Rich cross-industry expertise;
  • Discovery stage enables to validate the initial product idea;
  • Fast time to market;
  • Customer-centric approach;
  • Agile methodology development practices;
  • NDA compliance;
  • Business analysis and efficient project management;
  • Solid MVP that could be successfully scaled in future;
  • Help in software implementation and further maintenance.

We use a flexible approach, thus you may choose the cooperation model that suits you the most. It could be either from team extension services or outsourcing cooperation models.

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MVP helps beginning entrepreneurs to test their product's idea with minimal resources. It allows to avoid bigger failures while checking the market needs. Another benefit from starting with MVP is the shortest time between product launch on the market and finding early adopters to build a user base and obtain valuable feedback.
Before starting an MVP development for your startup take into consideration the following steps: Define your target audience and their habits. Think big. You should know right from the start what features you’re going to add in the long run. Be innovative. Although your MVP is a limited version of your app, it should have unique trade proposal.
When we are talking about solutions, it is vital to plan user flows combined with end goals: Put down the jobs that the system helps people to do. Make a list of barriers every action includes. Think about how to overcome them. Write down the challenges and solutions into specs. Finally, rank functions by their importance.

As you can see there are many possibilities you may not need MVP at all. You can make deeper research and get to the development of a full-sized mobile app. Or you may want to save money on MVP and develop a light version of the product with the extension capabilities for later upgrades.

Taking into account all aforementioned we’d suggest you not to rush things forward with MVP development and sort things out first. The choice is upon you, and we’ll be glad to consult you and give prompt advice.

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Comments (6)

Travis
Nov 15, 2021 at 5:39 PM

What a great article! The topic of the onboarding process is fully covered. Thank you!

reply
Dina Kaplani
May 31, 2020 at 4:08 PM

Hi Tony,
This is so amazing!
I appreciate that you took a simple, How to article by explaining what Minimum viable product is? via clearing misconceptions about MVP. We too are on the same mission about use of MVP in UX designing.

reply
Kate
Apr 15, 2020 at 5:47 PM

Thank you for this post, Tony!

As for me, I believe that the approach is a great idea to start a business before jumping to full-featured product development. The reasons are as follows:

* Clear focus
* Flexibility
* The opportunity to attract investors
* Fewer software errors
* Customers’ feedback

Besides, when developing an MVP you should follow the main principles:
1. Narrow focus
2. Users in mind
3. A slow, but promising start

I wanted to share with you our post and would appreciate your feedback.

reply
Toby
Apr 17, 2018 at 9:48 PM

Thank you for this awesome information. MVP is a great way to quickly test out ideas, and drive innovation within the business. You are right that without a clear understanding of MVP purpose you can lose more than win.

reply
Dann
Oct 20, 2017 at 6:03 PM

Read article, but how much does it cost to build an mvp?

reply
Alex Pedchenko
Feb 26, 2019 at 5:31 PM
Dann,

Thanks a lot for this useful post. I’ve found some details which I didn’t know.

I would like to add some information to your post.

The MVP concept is rather vague when used as a broader term because, on the one hand, the MVP technique is rather useful but, on the other hand, it requires judgmental thinking within minimum and maximum gradation.

There has been confusion, because some use MVP in the form of an experiment or as a landing page, while others build a fully-functioning product.

In general, the MVP should deliver the very essence of the product idea in the simplest form. Depending on the context, this form could differ, this means that MVP can differ per project and range from a demo video to the working software prototype.

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