[Day 3/30] What is an MVP?

Today’s post originally appeared at Startup Lessons Learned, and was written by Eric Ries.

Photo by The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

One of the most important lean startup techniques is called the minimum viable product. Its power is matched only by the amount of confusion that it causes, because it’s actually quite hard to do. It certainly took me many years to make sense of it.

I was delighted to be asked to give a brief talk about the MVP at the inaugural meetup of the lean startup circle here in San Francisco. Below you’ll find the video of my remarks. But I wanted to say a few words first.

First, a definition: 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.

Some caveats right off the bat. MVP, despite the name, is not about creating minimal products. If your goal is simply to scratch a clear itch or build something for a quick flip, you really don’t need the MVP. In fact, MVP is quite annoying, because it imposes extra overhead. We have to manage to learn something from our first product iteration. In a lot of cases, this requires a lot of energy invested in talking to customers or metrics and analytics.

Second, 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. As I talked about in a previous interview, IMVU’s original MVP took us six months to bring to market. That was a pretty big improvement over a previous company, where we spent almost five years before launching. Yet in another situation we spent two weeks building a particular feature that absolutely nobody wanted. In retrospect, two weeks was way too long. We could have found out that nobody wanted the product a lot sooner. At a minimum, a simple AdWords smoke test would have revealed how utterly bad the concept was.

Without further ado, the video:

Ready to dive deeper into MVP?

This year at The Lean Startup Conference, we have several options for you:

Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt, one of the hottest startups will be sharing how Product Hunt started as an email list (he created the MVP in 20 minutes).

Hugh Molotsi and Ben Blank will conduct an Intuit MVP Spring workshop and show you exactly how Intuit, who has implemented Lean Startup methods into just about every aspect of their business, conducts an MVP sprint. Through this workshop, you will be able to adapt and tweak Intuit’s workshop to work for your own entity.

If your company provides services, Lauren Braun of Gravity Tank will share how expertise on developing an MVP for a service based business.

Join over 2,000 diverse thinkers and Lean Startup practitioners from all over the world to share ideas and projects that are shaping the future of business. The Lean Startup Conference, a gathering for entrepreneurs, innovators, and thought leaders from across sectors and structures, is a fast paced, highly curated program featuring the best of the Lean Startup community. Held on November 16-19 in San Francisco.

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