October 1, 2020

The MVP Approach: How to Turn a Basic Idea Into Your Startup’s Roadmap

Madison Yocum

At the early stages of your company’s creation, it can be incredibly easy to underestimate the power of your ideas--and more specifically, your foundational ideas. You might be staring down a road with many different thoughts and goals but with no specific route telling you how to pull them together...and that is the critical time for you to utilize your ‘MVP.’

MVP stands for ‘Minimum Viable Product,’ and it is a technique used in the development of a new product that essentially allows you to troubleshoot and refine your app, web platform, or digital product, so that you can capitalize on customer value. An MVP is based on your current business objective, and will allow you to craft a ‘bare minimum’ solution to test with users.⁣ Think about Twitter, Spotify, and Amazon...they are just a few of the billion dollar companies that began as an MVP in their early stages of development!

So how do you get started?

Start with the basics: usually there is going to be a core problem that you are trying to solve. Brainstorm and ask yourself questions such as; what is the exact purpose of my MVP? What problem is being solved? For design, what key user interface elements are needed? Keep your focus on your core issue, and build on it. 

As a side note, you should be creating a ‘bare minimum’ product--no more, and no less. You are looking to capitalize on customer feedback by putting in the least amount of effort. This is a philosophy that you should be living by at this stage in your development. Remember, it’s a minimum viable product, not a maximum viable product! Also make sure that you keep the viable part of your MVP. Viability translates to success, so the key here is to keep the task for a user smaller in scale compared to testing a whole product. Try to focus on one key feature of a few steps to see how a user interacts, collect feedback, and change your direction based on the results.⁣

Throughout my career so far,  I’ve found it to be super helpful to try to consistently put myself in the shoes of my potential consumers, and approach the building process from their angle. Because this is ultimately going to be the group of people that either sink-or-swim my product, it is important to invest some time and thought into figuring out how my new ideas can help change the course of their everyday life. It is also important to keep in mind that your target audience is going to come from all walks of life, and some will not be familiar at all with anything related to the tech industry. Make sure you account for them too!

Always analyze and research

Take note of other products and apps that are similar to yours that exist in the market or are currently being tested in the market, and solidify what you can do to capitalize on their weaknesses and set yourself apart. 

Once you have some solid research completed and some ideas solidified, you’ll want to officially enter the testing stage. For example, launching your app. Remember-- focus on one key feature instead of testing multiple, because it will be harder to determine what is successful and what isn’t. If your features suit your users, great!! Keep moving forward and keep improving. If they do not suit your users, that is also great too, because now you know what not to do. Fix it and keep moving forward. 

Plan for the future

It’s always a huge risk to create a new product and jump head first into the market. However, that is the beauty of your MVP. You will not have to waste months--or even years-- of time, energy, and money. You will be able to create a base model, release it, gather information, and innovate. Analyze your feedback and responses that you get from consumers, and listen to them. 

You want to create an MVP that has value. You not only want to capture your target audience and draw them into your product, but you also want this value to capture the attention of potential investors. Don’t allow your MVP to fail. Don’t blow off your user audience. Launch early, and keep it simple.

Written for founders
and designers

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