Updated: Jul 19
The MVP (minimal viable product) is a heavily preached concept for a while. It advocates that if someone is short on capital, he/she should try to develop an MVP and present to target audience and get feedback. It is popular because it does not seem to take a lot of money and the reward could be potentially big.
In the startup communities, many people believe in the MVP concept. However, there are plenty of discussions that tells the downside of the MVP model, even when the concept is correctly understood.
MVP is not an object or works. It is the demonstrated MAGIC EFFECTS to the buyer. It must be able to secure purchasing orders, not verbal promises. Its traction not projected, not promised, but there. It must allow investors and sales channel to evaluate it as well.
Two representative discussions of someone who tried MVP and then realized the truth are linked below:
The problem with most startups [Post S1 below]
Build it and they won't come [Post S2 below]
I will archive the Opinion Post here for archival, in case the posts disappears. I think they are really revealing. The posts are copied below. (Scroll down, way down}.
Many people simply understated the fact that MVP takes money and time, and you can only access enough customers in the market. And even then you still don't know if they are going to buy or just look.
MVP is not a prop to talk to people during 1-on-1 meeting to gather feedback. It is a magic show that hopefully make people say "Can I keep it today for whatever price you are asking". It is a prop to talk your way into the market, not your customer's email box.
For people to buy anything, it must be something of tremendous value at a tremendous discount. It is not something you can try with a mock up or super sophisticated mock up. You need the real thing to see if people REALLY buys.
For example, let's say your MVP is a car brake. For you to prove someone will buy it, you can not show a customer a hand made version. You need to show the customer a volume produced version in a factory. You can not ask an investor to believe you can mass produce it, you need to mass produce it! That is what MINIVAL really implies.
MVP is Lottery Startup.
The other day I replied to a posting titled "How to build a startup in the most efficient way". This post is also copied below [Post S3 below].
Here is my response.
Thanks. I am going to reply in kind to your post. Some unwelcome 'warning' that I wish someone told me before and I wish I actually had the wisdom to listen. Too many people drink the MVP Cool-aid. Me included. It is nice you mentioned "New product development is like experimenting with a vision in mind". I will take the opportunity to sound out the downside of the word MVP. Startup is like prospecting for gold underground. Lean startup book advocates a solo person bring a shovel and just go at it based on haunch or feel. Can I convince you it won't work? no. Can I convince you it will lead to lots of struggles and regrets? no. MVP or "solution searching for customer" approach is kinda getting tired. On this and related reddit sub, there are several meaningful discussions about the downside of the MVP model. I actually saved a few thread so I share here: https://www.reddit.com/r/startups/comments/h0tl8t/if_you_build_it_they_do_not_come_what_almost/ There was a fun discussion on "entrepreneur" about this. https://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/comments/ho4f3d/the_problem_with_most_startups/. People don't buy when they don't have to, even if there is a solution. Think about how you treated the last person who knocked on your door and said "I bet you have a problem, and I have a solution, now could you pay me please". Here is a YC description of the MVP fog. Trust me, no one wants to criticize MVP even question it because of potential down votes. https://www.teensharks.us/videos/How-to-Plan-an-MVP If there are 2000 ways to fail, you need to avoid ALL failures. Startup is writing the diary of failures, one at a time, until you succeed. (I did not know this when I started, I thought it is just a stroll in the African wild animal park). The failures are landmines purposefully placed and purposefully not told to you. Logic has no use. you should make sure that your solution is needed by other people, not just by you Overall, the "let me try my idea and make an MVP and see if one likes and then make a product and see if anyone would buy and then hire a lot of people see if the company can survive" way of startup is extremely difficult. Most people tune them out because they don't want to hear them. If you don't spend enough money and time, no one will like it enough to buy. The world has no vacuum left anymore. Startup is like landing in Normandy, not strolling on a beach. Many people think startup is a mission. It is actually a skill, and your failure is your practice. Just the practice is very expensive. However, I recommend people practice with side hustles to get business sense and see if it for you. Never think in vacuum https://youtu.be/95ukYMfCnHA Startup is to take opportunity, not chance. So practice and prepare yourself. Never make the formal launch your first failure. https://youtu.be/YnrhaoAS_O4 Train first, not try your luck. Here is how to https://youtu.be/cSK_S8XsWEY Startup best analogies https://youtu.be/jpzk5jdVKaw I used to think that "maybe someone will buy what I made". It did not work. When I made something of world top notch quality and can beat everyone on the market, the dirty players win and the players with known brand win. Quality is hard. Why people buy stuff when they don't have to? https://youtu.be/uvqaXP__pUk So you have to downvote me. There is a thing called the Murphy's Law, and it applies here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy%27s_law. Murphy's first law says "all things sounds easy". The engineer Murphy was trying to warn his boss in the lab. Why beginners fail? because they let their guards off, that's why. https://www.sevenparallel.com/post/top-reasons-beginners-fail For all wannapreneurs and solopreneurs, try to train and practice, so that your first launch is not your first dare. Here are four side hustle ideas. https://www.teensharks.us/teensharksnews/Four-side-hustle-ideas-you-can-do-from-your-room Good luck and have fun! Happy weekend.
