If you’re a start up looking to test the waters in your market, then you need to think hard about your Minimal Viable Product.

A Minimal Viable Product – or MVP – is a term to describe how you can get an idea to market with as little work, and financial outlay, as possible. I’ve been helping people plan websites for 15 years and most techpreneurs have a hard time deciding what elements of their brain child they can leave until Phase 2 as they feel all the pieces of the puzzle are essential to their product’s success.

My job is generally to reign in their ideas and help them plan something which does the essentials, whilst sticking to a realistic budget – to help them plan their MVP.

Sometimes though a plan for a MVP can be a bit more radical than skipping a few features or saving things for a Phase 2. When you stop to think about it, how minimal can you really go? Some schools of thought even wonder if the “P” in “MVP” should be an “E” for “Experiment” – maybe you don’t need a minimal viable product, you actually just need an experiment to test your theory. And that’s where you can get creative!

I recently came across this video of some great examples of MVPs – or “MVEs”; some think that the P of Product could be replaced with an E for experiment, as after all, the point is to see if your idea is worth investing in. The video also talks about how a true MVP needs to be something that a tech start up – or any start up – was using to genuinely test a market. So a MVP isn’t something that was actually a fully fledged product that was then released to market and excelled.

In his video, Gary from Development that Pays, tells how social network Buffer started out with just a sales page, with no product behind it, to test if people were interested in the concept – so they didn’t really have any product at all. Meanwhile DropBox were a bit further along when they did their MVP tests – they had the basic functionality sorted but they had a long way to go to make a product that could work for all potential users. So they made a video – no one could use anything, but they could see what was on the horizon. Aimed at first adopters with lots of techie “in jokes” it grew their waiting list of website sign ups from 5,000 to 75,000. (Of course not everyone can get their video seen by 75,000 people so it’s not just that simple, but it’s still an approach to keep in mind.)

The last example in the video is perhaps the most entertaining. It’s about zappos.com – an online shoe shop which originally was nothing but a cheaply thrown together website with no stock behind it. Nick Swinmurn took photos of shoes in a local shoe shop and everytime someone placed an order through his site, he went to the shoe shop and bought the shoes and sent them on. Minimal – no suppliers to organise or stock outlay; viable – it worked, it drove orders and money changed hands – and practically a product; it was at least a pre-meditated attempt to prove a market. Zappos.com was sold to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. 

So if you’re at the stage of looking for funding or investment, or are even just thinking about your tech start up idea, question how low can you really, really go? How simple can you start off? And do get in touch if we can help with your fledgling idea!

Photo by Kevin Ku from Pexels