Feb 12

How To Define The MVP (Minimal Viable Product)

First of all, what does MVP stand for? MVP means "minimum viable product". It's usually defined as the first version of a product release that exhibits the minimum functionality the target customer is willing to pay for. The MVP is aimed at the early adopter, NOT THE MAINSTREAM customer. At KENOVA we also refer to the MVP as the “early revenue strategy”.

The objective of the MVP is to build something at the lowest possible expense, but still offer enough value that the early adopter will pay for it. The skill is determining what this minimum value is.

Startups have a really hard time with this. Their first mistake is thinking that their first release, aka MVP, has to be “perfect”, “robust”, “bug free”, have all the bells and whistles, etc. This is the strategy of death and for the MVP nothing is further from the truth.

The first thing I try to get the startup to understand is the early adopter is very forgiving! They’re in it partly because it isn’t all the above, i.e., they see the MVP as solving a huge problem for them, it’s giving them an edge, it’s cutting edge and thus gives them bragging rights, etc. So the fact it doesn’t have the bells and whistles, some typos, has a bug here and there is not an issue for them.

In return for letting the early adopter have the privilege of paying for such an early version you’ll want to make sure you can get feedback from them. It’s especially important when paying signup isn’t growing sufficiently. That is to say, with the MVP you’ll want to establish metrics of a user’s interaction with your software. E.g., record when they registered for the free evaluation, when they signed up for the subscription, how often they login, when they unsubscribe, etc. This will help you to identify what you need to focus on.

We refer to these as bottleneck metrics. And as with manufacturing, you keep fixing the bottlenecks until you have a system that is flowing at capacity, i.e., achieving adequate growth.

But remember, the MVP = early adopter, not the mainstream customer. This animal is exactly the opposite. They do require a perfect product with all the bells and whistles. And if you did your job right with the early adopters you should be in a good position to give mainstream what they want.


"This article may not be reproduced in whole or part without including the name of the author (James Naylor) and an acknowledgement of the fact the article was originally published in Shoestring Advice for Technology Startups (http://www.KENOVATech.com/blog). Any other use of this material is unauthorized and is a violation of law."

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