The MVP school of preaching is missing something critical: It is very very hard for people to buy things you build.
If you spend minimal effort and minimal money, it is not a MVP, it is just a hobby or gadget. I am sorry to point it out.
The original post S1
Preface - I’ve owned, run and help grow dozens of businesses in the past 20+ years. This is a general observation I’ve had with many businesses especially startups. I’ve been through all the stages Employee/Self Employed/Business Owner and find myself at the investor stage of life. As an investor I find the following is a real concern with most people who “knock my door”. Buts it’s not confined to just start ups. So I offer it to help with your business idea. A lot of business ideas are a solution in search of people with that specific problem. However, you want to build a business around an existing problem that a whole bunch of people have. People rarely jump on innovative ideas, it takes time to change behavior and is expensive to market behavioral change. I call it “The Friendly Advice Problem”... imagine an acquaintance who you were on nodding terms with, came to you and said they thought you had a problem. Described their thinking and why they came to their conclusion. Then explain exactly how they could help you solve it. If you hadn’t recognized what they said as a “problem” what would you think? Now, imagine they then said... “and for only $XXXX I can solve that problem for you”, how do you feel now? That’s what most businesses market their goods and services like. They find a problem then go out and try to convince the market place that their solution is a “great idea”... no amount of bashing the customer over the head will force them to change their behavior. You have to find people who already know they have a problem and are seeking a solution to it. To those people you can sell to all day long... So, go find people with a real world problem and solve it. Have them tell you EXACTLY why it is a problem and the headaches it causes them. Then ask them “if we solve that problem, how much would you pay for us to fix it?”... then go make it work! When my kids come to me and say “I’ve had a great idea”, they are sick of me saying “no, you had an idea, the market tells you if it’s great”. Sure, sweeping statement, but don’t get blinded by your own greatness, the market may be blind to it... sometimes willfully so!
The original post S2
What I'm about to tell you comes from painful experience, I've managed to bumble my way just about staying on top of the lessons and eventually becoming successful but it was definitely the hard way. The thing is that it seems almost everybody gets it wrong, no matter how many successful people, books, etc. tell them they should think about it differently. When I meet the guys that have managed to go 0 to 30 mil ARR in 9 months inevitably they did it the way that is recommended. The simplest version of it is that almost everybody who wants to create a startup thinks of a product and tries to create an MVP as the first thing and then we're wedded to our sunk cost. Creating a product before starting to sell is generally a huge mistake. I'm a techie, so this took a long time to really sink in surely I needed something to demo or that they could see but I was wrong. You don't actually need a product to sell it. We make an AI platform this was exactly the thing where we made product that solved a problem but there was no market yet so it was really painful for the first few years. Luckily AI hype got us funding. I'd previously made other products that just didn't sell at all and didn't have the hype to land funding with no sales. Now we're looking for the best trojan horse solution to build on our platform that gets solves a pressing need but gets them on our platform. We brainstormed ideas, target markets and roles and then the first thing we did was try to sell it. Create cohorts of target customers, measure response rates, engagement, actually run through the sales cycle. Now we've closed our first sale and we haven't even started to make the product yet. They don't pay unless we deliver but they want it so badly they're prepared to close the deal before we've even started making it. We also know that lots of other people in market love it. By this point what we're going to build has also evolved a lot from our initial brainstorms, by not having built something we said hey guys we think you have this problem is this a big problem for you? We were thinking this would be a great solution would that work for you? We're going to charge X and this is the business case does that make sense, would you pay it? As we got feedback we were able to rapidly evolve the proposition in a way you just can't when you've already built something. Start with selling, not building. You don't need an MVP. I've heard great stories about people operating a personal shopping "SaaS platform" where they started providing the service in person for what they planned to charge online, operated the whole thing from spreadsheets and then got funding and built the website. Funding is so much easier this way around as well. You take this approach and you say we sold to this many people at this cost, if we get funding we can increase operational efficiency like this scale sales like this and we'll make this new number. That is a million times easier than look at my cool product can I please have money so I can sell it. The challenge is that selling even great products is hard and a completely different skill to making a product, so there is a much higher failure rate in these types of investments. If you go product first and you don't have 10 B2B customers and a million in recurring revenue or 10k B2C users getting VC investment is hard. I have a friend that started product first, failed to get early traction, went through angel round after angel round. Finally got traction, got VC money, grew the business, got Sequoia to back them but if they sold now despite the company being worth 100 million he'd only get 3 million because he's been diluted so much through the angel rounds. The guys who start sales first still own the vast majority of their business. I met one guy that made 3 billion and never needed funding because his sales growth was so strong. Again, take it from a guy that took a long time to see the light, sell first, then build.
