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What Is a Minimum Viable Product?


A minimum viable product (MVP) is an early version of a product with only basic features. The purpose of an MVP is to help a company or development team learn what will work without investing too much money or time up front. The term was popularized by author Eric Ries in his 2009 book “The Lean Startup.” Here are the principles of creating an MVP.

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Minimum Viable Product: Definition and Features

An MVP is defined as the version of a new product that lets designers gather the most information about customer needs and how to satisfy them while requiring the least effort to design and produce. The term “validated learning” is often used to describe the ideal sort of information that is gathered. Validated learning can consist of actual orders from customers to purchase the product.

An MVP should, of course, be viable – that is, it works well enough and provides enough value that customers will buy it. The basic feature set it offers suggests to early adopters that it can be refined to generate more valuable utility in the future.

A good MVP also produces enough information to guide designers and team leaders as the work on future iterations. The process of gathering information on customer acceptances and using it to improve designs is called the feedback loop.

Alternatively, if the feedback is negative enough, the product may be abandoned. Then resources will be conserved and can be redirected to other projects.

MVP Examples


The concept of an MVP is not new. Product demos that have long been used in many industries have the same characteristics and serve the same function of exposing prospective customers to offerings and seeing whether they will buy them.

MVPs also include somewhat more stripped-down and economical varieties as well. For example, a landing page consisting of nothing but a web page describing a product and an order button can help to determine whether people will buy a product that doesn’t even exist.

Visitors to a landing page MVP who click on the order button will be told the item is out of stock. The designers, meanwhile, have gathered important information validating the market viability of the concept.

Crowdfunding projects are another type of MVP. A design team may come up with nothing more than a written product description and perhaps some computer-generated artwork and see if members of the target market are willing to contribute to see the product made real.

Many well-known technology companies have used MVPs to introduce and refine early product concepts. They include Airbnb, Dropbox, Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter.

MVP Techniques

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When preparing to design an MVP, companies typically start by researching the market they intend to address. This will usually include studying potential users as well as analyzing existing competitors and their offerings.

When it comes to designing the product, user needs will be paramount. However, designers also may pay attention to the types of feedback that will generated by specific features, and whether that feedback can be used to refine future functions and features. The costs to design and produce the MVP as well as the costs to gather information and apply it to future iterations will also be considered.

Sometimes MVPs are not products that actually exist, even in prototype form. This is likely to be the case with a landing page MVP, for instance.

MVPs may appear to function automatically using technology such as computer algorithms, but behind the scenes they are being operated by humans. These MVPs may be referred to as Wizard of Oz MVPs.

While the idea behind MVPs is to reduce expense as you maximize learning, it’s possible to learn something worth less than even the minimal expense involved or is even incorrect. For instance, if the potential early adopters who are exposed to the MVP can’t see its promise, designers may abandon a product that, if actually introduced, would have a good chance to succeed.

Bottom Line

Minimum viable product is a term for creating a prototype or demonstration offering that limits the creators’ investment of money and time while providing valuable feedback that can be used to improve it before going to market. This practice is widely followed in tech companies and startups.

Tips for Entrepreneurs

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  • The time to protect your new product or service is well before a lawsuit from a rival or a disgruntled customer. Judgments can wreak havoc with your credit scores and they can linger on your credit reports for up to seven years. A judgment can be the precursor to a creditor taking further action against you, such as attaching your personal or business assets.

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