What is MVP Development?
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. There are several different definitions of what that actually means but my favorite is: the simplest product you need to acquire your first paying customer. It’s a basic version of your final vision which covers just the core components, features and most critical needs of end users.
The idea behind defining and building a simpler MVP is to bring this in front of customers as quickly as possible and use their feedback to dictate the direction of future development. Simultaneously, it allows entrepreneurs to validate their assumptions and see if their idea floats on the market.
As an example, if you were to launch Instagram today, the MVP would be very simple. Instagram’s business thesis was that users needed a platform to take and share professional quality photos. It wouldn’t be nearly as feature rich as the platform is today with advertising, stories, direct messaging and it’s recommendation engine. Instagram’s original MVP allowed users to upload a photo, apply a filter and add it to their profile. Hence, the core features are:
- Sign up
- Sign in
- Upload a photo
- Apply a filter
- Share with your friends
- Log out
Narrowing down on your thesis and feature set allows you to put the MVP in front of users ASAP. Users’ interaction and feedback on the MVP helps you, the entrepreneur, identify whether your business thesis was accurate and ideally start generating revenue as soon as possible. The idea is to test an idea as inexpensively as possible against the market to see if it has legs.
Byldd has pre-built modules for most common use cases and features like sign in, sign up, image upload, sharing, and many more. We provide these for free to all entrepreneurs that work with us to build their products. In the Instagram example, we’d be able to launch a basic MVP using our tools in less than 5 days.
Why you should start your business with an MVP?
A Minimum Viable Product gives an organization the ability to measure end-user engagement and determine if there is product-market fit inexpensively before investing additional time & money in development and marketing.
The biggest advantage by far is that it puts your product in the hands of customers very early and allows you to start making data-driven decisions when it comes to creating your product roadmap. Instead of saying “I think users are going to like feature X; let’s build it” you will be able to say “85% of our users will pay $10 extra for feature X; let’s build it”.
Furthermore, since you’re launching it quickly, you’ll also be able to start earning revenue faster than if you waited to launch a more robust product. In my experience, I’ve generally found that users will pay for and find a way to work with a ugly, buggy product if it solves a real problem for them.
Using an MVP also helps you raise money and reduces the risk of your own personal capital. Investors love to put money into a model that has been tested and works - building an MVP and with a small customer base allows you to prove to investors that you’ve found product market fit and raise money at much more favorable investment terms.
In the worst case, MVPs allow you to fail quickly and inexpensively. It’s a much cheaper lesson to learn that no one wants your MVP than learning that no one wants your fully fleshed out product that you spent 3 years and $100K developing. Entrepreneurs are a resilient breed though, so a failing MVP isn’t as fatal as it sounds. A failed MVPs rarely means giving up. It just allows entrepreneurs to iterate faster and turn it into a product customers actually do want.
MVP Development Process (Step by step)
Every startup idea starts with a business thesis. This is the core idea - the problem and the solution you’re trying to build for it. Generally, it comes from historical personal or professional experience. For example, this is why so many college students/fresh graduates work on solving problems in the job search space and professionals find problems to solve in their respective verticals. By the way, Byldd’s technology is completely industry and vertical agnostic which means that it will work for you irrespective of the domain of your product.
Once you have your initial idea and have started thinking about using technology to solve that problem, it’s time to start doing some market research.
1. Market Research
You need to get a general idea of whether your product will have demand if you launch it tomorrow. What you’re looking for is expressions of frustration or dissatisfaction with the status quo. You can start this on google/quora/reddit to see if your potential customers have publicly expressed their unhappiness. You should also dedicate time doing 1 to 1 customer interviews with potential customers in your network to really narrow down pain points and understand what you’re solving for.
2. Identifying your core features
Now that you’ve identified what problem you’re trying to solve, it’s time to narrow your vision down to the core set of things that need to work for your users to be able to find value in your product, take out their wallets and pay you.
A very common mistake founders make is that they add several ‘nice to have’ features on their MVP, incorrectly thinking that stuffing it full of ‘cool things’ would make users more likely to convert to paying customers. This usually leads to an overdeveloped, overcomplicated product that users don’t know how to use.
