Startup & MVPBY RabIT software engineering · June 24, 2019

Introduction

Many of us dream about becoming self-made successes, entrepreneurs to finally free ourselves from our 9-5 jobs and turn our dreams into a reality. Today, the internet is littered with success stories about people who have already made it big and became millionaires, hundred millionaires, billionaires even.

The path to achieving breakout success sounds simple when you hear the story of someone who already has it all figured out. However, finding the right way is much harder if you are starting from scratch. A startling amount of entrepreneurs never achieve their ultimate goals. According to statistics, only 30% of small businesses make it past their 10th anniversary.

To improve the odds of success, more and more entrepreneurial journeys start out with a simple Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

 

What Is a Minimum Viable Product?

The term was introduced as one of the core principles of the lean startup methodology.

An MVP is the initial version of your product that only has the core features that are essential to solving an existing problem for your prospective customers. Your minimum viable product helps you gather important feedback and estimate market interest from the earliest stages of your business. More complex features are only added in later iterations, based on the received user feedback and the development of market demand.

A minimum viable product can be a simple web or mobile application, website or a single landing page.

what is minimum viable product development

Illustration of minimum viable product development

 

MVP Benefits

A minimum viable product enables you to:

  • test a product hypothesis with minimal resources
  • accelerate learning in your organization
  • reduce necessary development hours
  • reach your actual market as soon as possible
  • decrease the risks of investment
  • establish your brand to users quickly

 

Researching and Verifying the MVP Idea

Verifying the business idea itself is a crucial step that absolutely must come before you rush into any kind of development project. You can significantly decrease the risk of investment by double checking if there is enough interest on the market for your solution.

Not even a company like Google could get away with selling a product that had no clear product-market fit (ehm… Google Glass).

Your new product or service has to offer a much needed solution for a need (or problem) that is being underserved by competitors or not served at all by anyone. You also have to make sure that the problem is pressing enough to justify the price of your solution in the eyes of potential customers.

 

Minimum viable product market fit

Source:   leanstartup.co

A good cautionary tale here could be Juicero, Silicon Valley’s smart juicer that squeezes disposable packets of liquified fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients into cups. Even with 4 funding rounds and close to $120 million of total funding, they couldn’t justify the $400 price tag for a web-connected device the basically empties a drink from a bag. The company went bottoms up less than 4 years after its founding.

Know what it costs to deliver your product (materials, rent, salaries, etc.) and to acquire customers who will pay to use that product (CAC – customer acquisition cost). All these costs have to be included in your pricing as well. While breaking even helps you consistently pay the bills, it won’t be enough to become a top player in your industry. Be sure that your costs are still reasonable to customers even after adding your profit margin.

According to smallbiztrends.com, only 40% of small businesses are profitable, 30% break even and 30% are continually losing money.

 

startup profitability - minimum viable product guide

 

The initial verification usually isn’t enough to prove that your business will be sustainable on the long run. That part will be up to your actual MVP.

You can get really creative with your idea verification methods. Use every tool at your disposal to measure the buzz around your idea. These examples are accessible to everyone for little or no expense:

  • Google search
  • Google Trends
  • Landing pages
  • Explainer videos
  • User testing

Start by identifying your key customer profile and creating buyer personas. This should help you visualize your ideal client base and customize your marketing messaging to better fit their specific needs. Do your best to reach out to as many people who fit this profile as you can.

What does the minimum viable product development process look like?

Minimum viable product development has to result in a product that delivers real value to its users is a complex process that may vary depending on your industry, product type, user base and so on. For the sake of clarity, we will break the MVP development process down to the following steps:

I. Setting a hypothesis

Hypothesis-based decision making helps you avoid basing your product idea on false assumptions and prejudices.

While it might seem like a billion-dollar idea to produce a smart salt shaker with Bluetooth technology, it can’t hurt to double check first. Just to be sure.

Using this method to come up with a business idea should guarantee that it will be based on real-life demand. A good hypothesis must be:
– easily testable,
– clear and measurable,
– either clearly true or false.

The most simplified template for such a hypothesis would look something like this:

 

If [cause], then [effect], because [reason].

 

Example: If we develop an app for broadcasting nostalgic content for people born before 1970, then we can get 50,000 people to sign up for a free trial by the end of 2020, because research data shows us that 80s and 90s nostalgia is very captivating to our target audience.

Once you have gathered sufficient evidence proving that your hypothesis is true, you can start planning product development with much greater certainty.

