Minimum viable product
In product development, the minimum viable product (MVP) is the product with the highest return on investment versus risk, what is known in the investment community as the Sharpe Ratio. The term was coined and defined by Frank Robinson, and popularized by Steve Blank, and Eric Ries (for web applications). It may also involve carrying out market analysis beforehand.
A minimum viable product has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent. "The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort." The definition's use of the words maximum and minimum means it is decidedly not formulaic. It requires judgment to figure out, for any given context, what MVP makes sense.
An MVP is not a minimal product, it is a strategy and process directed toward making and selling a product to customers. It is an iterative process of idea generation, prototyping, presentation, data collection, analysis and learning. One seeks to minimize the total time spent on an iteration. The process is iterated until a desirable product/market fit is obtained, or until the product is deemed to be non-viable.
- Be able to test a product hypothesis with minimal resources
- Accelerate learning
- Reduce wasted engineering hours
- Get the product to early customers as soon as possible
- Results from a minimum viable product test can indicate that the product should not be built, then it is a real test and minimum viable product
- Steve Blank: "You’re selling the vision and delivering the minimum feature set to visionaries, not everyone."
A minimum viable product may be a prototype, an entire product, or a sub-set of product (such as a feature).
The canonical MVP strategy for a web application is to create a mock website for the product and purchase online advertising to direct traffic to the site. The mock website may consist of a marketing landing page with a link for more information or purchase. The link is not connected to a purchasing system, instead clicks are recorded and measure customer interest. Real life examples can be found online on a daily basis.
Commonly used for services where there are attempts to charge a customer for manually performing the service without any product development. For example, an online radio service plays music based on individual taste. One could test pricing on the customer by sitting physically next to the customer and manually building a playlist based on the customer’s prior music selection and apparent emotional or physical reactions to the music (i.e., a personal DJ). One can test willingness to pay for this concierge service directly. Willingness to pay for such a personal service would provide grounds that the mentioned customer is willing to pay for a less personal online music service.
A link to a new feature in a web application may be provided in a prominent location on an existing website. The feature is not implemented, rather an apology, mock-up, or marketing page is provided. Clicks of the link are recorded and provide an indication as to the demand for the feature in the customer base. This is also described as deploy first, code later method.
Releasing and assessing the impact of a minimum viable product is a market testing strategy that is used to screen product ideas soon after their generation. It is facilitated by rapid application development tools and languages common to web application development.
The MVP differs from the conventional market testing strategy of investing time and money early to implement a product before testing it in the market. The MVP is intended to ensure that the market wants the product before a large time and monetary investment is made. The MVP differs from the open source methodology of release early, release often that listens to users, letting them define the features and future of the product. The MVP starts with a product vision, which is maintained throughout the product life cycle, although it is adapted based on the explicit and implicit (indirect measures) feedback from potential future customers of the product.
The MVP is a strategy that may be used as a part of Blank's customer development methodology that focuses on continual product iteration and refinement based on customer feedback. Additionally, the presentation of non-existing products and features may be refined using web-based statistical hypothesis testing, such as A/B testing.
The general method of deploy first, code later is akin to the agile program code testing methodology called test-driven development where unit tests are written before and fail until the code is written.
Business Model Canvas
The Business Model Canvas is used to map out the major components and activities for a company starting out. The Minimum Viable Product can be designed by using selected components of the Business Model Canvas:
- Value Proposition
Concepts from minimum viable product are applied in other aspects of startups and organizations.
Minimum viable co-founder
Finding other people to create a minimum viable product is a common challenge for new companies and startups. The concept of minimum viable co-founder is based on looking for a co-founder with the following attributes:
- Exceptional at building or selling
- Company commitment
- Personally likable
Minimum viable team
Founders with an early-stage company are faced with the same challenge of building a team with minimal people and cost. The process starts by listing out the basic functions of a particular company (e.g., engineer, operations, finance) and then stripping down to the abstract job activities and skills that the company must have in order to operate.
- The Cathedral and the Bazaar
- Startup company
- Steven Gary Blank
- Eric Ries
- Lean startup
- Product/market fit
- Minimum marketable feature
- W. S. Junk, "The Dynamic Balance Between Cost, Schedule, Features, and Quality in Software Development Projects", Computer Science Dept., University of Idaho, SEPM-001, April 2000.
- Eric Ries, March 23, 2009, Venture Hacks interview: "What is the minimum viable product?", Lessons Learned
- Perfection By Subtraction – The Minimum Feature Set
- Ries, Eric (August 3, 2009). "Minimum Viable Product: a guide".
- Radoff, Jon (May 4, 2010). "Minimum Viable Product rant". http://web.archive.org/web/20140323181121/http://radoff.com/blog/2010/05/04/minimum-viable-product-rant/. Jon Radoff's Internet Wonderland. Archived from the original on 23 March 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
- Blank, Steve (March 4, 2010). "Perfection By Subtraction – The Minimum Feature Set".
- "Cheat Sheet: Minimum Viable Product".
- Ries, Eric (August 3, 2009). "Lessons Learned: Minimum Viable Product: A Guide, Lessons Learned". Archived from the original on January 28, 2013. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
- Kromer, Tristan (April 15, 2014). "The Four Parts of a Minimal Viable Product".
- Shah, Darmesh (October 5, 2011). "Choosing A Minimally Viable Co-Founder".
- Kromer, Tristan (October 11, 2011). "A Minimum Viable Team is More Important than a Minimum Viable Product".
- O'Donnell, Charlie (August 22, 2012). "Minimum Viable Team".
- MVPs - an introduction, handy summary of MVP techniques, Paper, October 2013
- How to create a minimum viable product?, Techcrunch, Emre Sokullu, July 13, 2012
- Minimum viable product and the importance of experimentation in technology startups, Technology Innovation Management Review, Dobrila Rancic Moogk, March, 2012
- What is the minimum viable product?, Venture Hacks: Advice for entrepreneurs, March 23, 2009
- Minimum Viable Product: a guide, Lessons Learned, Eric Ries, August 3, 2009
- Approaching a Minimum Viable Product, Three Rivers Institute: Thoughts on Programming, Kent Beck, August 7, 2009
- 10 examples of minimum viable products, Venture Hacks: Advice for entrepreneurs, October 27, 2009
- Minimum Viable Product revisited – the MVP Curve?, Methodologist, January 12, 2010
- The Bootstrapper's Guide to Launching New Products Inc. Oct 1, 2009
- Minimum Viable Product SyncDev 2008
- Smoke test sample
- Quora Thread on MVP, December, 2013
-  Quora: What are the best examples of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) released by a Lean Startup (in any industry)?
- How To Think About Minimum Viable Products, And The Path To Passion At Startup Festival TechCrunch, July 2013