If you’re planning a start up, you’ve probably heard of the expression “MVP” – Minimum Viable Product. It means start with the smallest version of your tool possible.

Why start with a MVP?

The main reason you start with a MVP is that you need to test the waters. There are some (entertaining) great examples of MVPs that take the “minimal” to the extreme, as well as the story Alberto Savoia tells in his book Pretotype about IBM. They apparently wanted to test how popular their speech recognition software was, so they got a group of volunteers to help with an experiment. They invited them to speak to their computers, which promptly displayed on the screen what the volunteer had just said. The results were amazingly accurate and the volunteers were incredibly impressed by the software. However, they said they wouldn’t actually want to use the software in real life as they didn’t want to talk out loud in their office. Luckily, the “software” was actually a group of hidden typists, typing up what was being said. This meant IBM knew the product wasn’t a good idea (at that time) before they spent bazillions of dollars developing it.

Having a good MVP allows you to test the market, gather feedback and know whether it’s worth investing more time and money into your idea.

However, there is another important reason why a MVP might be your best way forward.

Tackle the overwhelm

2020 has been a tough year. Whether you’ve been home schooling, missing family, shielding, isolating, facing / experiencing redundancy, or “just” feeling unsettled, it’s been hard for everyone. So perhaps that’s why this is the year I’ve first noticed a real issue of overwhelm hitting start up clients. 

When you’re trying to start a new tech start up, or any business, there is a lot to think about. And it can quickly become overwhelming and prove difficult to see the woods for the trees. Seeing this in clients this year partly influenced my Perfectionist or Procrastinator? blog post a few weeks ago.

This is where your MVP comes back in. Break down what you need to launch with – think what the bare minimum really is. You’ll probably need someone to help you, with fresh eyes, see what that is as if you’ve been eating, drinking, breathing and dreaming your product  or idea for months, you’ll think it’s all essential (sorry to break it to you, but it’s probably not).

I had a 90 minute chat with a start up client this week, who – by her own admittance – had somewhat lost her mojo. After we’d talked and I’d set her “home work” of what she actually needed to do to get back on track, she realised she didn’t need to be thinking about half as much as she thought she needed to. It was great to hear how excited she felt after our chat and how inspired she was to carry on again, now she knew how small her next step actually needed to be. Everything felt more achievable. In her case, I’m probably going to be suggesting her MVP to her, but she’s now got a better idea of what’s needed from her in order to let me suggest how the MVP could look. And if we keep it simple each step of the way, that overwhelm needn’t set back in again – during the planning, design, build or launch.

Once you know what your essentials really are, you can focus on those and just those. Give your brain a rest from thinking about everything else that can follow later. GIve yourself some breathing space from all that content you needed to write or additional funding you needed to find for the bigger project. Keep things simple and get some headspace back. Headspace is so valuable for ensuring that what you do is the best it can be – if you’re stifled creatively, you may be just throwing out a big bland product rather than a brilliant smaller one, with potential to grow.

Remember that what you launch with doesn’t need to be the full product – reign in your ideas and give yourself a chance to launch anything rather than just get swamped in ideas so that nothing ever actually reaches fruition.