 

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II. Selecting technologies

Minimum viable product development can be done with any modern-day programming language. However, it is crucial that you decide from the start whether or not you are planning to develop an MVP, or a full-fledged software product. If you choose the MVP route, you should go with technologies that are highly flexible and scalable.

Due to the evolving nature of an early MVP, developers need to be able to easily make changes to the source code at all times. By choosing modern and frequently updated tech in the planning stage, you can make your team’s life much easier when it comes to implementing these changes.

You should always choose the technology your team is most comfortable with. If you are open for suggestions though, here are a few pointers:

Micro-service architectures carry great benefits for MVP development. These micro-services are comprised of small modules that communicate with each other, and sometimes with the user as well. By using modular builds we are able to decompose an application into different smaller services. This makes the application easier to understand, develop, test and become more resilient to changes in the architecture itself.

Thanks to the independently functioning modules, multiple autonomous teams can work on development at the same time. This alone can help speed up the project significantly.

 

monolithic vs microservice minimum viable product

Source:    bmc.com

 

However, if you are developing a really minimalistic MVP with a small team, and scalability is not a top priority yet, we would rather recommend using monolithic architecture. Its main benefits are faster development and lower hardware requirements.

Also, the developed application will be self-contained and independent from other computing applications. Later on, if scalability becomes important and more developers join the team, it should be separated into micro-services though.

A lot of developers would disagree with using monolithic architecture for MVP development today. It may be falling out of popularity, but we believe there are still cases where it’s the right call. Instead of selecting the most popular option, this decision should be made according to product strategy and technical requirements.

Language-wise we ourselves prefer to use Java, since that is what our team has the most experience with. We have also started using Go (or Golang) recently, thanks to its speed and ability to produce small, static binaries. These really come in handy if you are working with micro-services.

Regardless of the selected technologies, you can build a top-quality MVP if you invest the time and energy into planning your project properly. You can only make your development team’s life easier if you choose a modern and frequently updated language.

One of the most common pitfalls of this process is not having a clear vision of a specific end goal and focus on the most critical features.

 

 

III. Product feature development

Choosing these key features may sound easy enough, but is not always so straightforward. This is why you needed to do all that research first, and verify your concept before moving on to product development.

If you already have a good understanding about your market, the development process itself should look something like this:

  1. Define product requirements
  2. Plan and assign development tasks
  3. Feature development and testing
  4. Live release
  5. Product evolution (repeat 1-4)

 

Try to look at product development as a cycle instead of a linear process. In this example, the live release doesn’t happen when development is finished, it happens when the MVP functions on a satisfactory level. Your product still needs to evolve through future iterations. Current features will have to be tweaked or scrapped if necessary, new features might have to be added, etc. In some cases, development may continue throughout the entire product life cycle.

Have you heard about the location-based iPhone app called Burbn? It allowed its users to check in at particular locations, plan future check-ins, earn points for hanging out with friends, and post pictures of these meet-ups.

 

burbn minimum viable product

 

The app wasn’t doing too well after its initial release. After analyzing their users’ activity more closely, the creators found out that people were mostly using Burbn to share photos. They weren’t using the check-in features at all. The app was just too complicated, and came with a lot of features that users found unnecessary.

The team finally decided to act on their data, focus on the photo-sharing feature and throw out everything else. This app is called Instagram today.

This is a good example for why it is essential to involve real users in the development process from the early stages.

Our team places a great emphasis on product evolution as well. Here is what the development cycle usually looks like for us:

minimum viable product development cycle

 

IV. Testing

Continuous testing is one of the key principles of validated learning, which is used to mitigate the considerable risk of launching a new product. There are over 30,000 new consumer products released each year, and 95% fail, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen.

We recommend that, apart from testing software functionality, you should also start usability testing as early as possible. This is important because even a perfectly functioning product can be misinterpreted by users due to confusing layouts, unclear documentation or faulty user interface design.

 

user vs usability testing

Source: medium.theuxblog.com

 

Normally, software doesn’t get released until it is complete and working just as intended. Although a minimum viable product is intentionally released in an incomplete state, it is still expected to work flawlessly in the hands of users. It basically has to be much lighter than a complete software, but still has to seem just as stable. This requires continuous feature testing in every development phase.

The development team must include testing during and between sprints (iteration periods in continuous Agile software development cycles). Sprint length and frequency usually varies depending on client needs. For some clients we test each development task individually, others only require testing at the end of a sprint. We always use the same platform for this purpose that we use for development as well.

