The process of launching with a minimum viable product (MVP) is now a well-established principle in the startup community. Previously, tech startups were thought of as extremely risky endeavors, with flagship software products taking months or even years to complete.
Starting with an MVP means entrepreneurs can quickly and cost-effectively test the waters first and validate their idea before investing more money and resources.
Because of the smaller investment (both in time and money), it’s now often thought of as an MVP cycle. Test out your product idea by bringing it to market as an MVP, based on the results you then adapt your MVP, or simply start from scratch and test out a completely new idea (maybe even in a different market).
The MVP Launch Cycle
1. Get a good idea
The easy part? The hardest part? That’s an ongoing debate. Either way, successful business ideas usually occur in one of two ways. Either the entrepreneur discovers something a market really needs but is not currently offered. Or, the entrepreneur scratches their own itch – they get an idea for a product that they personally wish existed.
2. Research the market
Once you have an idea, it’s hopeful that you’ll do at least some form of market research. You need to validate that the problem you’ve identified is big enough to warrant a software product. If the problem isn’t painful enough, people won’t be pulling out their credit card to pay for your product.
This may involve asking people in person or online, but ideally from people that aren’t your friends or acquaintances (you need brutally honest feedback). Some entrepreneurs will make a one-page website outlining the problem as well as the solution and then promote this link to their network and further afield using targeted advertising.
3. Build your MVP
Once you’ve got enough validation that it is a product people will want you’ll then go ahead and develop the first version of your web app or software. This will be an MVP that only solves one very specific part of the problem you’ve identified. The functionality will be very limited and it’ll definitely have some embarrassing bugs!
4. Release your MVP
Now’s time for the fun and scary part. You promote your MVP version of the app or website online. Get the website in front of as many potential users as possible and if you can justify it, even offer a paid plan to check that people want the product enough to pull out their credit card!
5. Iterate or test out your next idea
With your MVP released you’ll now want to get as much feedback as possible. Do people find the product useful enough to continue using? Are they willing to pay for it? If the answer’s no, are there one or two extra features that would tip them over?
At this point, you make the decision whether to continue with the project, pivot on the idea to focus on a different angle or make the decision to walk away and count it as a learning experience.
Because you’ve spent relatively little in time and money, neither of these outcomes should be thought of as ‘bad’. If you do end up scrapping it at this point, you can start with a blank slate and test out your next idea.
Keep the cycle going until you find product/market fit
As you go through this process the MVP Launch Cycle will continue until you find an idea where your MVP really resonates with the market.
At that point, you can make the decision to double-down and turn your MVP into a fully fledged product.