Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsHey, you have a great product that everyone just has to buy. Well, rarely entrepreneurs get the product right for the first time. It usually saves a lot of time and money if you do not develop the entire product or service first and then try to sell it. Rather you could, at an early stage and with low cost, test whether your consumers would actually adopt your solution. Today, we will discuss the Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. The MVP is an essential part in opportunity development. An MVP is a prototype of your product or service that is designed to deliver the maximum amount of insights for further development. Consider the donuts.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsYou were baking an entire set of nicely decorated donuts for your friends only to find out later that no one would eat them. You could have saved a lot of time and effort by baking simple donuts and then seeing if your friends liked them. So that you can really see if your friend liked donuts or not, you should of course make sure that they are not put off by poor quality or lack of key features. From a lean startup perspective, MVPs help you to test the assumption that user needs will be satisfied with the solution that you propose. To use MVP, you need to know about its main functions and its types.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsThere are two general types of MVP -- example MVP and real world MVP depending on whether customers' problems are already getting solved by the MVP. Landing page is the page which serves as the entry point for a website. A good landing page explains the product offer in a clear manner and places visual emphasis on the value of the product or service presented. You can use a landing page to collect contact information of potentially interested users and assess conversion rates-- that is from those who looked at the page to those that signed up for more information-- and to A/B test different configuration software solution.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 secondsThe logic behind a landing page as an MVP is that if you cannot get potential users to sign up for more information, it is very unlikely that you will find paying customers later. Landing pages can be built and hosted easily with existing web services. A video MVP is a video that explains how a product or service may work. The Dropbox example is a famous example of a video MVP. Here, the founding team mimicked the functionality of rapid file sharing across platforms. At that time, they did not yet have all the technology. The video raised a lot of interest from potential users. A wire frame is a schematic design of a web page or an app.

Skip to 2 minutes and 53 secondsIt represents the basic functionality of the software and gives the users an idea about the look and feel. For constructing wire frames, you can use web services or paper prototyping. Second group of MVP are those where the user receives the real solution to the problem. We distinguish Wizard of Oz MVP and concierge MVP. In the Wizard of Oz MVP, the customer is not aware that the solution is not yet delivered by technology but by humans. Consider Zappos. The founder tested the assumption whether people would buy shoes online. He set up a workshop but bought the shoes personally at shoe stores and shipped them. This way, he saved the time and cost for setting up a logistics centre.

Skip to 3 minutes and 40 secondsIn the concierge MVP, the user knows that the solution is delivered by humans. You closely follow the user when they solve a need and establish a close connection. The user provides you with rich information of how they're using and reacting to your product, and you can quickly adapt your offering. An example of a concierge MVP was Airbnb. At first, three people stayed at the founder's place. This gave first of the support of the hypothesis of whether people would like to stay at other people's places rather than hotels. These type of MVP help you to test your assumptions about your product offering. MVP are an essential part of opportunity development.

How to use the concept of Minimal Viable Product

You can can test whether your proposed solution will satisfy the needs of your customers or users in different ways.

The Lean Startup Method suggests to use MVPs, Minimum Viable Products, for testing the needs of your customer. “Viable” does not mean that the products actually need to work – it means that the MVP should be elaborate enough to get customer/user responses on whether your solution would satisfy their needs, but not so elaborate that it costs significant time and effort to build it.

An MVP can do much for testing customer/user acceptance. Basically it is a prototype, defined as “ … any representation of a (design) idea, regardless of the medium“ (Houde & Hill, 1997, p. 369). Prototypes can also:

  • Increase users’ sense of involvement: when users can interact and “play” with your prototype, it becomes their “baby” as well. They become emotionally attached, and feel taken serious. This will increase their propensity to buy later.
  • Create a shared understanding of the offer among the members of the entrepreneurial team. Visualizations are a powerful tool to share what is really meant by your offering. “A picture says more than a thousand words.
  • Help to better estimate time, costs, skills and resources needed for the development of the final offering.

There are also downsides of prototypes:

  • You can become attached to the prototype, and not consider further approaches to satisfy customer needs.
  • One particular dimension of attachment is that you can fall prone to the “local search bias”: You may narrow down your search for solutions to those that are similar to the prototype.
  • You may promise too much and cannot realize everything that you prototype.

References

Buchenau, M., Fulton Suri, J., (2000). Experience Prototyping. Paper presented at the 3rd conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques. New York.

Houde, S., Hill, C., (1997). What do prototypes prototype? In: M. Helander, T. K. Landauer, P. Prabhu (Eds.). Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction. Elsevier, pp. 367-381.

Keinz, P., Prügl, R., (2010). A user community-based approach to leveraging technological competences: An exploratory case study of a technology start-up from MIT. Creativity and Innovation Management, 19, 269-289.

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