Minimum viable products are beneficial long-term, in part because the high user expectations result in a high-quality product that is thoroughly tested down to the smallest detail.

 

V. Collecting data and analyzing a hypothesis

The point of minimum viable product development is to collect user feedback, analyze this data and finally act on it through future product iterations. As your prototype becomes stable enough to be put into the hands of real users, you must also have the necessary data collection channels and tools in place.

To identify your key audience and focus on their needs as accurately as possible, you will need to measure their demographic (age, gender, location, etc.) and behavioral data (device usage, interests, preferences and such).

Remember that all data collection practices on your website and applications must be done with consent from the user.

The most widely-used data collection methods are:

1. Third party data collection services already available on the market

There are a number of ready-to-use tools out there such as Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, Hotjar, Optimizely and others, which can help you collect useful behavioral data about your website and apps.

Unfortunately, these tools may have some drawbacks for clients in EU countries. GDPR regulation now limits what types of data can be collected and under what circumstances. This means that you probably won’t be able to use them to their full potential.

You can also gather useful data from the App Store or Play Store if you are planning to release a mobile app.

2. Built-in custom data collection features

With integrated monitoring features you can measure and analyze almost any element of your product at this stage. You can keep track of which software features people are using, where and when they are using them.

We usually recommend to our clients to build a reporting page where they can organize all relevant data and visualize it so it can be presented to the whole team.

Again, it is crucial to remember to disclose all information about your data collection and management practices in your privacy policy.

Also make sure that your methodologies are in line with GDPR regulation for EU countries.

3. Surveys that ask users for in-depth feedback directly

E-mail and pop-up surveys are still one of the most useful ways to collect information about user satisfaction and recommendations. You can use them to get answers you can’t find by just monitoring behavior.

Be careful not to annoy your users with too many such requests and ruin their user experience though.

 

VI. Launch

Your minimum viable product is ready for launch when all the minimum requirements are fully developed. The product must be of satisfactory quality and without any critical usability errors by this point. You should know whether or not this is true from the results of previous testing.

Product testing and evolution doesn’t stop after the minimum viable product phase either. It is up to your product team now to listen to your customers, find ways to deliver even more value to them and integrate the necessary changes through future development iterations.

 

build measure learn cycle mvp

 

Remember, if you get your finger off the pulse of the market, you can quickly lose touch with your customers’ needs and allow competitors to swoop in.

Keep in mind, that developing a flawlessly working app with beautiful design does not automatically make it successful. You also need a strategy to acquire and continuously grow your initial user base. This topic deserves a whole article of its own.

Be sure to remember that a half-completed app with a steadily growing user base is always more valuable than a 100% finished application that nobody uses.

 

Summary

Successful minimum viable product development requires careful planning from the early stages, and close monitoring throughout the development process.

While there can be a lot of money involved later on, getting rich fast must not be the only motivation for minimum viable product development. If your new product truly helps people improve their lives, or the way they work, your chances at success are already much higher.

Be careful not to rush into development with only an idea. Do your best to back it up first through market research and concept testing.

Once you’ve decided that you want to develop an MVP version, stick to this decision throughout the development phases. Pay close attention to how your customers use the product or service, and plan each following evolution stage accordingly.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

WebBY RabIT software engineering · September 11, 2018

Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) help you gather important feedback and estimate market interest. The MVP is the initial version of your product that only has the core features that are essential to solving an existing problem for your prospective customers. Methods like the Wizard of Oz MVP, Concierge MVP or the Piecemeal MVP and others have are proven successful in measuring early interest.

This first version needs very little investment of resources into product development. MVPs can be immensely useful if you want to validate your product on the market as early as possible.

A few weeks ago, we talked about ways to validate your business idea, and why it is important to do so.

This model has contributed to the development of various tools and methods that can function as MVPs. Examining the pros and cons of each solution for your business will help you select the right type of MVP.

 

1. Landing Page

A landing page can help you acquire early followers, tell people about your product idea and even collect revenue for future product development. You can tell about your project in detail, present its advantages and ask people to support your project. If they like your product idea, they might become your first subscribers.

You can also get users’ feedback with the help of a landing page. This will help you to know your target audience and their opinion. You may also get suggestions that will help you make your product better.

