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  • Writer's pictureMasa Okunishi

What is an MVP?

In this series we’ve been exploring strange words like used in the design thinking and design sprint. Today, let’s turn our attention to word often used during discussions about startups. We know what a founder is and we know that founders create new products or services. So what is an MVP? Is there some strange relationship between a good baseball player and technology or design? Well, not quite.

In the technology world a MVP means minimal viable product which is:

- a simple prototype or working version of a solution to a problem. It is used as a learning tool to understand what the customer would really pay for.

- a core component of the Lean Startup methodology build-measure-learn feedback loop.

- an iterative approach to learn who the customer actually is, and what’s honestly required to delight them.

- also known as a Compelling Product Offering, which is the minimum feature set that would compel people pay you money.

- in the Tight Startup process, the Minimum Loveable Product is what evokes the strongest emotions in your potential customers.

Eric Reis, the author of The Lean Startup reminds founders that entrepreneurship, in a lean startup, is really a series of MVP’s, each designed to answer a specific question (hypothesis). Being systematic about these hypotheses is what customer development is all about. Through testing, each failed hypothesis leads to a new pivot, where we change just one element of the business plan (customer segment, feature set, positioning) – but don’t abandon everything we’ve learned. In order to work, these pivots have to be heading in a coherent direction, which is why vision is still such a critical part of entrepreneurship, even in a data-based decision making environment. (See “It’s a startup, not a spreadsheet” for more.)

Once the MVP is established, a startup can work on tuning the engine

How do you create a minimum viable product?

1. Figure out the problem that needs to be solved

2. Develop a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible. The MVP that will allow us to test a clear hypothesis we have about our product or strategy.

3. Measure the MVP impact in the marketplace using actionable metrics that help us analyze customer behavior.

4. Learn whether our original assumptions about the product, process, and customer needs were correct or whether we need to change strategies to better meet our vision.

Examples of MVPs.

1. 90 second Explainer video: what your product does and why people should buy it.

2. Landing page: quickly describe the value of your offering, answer questions, ask the visitor to action.

3. Manual MVP: website that looks like a working product, but you manually carry out the functions.

4. Concierge MVP: a manual service that consists of exactly the same steps people would go through with your product.

5. Crowdfund: Sell it before you build it”. Launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or RocketHub.

Would you like to read more about making an MVP

Do you have a product, service or business idea that you would like to develop? Sign up for the IF Newsletter to be notified about upcoming workshops. Learn how to make it real! Offered by @ifconnyc and facilitated by

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