Regardless of the area your startup operates in, be it a service business, a web app or a physical product (yes, that includes wallet ties), one thing is true: you need to start of with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This should not be news. But, it’s often hard to boil your grand world changing ideas down into something which by comparison is somewhat feeble. This guide should offer some help from my experiences.
Capture the Essence of your offering
What part of your product/service is the special new bit that none of your competitors do? I felt as though there were loads of ways in which my offering was the best and how on earth could I choose just one!? Working backwards from what your clients will experience is often the best way to do this.
For example, I once worked on a startup with a friend where we wanted to be able to use peoples body measurements to find clothing sizes. The ultimate goal was to do this from pictures or using an xbox kinect, but we had to boil this down. The goal for the service was getting a set of body measurements which we would use against clothing measurements and eliminate vanity sizing. The most basic way to do this was to allow people to order a free branded tape measure from us, and have a few diagrams showing them where to take measurements and enter them into our web app. All bells and whistles were removed.
Talking with people who aren’t familiar with your offering is a great way to work out what parts are the most compelling and what matters most to the people who might want to buy it. I found with my 3D photography company that potential clients were very concerned about how they could use 3D images in their various websites. As a result we made an embeddable viewer a priority and got that out as part of our MVP.
Stick to it
The quote in the title of this article (“Yeah, I would sell it, but it’s not quite ready yet”) is something I found myself saying far too often when I was in the early days of
Zoetrope. I was being too idealistic about what features I should be able to cram into my MVP.
Don’t allow extra “wouldn’t it be nice if you could X” features to slip in to your MVP – you don’t have the time or the money for that.
Pareto Knows best
Always remember Pareto’s Pinciple. 80% of the progress will occur in the first 20% of the time and the final 20% of the progress will take 80% of the time. I’ve found this to be universally true with all projects I’ve been involved with. In the case of MVP’s, making allowances for it will let you to finish sooner and start presenting your MVP to your potential customers.
Your MVP can often seem a bit embarrassing in retrospect. With Zoetrope, my current company we were lucky enough to get some work when I didn’t consider the MVP to really be ready. In the end we had to make some changes to our product as we went through the job, but the bottom line was that the MVP was ready and I was not ready to admit it to myself.
Since then we’ve been able to use that money to make improvements to our MVP and are even re-doing some of the previous work to get the offering up to the standard that we’re now happy with it. But I have no regrets about having an early job forced on me.