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Build an MVP (Not Everything but the Kitchen Sink)

The Challenge

One of the top mishaps we see with startups getting off the ground is trying to build everything but the kitchen sink. At this early stage, it’s easy to dream big about what could be – those sleek UI elements that’ll jazz up a user’s experience, that nice-to-have that would really make the product pop, and the handful of features needed just to meet comp. You’re vision-boarding what your business will look like – which naturally means that you’re thinking about those key market differentiators, and the polish that you’d expect from a fully-fledged product.

But watch out – while this is all critical to making your business a long-term success, trying to building too much for an MVP can kill your product.

MVP = Minimally Viable Product

Consider the Pareto principle. In this case, we tend to see that 80% of the action happens in 20% of the product. That 20% is your MVP, and will capture most of what users will ultimately get to do with the product. The other 80% may be necessary to the product’s ultimate success, but isn’t necessary for launch. Ask yourself – are these features necessary for the product to be usable at launch? By necessary, we mean will the product cease to function without them or lose its core value proposition? Or could they be added in V2 or V3?

A Lean, Mean, MVP Machine

So why does this all matter? Why not just build the product as you envision it for round 1? A few reasons for this: 1) Time, 2) Cost, and 3) Investment.

  1. Time: The longer you take to get to market with an MVP, the longer it’ll take you to start turning a profit, and the more runway you’ll need to self-fund.
  2. Cost: The more features you add, the more expensive your MVP will be.
  3. Investment: The purpose of an MVP is to test the market – do they really want your product? What do they like / dislike? Is it solving the problems you thought it would? If it turns out you’re wrong, by building an MVP, you won’t have invested all your $$s in a product that isn’t quite right. It’s easier to add features that you KNOW are right, rather than test features that might be wrong and have to go back and re-work them.

Ultimately, your biggest asset as a startup is your ability to be fast and flexible. You may not have all the money in the world, but you can do things quickly to respond to the market. Learn something new about a competitor? Change your product. Partnership opportunity just came up? Add the one feature they need to make it happen. Not quite sure what customers want? Test your hypothesis on the cheap, then pivot if you’re wrong.

The net-net

The purpose of an MVP is to test an idea with your market. Building a lean MVP saves you time and money, and gives you the flexibility to change course if needed. Features can always be added later when you have the resources to do so, and the market validation that you should.

Ready to streamline, but don’t want to lose track of those extra features? Sign up for our email list to get a preview of our upcoming post on  how to create your product roadmap.

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