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A Review Of The Minimum Viable Product Approach

By Maksym Babych, founder and CEO of SpdLoad, the software development company for startups.

Using a minimum viable product (MVP) to test a business model is probably the most popular startup launch scheme. World-famous Uber, Dropbox, Figma and Slack started their way to unicorn status with MVPs.

In this article, we’ll refresh your memory on MVPs, look at alternatives to MVPs and delve into new options for finding and validating business ideas.

The Basic Concept: The Minimum Viable Product

“Minimum viable product” is a term coined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Eric Ries, founder of the Lean Startup methodology. According to Ries, an MVP is the version of a new product that allows the team to gather the maximum amount of proven customer knowledge with the least amount of effort.

In reality, the idea of an MVP has little to do with development. Founders and many developers often confuse the concepts of an MVP and a technological prototype. 

An MVP is not a technology prototype but a way to validate its sale. It may not be based on a prototype but a landing page with a “Buy” button.

The primary purpose is to test a business idea at minimal cost to find a response from the target audience and determine further iterations to enhance the value development. 

The variety of interpretations has created several alternatives for the MVP approach. Let’s take a look at them.

The Existing Alternatives To An MVP Approach

As the startup community evolves, the term “MVP” takes on new shapes and definitions. 

Some define an MVP as “the first version of a product,” others as “a stripped-down version of a product,” while others deny the idea of an MVP altogether and develop “a full-scale but simple product.”

It happens due to increased customer expectations based on the proliferation and adaptation of complex technologies and technology-based products.

So what questions have the startup market prepared to answer?

• Minimum Lovable Product

“Minimum lovable product” is a term coined by Brian de Haaff, founder of the road map software Aha! 

While many companies create MVPs to get a product up and running quickly with basic functionality, few consider it can leave customers frustrated and cause them to look for alternative solutions.

The MLP is about creating enough functionality so that customers will adore the product immediately after launch, not just tolerate it.

The obvious disadvantages are the unnecessary increase in the cost of development. But it’s worth noting right away that development tools also allow you to create a convenient and attractive product out of the box.

• Minimum Marketable Product

“Minimum marketable product” is a term coined by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang in their 2003 book Software by Numbers.

An MMP approach is about creating a minimum set of features to test a feasible business model for marketing.

So, MMP brings together minimum viable and loveable products. Starting with an MMP implies that you’ve already established your target users and market and you have a solid understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve with a product.

The alternatives listed above are also quite studied and well-known models. I propose to talk about not-so-obvious ways to find and test business hypotheses, which can compete with the MVP, MLP and MMP.

The New Alternatives To An MVP, MLP Or MMP Approach

The lean startup approach is based on interaction with the end-users: the famous build-measure-learn feedback loop.

The MVP and its counterparts were created as tools to implement this framework. On the other hand, there are new, original solutions for validating the business idea and startup model.

• Minimum Catchy Offer

A minimum catchy offer is an alternative to a minimum viable product. When “product” means something complex, the request is about something quick, clear and understandable.

​​A minimum catchy offer can be one sentence. Remember Travis Kalanick’s phrase about Uber: “You push a button, and in five minutes, a Mercedes S-Class or Town Car comes and picks you up and takes you where you want to go.”

This approach is an excellent example if you are faced with whether or not to invest in developing an MVP.

• Black Hole Strategy

The black hole strategy is opposite to the blue ocean strategy. The blue ocean strategy is about finding a new market and creating new demand. 

In contrast, the strategy of the black hole is about finding hidden opportunities to change behavioral patterns of people who are used to doing things in a particular way or not doing them at all. Let’s consider an example.

According to the latest Stack Overflow research, a large percentage of developers learned to code on their own, and only about 40% cited online courses as the learning method. What will be the most prominent educational platform? The one that will stop selling online courses and make a platform that helps self-education.

• Lean Investor

The key to this model is to first attract an investor. If you cannot attract an investor, why waste time and money on such a project? 

As you can see, the startup world is full of both established and new ways to create the next billion-dollar startup. The truth is, there are no rules. But by applying at least some of the rules, you can accelerate your entrepreneurial spirit.

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