 

landing page mvp

 

Pros

  • Can be set up cheaply and quickly
  • Can easily be matched with online ads
  • Can be tested and optimized easily

Cons

  • The conversion rate is low (about 1-3% of people sign up)
  • Hard to fit all vital information into one page
  • Cheap looking landing pages can hurt your brand

 

 

2. Explainer Video

Explainer videos explain what your product does, and why people should purchase it. It is a good option for making a presentation about your service or product to users without even creating it. The Dropbox MVP was famously presented in this format.

 

Pros

  • Explains your product in a simple and easy way
  • People are more interested in watching a short video than reading
  • You can share the video on social media
  • Good for branding

Cons

  • You may have to spend a lot of money to make an explainer video
  • You need to devote a significant amount of time to get the message right
  • You may find difficulty in explaining a complex product or service in a few minutes

 

 

3. Concierge MVP

With a concierge MVP, you will have to perform each and every function of your service or product manually. To resolve the problems of each customer, you will have to work with them directly. By completing each step of customer orders yourself and collecting direct feedback, you can determine how your end product should look like.

A famous example for this type of MVP is Food on the Table (later acquired by Scripps Networks Int.).

 

concierge mvp example RabIT

 

Pros

  • You do not have to spend time and money on developing a concierge MVP
  • You can communicate face-to-face with real customers
  • You can collect information with the help of a few subscribers

Cons

  • You have to spend a lot of time and effort to manually finish the service
  • Good salesmanship is required to persuade people to try your new solution
  • This only helps optimize the core service, UI/UX optimization comes later

 

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4. Wizard of Oz MVP

The Wizard of Oz MVP creates an illusion of a fully functional product, but secretly depends on manpower to deliver the solution. On the front end, you deliver the impression of a completely functional product; however, on the back end of the product, you have to execute all orders manually.

With this approach, you can quickly create effective prototypes. You can also test the market response to your service or product without really creating anything.

A great example here is the first site of Zappos, a specialized footwear eCommerce startup.

 

wizard of oz mvp

 

Pros

  • You can set up a Wizard of Oz MVP cheaply and quickly
  • You can use online advertising and social media to generate interest

Cons

  • You have to spend a lot of time and effort to manually finish the service
  • People can feel cheated if they come to know that there is no real product

 

 

5. Piecemeal MVP

With a piecemeal MVP, you can deliver the new service or product by using already existing solutions. The utility of existing products is combined to deliver additional value to the initial customers.

 

Pros

  • You don’t have to invest much money
  • You need not spend time on MVP development

Cons

  • You may find difficulty in coordinating many products
  • You may have to spend money on subscription fees

 

 

6. Single-Feature MVP

To create this type of product, you need to determine what should be the core functionality. Understand that while you are creating a single-feature product, that one feature has to work extremely well.

 

Pros

  • Focused on solving one specific problem for a specific audience
  • You can get your product to market fast with relatively low costs
  • You can expand it later without much difficulty

Cons

  • You have to invest some money into development
  • You may struggle to determine which feature you should focus on

 

Choose the solution that best fits your available resources (personnel, money, time). Take into account the requirements and characteristics of delivering your solution, and select the type of MVP that suits them the most.

The minimalist nature of your initial offering should not bother you. Don’t rush into launching a polished product that nobody wants.

 

If you need help planning and launching your MVP, feel free to tell us something about your project during a free consultation. We can help you test your concept and turn it into a profitable software product fast. In a few weeks, you can already launch the initial product version on the market and start collecting valuable customer feedback.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

Startup & MVPBY RabIT software engineering · August 07, 2018

Entrepreneurs, very often in their excitement, start developing a business idea into a tangible product without determining whether there is a market for it. When you do that, you are likely wasting your time and money on a product that no one wants. That is why it is essential that you know how to validate a business idea first.

Validating a business idea enables you to find out if there is a need for it in the market, can it solve crucial pain points, the number of potential consumers, and how much money they would pay for it. Here are a few ways to validate your idea before developing the product prototype.

Already have a validated business idea? Here is something to help you choose the best software development company for your business.

 

How to Validate a Business Idea?

 

1. Do an Online Search:

It is possible that your idea is not unique at all. Through a simple online search, you can discover products that might have germinated from a similar idea-seed. It is better to think of a new idea if your concept does not offer something extra special or improves the way of doing things.

 

2. Set Up a Landing Page

Setting up a standalone web page, the landing page, helps determine if there is a market for your business idea or not. Your landing page should have a value proposition, concise content, images, and clear call-to-action, and you can promote it on start-up platforms, social media platforms, through SEO and targeted ads. If there is a need for the product, the target audience would flock to your landing page; and if not, you will know from the results.

