Thinking of building an MVP? Read this first.

June 7, 2024

So, you're ready to bring your big software or app idea to life. But where do you begin? 

This question was at the heart of a recent webinar led by EndGame CEO, Andrew Butel. In this session, Andrew shared valuable insights on the crucial role of MVPs (Minimum Viable Products) in transforming ideas into successful businesses. 

Let’s explore some of the common mistakes and practical strategies that will help you maximise the value of your MVP, and potentially save you thousands of dollars along the way… 

Building a business, not just an app

Creating an MVP isn't merely about building a piece of software; it's about establishing a business. Entrepreneurs can sometimes focus their efforts simply on building the app, but the broader picture must be considered. What’s the actual business model? The MVP is just one step in this journey and should be viewed as a foundational business milestone.

MVP before product-market fit

People say, if you don't have product-market fit, then your only focus should be product-market fit.  That's true ... unless you don't yet have an MVP.  An MVP gets you in the market and allows the user feedback cycle to begin. This critical milestone enables forward momentum, allowing the focus to then shift towards achieving product-market fit.

Common mistakes in building an MVP

Several common mistakes can derail the process of building an MVP:

  1. Skipping the MVP: Attempting to build the entire vision at once is a significant mistake. The MVP should be a small, manageable slice of the vision that provides immediate value to users.
  2. Lack of belief in the MVP: Founders must buy into the process and understand that the MVP is a stepping stone to the larger vision. Without this belief, the MVP may fail to gain traction.
  3. No on-ramp for users: An MVP should include a clear path for users to start using the product. Without an easy onboarding process, even the best product may go unused.
  4. Premature pricing and packaging: Including pricing and packaging too early can be costly. Experimenting and gathering user feedback before locking in these elements is crucial.
  5. Over- or under-validating ideas: Striking the right balance between sufficient validation and over-researching is key to launching an MVP. Both extremes can hinder progress.

The Lean Canvas approach

Starting with a Lean Canvas helps map out the business model, covering aspects such as the problem being solved, target customers, and unique value proposition. This tool is essential for identifying assumptions and planning the MVP to validate them quickly.

Recognising patterns

Several patterns can be observed in what makes for a successful MVP versus one that is less so:

  1. Clear problem definition: A well-defined problem makes creating a targeted solution easier. For instance, Spotlight Reporting aimed to reduce the time taken to generate financial reports from five hours to one click.
  2. Combining fragmented systems: Integrating multiple systems can be extremely challenging, often making the problem worse before it gets better. If this is your aim, make sure you have a clear strategy and timeline for effective integration.
  3. Digitising manual processes: This process often involves significant organisational change, not just the software. Managing this change and ensuring the MVP facilitates it smoothly is crucial. 
  4. Unique Value Proposition (UVP): A compelling UVP is essential. Simply being cheaper than competitors may not suffice; a strong reason for users to switch is needed. You don’t want to run a race to the bottom and try to out-do your competitors with a lower cost solution when the market has already proven that there’s tolerance to pay what they already do for the service (for example, charges accommodation providers 30%, which does seem exorbitant, but clearly they find it to be of enough value that they’ll pay it anyway - and it’s an excellent experience for the end user). 
  5. R&D and innovation: Innovation is costly and risky. Balancing innovation with practical, proven solutions ensures the MVP moves the business forward.

Engaging early adopters

Getting your MVP in front of potential users early is vital. Building a group of raving fans and early adopters who provide valuable feedback is essential. But beware that these early adopters may not always represent the broader target market… 

Funding and investment

It is possible to secure funding before building an MVP simply by showing there’s a problem to be solved and a clear picture of how your software or app will do it. A clear business plan and a validated MVP significantly increase the chances of securing investment. Potential investors will want to then see that you are making progress and achieving your key milestones. 

Building an MVP is a crucial step in the startup journey. It’s about validating your business model and preparing to scale. By avoiding these common pitfalls and focusing on the broader business aspects, startups can effectively use their MVP to move forward and achieve long-term success.

Want to learn more? Sign up for the next webinar

‘What’s the Cost of Building an MVP?’
Thursday 27th June, 11am-12pm
Hosted by Andrew Butel, CEO, EndGame

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