Why do so many software products start out as MVPs?
The reason is due to the significant benefits MVP software brings to the development process: faster, more affordable development, and reliable, resourceful market validation. Essentially, a MVP is a quick method of validating your product via customer feedback. But before we get any further, let’s go over what “MVP” actually means.
MVP stands for:
Minimum – the minimum set of features a product can have while still remaining…
Viable – to provide value to customers, so they are willing to engage with the…
Product – which is ready to be used for consumption.
The development of technological products has always lent itself to that of a MVP – from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone to the 1998 startup named Google, MVPs have had a huge impact on the way users and products co-exist and co-benefit from each other.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the following products should still be considered MVPs presently – but rather that they started out that way, and over many iterations, have become the products, services, and platforms they are now.
Back when this social media giant was known as The Facebook in 2004, the product offered was most definitely a MVP. During its 1.0 phase, Facebook was a website available only to Harvard students – the intention behind this limited release was to collect feedback in order to create a more robust and user-friendly product. At this time, Facebook was nowhere near what it is today – the website comprised of a profile page, friend requests, and a “send message” feature.
The story of this internationally-used app is the perfect example of a successful MVP product. An idea thought up in 2007 when roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were unable to afford rent in the expensive real estate market of San Francisco, the app now known as Airbnb was originally a website by the name of airbedandbreakfast.com.
The site’s first listing (Chesky and Gebbia’s apartment living room) was a true MVP experience as well: an air mattress in a room, along with a cooked breakfast. These are the amenities users of the original site were offered. After the addition of Nathan Blecharczyk (the creator of the website) and the Industrial Design Conference of 2008 held in San Francisco created a need for extra lodging in the area, the company was able to host its first guest.
Now, the company is considering the possibility of opening its own airline. This is the power of MVP products; they can start out as a single air mattress in your apartment’s living room, and develop into international companies with revenues measured by billions of dollars.
There are many more MVP success stories, like that of Goupon, Amazon, Buffer, Snapchat, and others – but for now, let’s get into what makes a product a true MVP.
As previously stated above, a MVP is a product that provides users with the minimum set of features required to provide a marketable and consumable experience. When Bell invented the telephone in 1876, his product provided a usable method of long-distance communication, and not much else. His original telephone model required users to speak into a standing receiver, and hold another speaker to their ear – and after decades of feedback from customers, phones morphed from rotary, to corded and cordless, and eventually to cell and smartphones.
It is this evolution that is the hallmark of a MVP.
While MVPs do come with quicker development cycles (making it easier to beat competition to market, as well as capitalizing on untapped markets), the most beneficial aspect of a MVP is the direct customer validation.
The market (and your users) will very quickly determine if your product is viable. If the idea is interesting enough, or the solution to the pain point is useful enough, users will jump on board. Therefore, by the usage of a MVP, you can quickly and cheaply prove your validity on the market without wasting time and resources on preliminary marketing and focus groups.
The next step is the most important – listening and reacting to customer feedback. The idea behind a MVP isn’t to build a product with the minimal feature set and then leave it alone – AirBnb didn’t stop at a single air mattress, after all – it’s to create the foundation for a fully-fledged product, platform, or experience.
Take the feedback you receive from early adopters, and implement it – this creates a strong brand for two very important and distinct reasons: your company proves to customers that their voices are heard and matter, and customer-requested features ensure a UX that has been tested against multiple scenarios, environments, and use cases (and lacks any excess features your users don’t want).
MVPs prove your worth
With market validation comes revenue – which can then be used to present a case for your business to investors. After AirBnB’s debut in 2008, the company received their first round of seed money in 2009 from Y Combinator, and by 2010, had raised over $7 million. By 2014, the company was valued at $10 billion, and now, in 2019, boasts a valuation of $35 billion.
MVPs naturally lend themselves to the continual update cycles apps (and all software) are beholden to, and create an environment for meaningful, impactful improvements to your users’ experience. MVPs are more than just a quick way to develop an app – they provide you with the foundation to create a community based around your brand.