 

Create an Explainer Video

Visual content does a better job of explaining than text. You can properly demonstrate your product, its features, and benefits through explainer videos. The live and animated videos can tell the target audience about the value proposition. Moreover, you can accelerate engagement with them. This helps to identify the merits and demerits of your business idea.

Here is the very first DropBox demo video voiced by founder, Drew Houston back in 2008. This simple video about an MVP helped grow their beta subscriber list from 5,000 to 75,000 people overnight.

 

Hypothesis Testing

You can assess your value proposition via hypothesis testing methodology, without developing a product prototype. You can use either a Wizard of Oz MVP or a Concierge MVP to validate your business idea.

  • Concierge MVP: You provide the value proposition manually to a small group of test customers, without involving any technology. You perform the service following the same steps as the final product.
  • Wizard of Oz MVP: In this method, you make the test customers believe that the process is automated, and no humans are involved. They see the working front of your product (often a simple landing page), while you complete the service manually in the background.

 

Crowdfunding Sites

With crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, you can gauge the level of interest in your business idea, as well as determine whether the product can solve specific pain points. Moreover, you also find out if the product is exciting enough to get funded.

 

Single-Feature MVP

Single-feature minimal viable product (MVP) enables you to test one core aspect of your idea. You give your end-users this one-core-feature product to use, to get early feedback. It is one of the easiest methods by which you can validate or invalidate your business idea, and you can do so on a shoestring budget.

Now that you have a basic idea about how to validate a business idea, you can get creative and start reaching out to your customers to find out first hand if your idea really has merit or not.

 

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Here are some useful tools that can help you on your idea validation journey:

Toolkit for concept testing – QuickMVP, SurveyMonkey

Create modern landing pages – Instapage, Leadpages, ClickFunnels

Drive traffic to your online pages – Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads

 

If you need more advice on how to validate a business idea, or plan your first MVP, feel free to ask your questions via e-mail at info@rabit.hu, or by signing up for a free consultation here. We will do our best to answer all your questions, no strings attached. Thanks for reading!

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

Startup & MVPBY RabIT software engineering · June 26, 2018

Product Hunt has developed an innovative platform that took the tech industry by storm back in 2013. By today, the website has more than 7 million monthly users according to SimilarWeb. If you want to find early adopters for your MVP, there is no platform better than Product Hunt.

Let’s say your startup has developed a cutting edge new mobile application, that offers tons of real benefits and value for your customers, and that is without competition. The glitch, nobody knows about it. It seems doomed to obscurity because the product manager has failed to find early adopters – the key to determining the success of a new minimum viable product.

 

Influential early adopters hang out on Product Hunt regularly, to discover and discuss new products. When you showcase your minimum viable product on the platform, you also get to engage with users actively. Once you win them over, they will help propel the product across the chasm.

On Product Hunt, early adopters also help shape your creation into a great product by providing constructive feedback. They list the pros and cons of your product, enabling you to improve existing features and add new ones. As a result, you enhance the product and offer consumers what they really want.

You can also find investors who are willing to back your product on Product Hunt. They are often part of the early adopter community and are always on the lookout for exciting new products. By leveraging the platform, you can convince them of your product’s profit potential and the demand for it in the market.

Moreover, the buzz generated by early adopters for your product draws the attention of the journalists. You get positive media coverage for your product without hiring a PR agency.

 

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How to post a new MVP on Product Hunt

  1. Create a personal account
  2. Login and click on the “+” icon in the upper-right hand corner
  3. Gain Access to Post: Complete the three-step contributor program to gain access to post
  4. Submit the product’s URL, name, and tagline

Each post should include:

  • Category – Pick an appropriate category: Tech, Games, or Books
  • Name –Product’s name
  • URL – Provide primary link: the product page link; followed by App store links
  • Tagline – Describe what your product does in less than 60 characters
  • Description – Describe the product, its features, and functionalities succinctly
  • Thumbnail –Upload an image to describe the product visually; use square dimensions
  • Gallery- Show off your product by uploading more than two images
  • Makers – Add everyone who has worked on the product by their Product Hunt usernames

 

Getting your minimum viable product in front of early users is essential to building a final product that your target market audience will adore. If you have any other questions about the software MVP development and launch process, feel free to ask them at info@rabit.hu , or sign up for a free consultation.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.