Is Building a Minimal Viable Product(MVP) Really the Best Approach?

Recently a number of innovators and product specialists have challenged the “Lean Startup” approach to building products. The premise behind “Lean Startup” is to get a minimal product(MVP) out into the marketplace as soon as feasibly possible so the product can then begin testing, getting user feedback and iterating. Everything in this methodology revolves around the speed of getting the idea validated in the marketplace. While this is important to a certain extent the pushback has been twofold: first not every idea that gets pushed out there is good enough at the beginning to be validated and secondly not every idea can be validated immediately. Essentially, an idea needs to evolve. A key consequence of this is often in order to get angel or venture investment there needs to be market penetration for that product; hence you can’t raise the capital for your next iteration unless you have users.

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Luis Perez-Breva states this in a recent article for Quartz magazine:

“The problem is that, with a focus on an imaginary product viability, it gets easier to discard everything else. Then it’s all downhill. Every next “validation” just strengthens the emotional attachment to the “idea.” It’s all fatally powered by the seductive appeal of availability and confirmation biases. And what starts as an ambition to build a world-changing innovation with nothing but a minimum viable product ends up with an easily forgettable flop.”

Here at Elementz we fall on both sides of the tracks. Sometimes we start with product ideas from our client and we know this is only a first version that is untested in the marketplace. So having an MVP to validate the idea is important. At other times the idea is good but was rushed out the marketplace to soon (so it needs to evolve). We have seen this with several products that were not fully formed before being put out there for users. We inherited deficient MVPs for mobile apps that needed much more than a design refresh to work well in the marketplace. We guided our clients through a multi faceted process to make these products better before getting them to market for a second time.

My conclusion is we need to think about the following when it comes to developing software products for startups:

  1. Can the idea be properly validated during the design process through prototyping and user feedback instead of thrown out into the marketplace only to get poor results?
  2. Is it realistic to even think a first version will have a substantial amount of users or revenue during the first few years?

The bottom line even If the idea is really good, you need experienced leadership, a great team with lots of experience to execute in all areas especially in  sales, marketing and overall product development.

Welcome to the world of startups!!

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