In general, KISS - narrow your focus to the core problem you’re trying to solve and solve it well. Users will jump through a surprising number of hoops, bad user experiences and clutter if you truly solve a pain point. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter how many cool features you have - you’re not gonna get any traction unless your product solves a critical problem.
3. Identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs)
Establishing clear and specific metrics that will help you measure success. What will tell you that your MVP is successful? Coming back to the Instagram MVP, you could measure a couple of things:
- The number of pictures users took
- The number of pictures users uploaded
- How much time users spent on the app
Ultimately, your KPIs depend on what your revenue model is going to be. If it’s advertising driven, your north star metric would probably be engagement and the time users spend on the app. If you’re working on a SaaS product, you’re likely going to focus on the number of signups, the number of users that convert to full users after the free trial, etc.
4. Develop the MVP
This is probably the simplest part of the process. You can either learn to code yourself and build a product, try to find a co-founder (this will likely not work unless you have some really strong supporting evidence or bring something to the table besides your idea) or hire an agency to build it yourself. I wrote something about the trade offs of these different approaches here.
Byldd is a specialist development agency that focuses on helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch revenue generating MVPs. Reach out to us here.
5. Receiving feedback and analyzing results
This is the most important part of the MVP development process. This step is the real test of the viability of your startup idea & will eventually provide a roadmap for full-scale product development.
The KPIs decided earlier come into play now - did your MVP succeed based on the goals you set earlier? Were you able to acquire paying customers? If not, what made them reluctant to pay? If you did, congratulations - you’re inching closer to product market fit!
It’s important to measure both qualitatively and quantitatively. Your KPIs are great quantitative indicators. They should be supplemented by continuous customer interviews and direct feedback.
Based on the answer to those questions, you can plan the next iteration of your product and test it’s success against KPIs and customer feedback.
Pros and Cons of MVP Development
MVPs help businesses validate and test their ideas quickly and inexpensively. However, there may be some drawbacks to this approach, particularly for established companies… first time founders generally don’t need to worry about this too much.
If you’re an established company servicing a well defined customer base, you’re generally unable to release a less than fully fleshed-out product. This means that the MVP approach may not work for your company and customers if they’re expecting something as robust as your existing products. As mentioned, this isn’t a problem for first time founders because, by definition, they don’t have an existing customer base.
Alternatively, if you’re building a product that is dependent on virality to grow, you shouldn’t release a product that isn’t fully-featured. For example, we worked with a company that already had really strong relationships with influencers and virality was guaranteed - the MVP approach was not recommended for them. We still developed an MVP for it’s private beta launch, used feedback to improve the experience and made it robust before we opened it to the public. Generally though, relying on virality for growth isn’t a dependable strategy for most first-time entrepreneurs and should be avoided.
Overall, building fast and cheap is the best way for companies to establish themselves, validate their assumptions and maximize their chances of survival. Remember that 9 in 10 companies fail to return investor money and out of those, the single biggest reason for startup failure is no demand for the product. MVP are the best tool to help mitigate that risk.
Time Required and Budget
The investment for an MVP typically depends on a number of factors. Ultimately, it comes down to how many developer hours you need to build a product that is good enough to get paying customers. The simpler the product, the less developer hours you need and smaller your investment is going to be.
Some of the factors that affect developer hours are:
- Supported Platforms (browser/web, iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, etc)
- Number and complexity of the core features
- Complexity of the design
- Number and complexity of 3rd-party integrations
Typically this can be anywhere from $30K to $50K and take 3 to 6 months, depending on the geography and experience of the development team.
Byldd, however, specializes in launching MVPs and can usually do it for under $10K and within a month. There are a couple of factors that let us do this. First of all, we have standardized and created modules for common functionalities. Things like login, registration, payments, subscriptions and more work out of the box and don’t cost any extra developer dollar or time. Beyond that, we have a really robust (read intense) process where we are in constant touch with founders, doing bi-weekly user experience reviews and product demos to make sure everyone is on the same page and we maintain development velocity.