The Original Posts S3.
Hi guys! I wrote a little article about building a new product. Looking forward for your feedback! According to the statistic, 95% of the startups fail. It causes because of different reasons. However, the most spreading reason it’s unknowing of how to develop the product efficiently. Before building a new product, you need to know some steps of how to build your startup and launch to the market quickly.
1.Idea An idea worth nothing, but you should make sure that your solution is needed by other people, not just by you. You can prove your idea by talking to your target audience. Find out if they really need your product and how much they would be willing to pay for it. However, there are some things you should be aware of, which you can learn how to avoid by reading the book titled “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick . Later I’ll write an article with a summary of this book for our community. You can also use tools such as Wix, Tilda, etc. to validate your idea. At this stage, software development is barely a requirement.
2.POC POC, an acronym for proof of concept, is the first step to consider before moving ahead with the development process. As the name implies, proof of concept is proof that the idea is feasible and can be converted into a product. A proof-of-concept will cover a small part, not the entire system. Moreover, users will never get to see it because POCs are used internally to clarify which way to go with the development. You can also consider building a POC to get seed-stage funding.
3.Prototype A prototype is a draft version of the product that focuses on user experience and semantics. The word prototype originates from a Greek word that means “in a primitive form”. Similar to a POC, a prototype’s main purpose is to help you make decisions about product development and reduce the number of mistakes. However, there are key differences. While a POC offers you a model of just one aspect of the product, a prototype is a working model of several aspects of the product. The development team usually uses prototyping to discover errors in the system. By building a prototype, they test the product’s design, usability, and often functionality. With a proof of concept, you can’t do that, because it’s smaller and can verify only a single issue.
4.MVP MVP, an acronym for a minimum viable product, is a workable version resembling the final product but loaded with only the essential features. Any further product developments and feature additions are then based on continuous valuable feedback that flows in from end-users. As the MVP is delivered to the market right away, it has to be simple and well-polished, without any bugs or other problems. During the PoC, Prototype & MVP stages it’s better to outsource development, than use an in-house team, as you’ll probably need to do several iterations during the user-testing phase. While you test your solution, your developers won’t bet working, but the convention is to still pay them.
5.Product When you have gathered all the feedback from your customers and have made the product almost perfect for them, you should concentrate on marketing and sales. At this stage, it’s more important to build your in-house team, as you need to support your product, and add new features. Conclusion New product development is like experimenting with a vision in mind. It requires commitment, cadence, awareness, and knowledge of how you need to move ahead with the process. The process starts with laying the foundation right, i.e., idea, creating a proof of concept, and a prototype, followed by an MVP. At all of these stages, you should use your resources in a lean way. And always remember the phrase: "If you think, that you can't make something for free, think again :)" Good luck with launching your startups, folks!
Some response back and forth:
I enjoyed reading your post but seeing those vids made me instantly lose any credibility for your post. Practice what you preach.
I used to think that "maybe someone will buy what I made". It did not work. When I made something of world top notch quality and can beat everyone on the market, the dirty players win and the players with known brand win. Quality is hard.
That makes sense to me but then clicking the link was just underwhelming, I guess just hopefully you increase the production quality. But yeah best of luck mate.
Thanks for feedback, honestly. I know what you mean and will definitely try to improve. I will take time to reach the level of Jesus or CNN, although in theory "preaching to the unconverted" is very unwelcome job. "Story of minor failures" don't sell, but that is the vast vast majority and why it is fogging for many. It took me many years to realize how much bad influence the MVP concept is. Normally people don't dare to speakout because you will be down voted by the thousands. There is a reason people with real world visions don't speak. They are "aloof" and "no credibility" against the Edison and Jobs. So they never bother to speak, because what they saw can not be proven and can not be preached "scientifically" or "sensibally". that is why they say "the truth is in the hands of the few" and "startup is really lonely", because you see stuff no one believe or cares to listen. But you listened a bit, so thank you. People in Athens ordered Socrates killed. That is how brutal it is to preach. :-) Feel free to feed back in whatever way you feel comfortable. Everyone needs brutally honest opinions. Your post can have one more entry in the end, called "merchandise", and one after, called "commodity". Commodity is cheap, but hardest to make. So the MVP makers typically don't know that there is huge distance to cover. What I mean by "quality is hard", is that we are surrounded by high quality stuff, even a chair or a pressure treated wood plank from Home Depot. But we also are not taught in school or daily life that making those high quality stuff is hard. So it is not "making quality is hard", it is "most people are not that good". In 2020, our school is not teaching anything useful. That is the verdict. I and many people are victims but the schools with their books and syllabus and minted diploma business win. I can not win against them, but I will try.