Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Features to Launch

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Features to Launch

One of the topics that has come up recently in the Seattle Founder Institute (#sefi) as well as some other startups I’m working with is the question of how you narrow down the Minimum Features or Minimum Viable Product to launch your startup? There’s a good definition at Wikipedia from a product development standpoint.

How do you know what determines the Minimum Features to launch?  Let’s start with the question of what is it that you need to test? Efficacy according to is the “capacity for producing a desired result or effect”

What’s your desired effect? Are you testing interest, traffic, acceptance, conversion? Let’s break it down a bit:

  • Interest – if your business model is to find customers that you searching for your key words on the web, it would be good to know if anyone is typing in those key words. Build a landing page specific to what you think your offer will be and what your customers want. Create a Google Adwords campaign or a Facebook advertising campaign and spend $100-200 per test to find out if anyone is actually interested in your offer. HOPEFULLY, people will click through to your site and you can at least validate interest in the offer. If your not ready to take the order, let them know on the landing page that “thanks for the interest and please fill out the form for us to give you a demo as we launch the product”. Will they be disappointed? Probably, but you’ll know if your idea has some basic merit.
  • Traffic – if your product/service price is $1 (or FREE) you need to drive 1000’s of people to your site. If you price is a $1000 a couple a day may be enough. What will it cost you to generate the traffic you need? Don’t count on the MAGIC OF SEO or TechCrunch to be the game changer that helps the world discover you. You need to know the numbers and how to forecast the traffic.
  • Acceptance – will people “like” you on Facebook, signup for an email list, agree to be a Beta customer (not just your friends that register and never use it). Investors will ask.
  • Conversion – let’s face it, nothing happens until someone sells something.  If your the Founder of your startup and your not a sales person, get over it. You have to sell something. Revenue matters.

Now that you’ve defined some basic objectives:

  • Wireframe/Demo – spend $1000 on a designer (or $99 on 99Designs), program something in powerpoint and go talk to your target market. Ask them for feedback and ask them if you can talk to them again.
  • Basic Solution – in the web world, get the site up, get a registration page and introduce the minimum feature to capture the beta customers. This may not be a public facing web site. That’s OK, you should rather know the customer cares about the idea before you go public look like the set of two and a half men.
  • Validate the roadmap – just because you have a vision of where your taking the product doesn’t mean your right. Ask the customer. I know, they aren’t alway right, but you aren’t always right either.
  • Competition – if you have a clear leader in the market, your not going to be able to launch a de-featured product and expect to get much enthusiasm. Compare their feature sets and look for an opportunity to launch with a competitive advantage

What’s more valuable? That you keep coding your solution or that you go talk to 10 real-live potential customers?  YOU step away from the keyboard!

If you have that information – get to work and build the first version.

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