Finding the perfect version of your minimum viable product is one of the important steps for any bootstrapped startup. Cashflow is tight when you’re starting a business, and especially so when running a lean operation. You need to know how you can pinpoint the best version of you minimum viable product that will get you the information that you need so you can drive your product forward. The information that you learn from building, iterating, and evolving your MVP will tell you if you can run with your idea or if you should move on to the next one.
What should you be targeting in minimum viable products?
Your best bet is minimum viable products that have just enough to get the attention of your market. You want to put in no more and no less that what will get them to put their money into it and encourage them to give you valuable feedback. The goal is to put as little in as possible to get as much information as possible, and some cash to keep you going. The best minimum viable products are those that will prove the value of your product without consuming your time, money and other resources.
Are you looking for some inspiration for minimum viable products that will work for your new product idea? Below are ten examples of minimum viable products that were used by well-known companies to test what are now best-selling products. You can use these minimum viable products to help you find and create the one that is right for you.
Buffer is a social media scheduling app created by Leo Widrich. The Buffer MVP was a simple two pages that Widrich tweeted out. He used a skeleton of the app and leveraged social media to determine if and who would be interested in such a tool. The two-page Buffer MVP was of course targeted to Twitter users, allowing them to schedule their tweets. The response was good. The next step was for Widrich to learn if people were interested enough to pay for it. By creating paid options, he learned that they would. Widrich learned what he needed and went on to develop what is now one of the most popular social media scheduling apps.
Twitter was born from Odeo, a podcasting platform. Odeo was in trouble after Apple introduced iTunes. Odeo ran hackathons to gather ideas for what direction to go in, and one of these was to create a system for sharing group updates via text messaging. It was codenamed “twttr” and a prototype was built. This MVP was launched exclusively to Odeo employees as an internal messaging service. These employees loved it so much that their monthly SMS bills soared to hundreds of dollars. With this success marker, the team behind twttr went public with Twitter. The platform gained exposure when the team flashed tweets about the 2007 SXSW throughout the venue and users flocked to the platform.
Air Bed and Breakfast began in 2007 when Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia wanted to start a business. It just so happened that they were also having trouble making rent for their San Francisco apartment. They decided to offer their loft as accommodation for attendees of an upcoming design conference. They knew that the hotels in the area would be booked, so this was a golden opportunity. With a few pictures of their apartment and a simple website, they got three responses and were renting out their own loft. The conference attendees were a father from Utah, a woman from Boston, MA, and a man who was originally from India. Chesky and Gebbia were able to interact closely with these guests from varied backgrounds, giving them a good idea of what their future potential customers were looking for. This MVP showed them that they had a good product and that more than just fresh graduates would be interested.
Pebble began as a Kickstarter campaign, and one of the most well-funded on the platform. Big names like Apple and Google were at this time already dominating the wearables arena. Pebble did not have this level of funding. They decided to create a compelling video to present their product and see what kind of attention they could take away from the big players. The company behind Pebble learned that they could indeed compete. They raised close to $20 million for their smartwatch without having to seek out venture capital or relinquishing control over their product. Kickended is also a good place to look for ideas that did not fare well at all, for comparison.
This widely popular music streaming site began a testing phase through a landing page. The creators focused on presenting the bare streaming feature, the one they knew would be the most important. When this MVP got a positive response, Spotify launched in beta as a series of simple desktop apps in 2009. These apps tested the market and created more hype for the product. Meantime, the team prepared to face the inevitable licensing issues that would come as they pursued expansion into the US.
This content marketing platform used their own content to test the viability of their product. Brian Clark was running a copywriting blog at the time, and used it to test the market. This genius MVP leveraged an existing platform and audience and required only that they present additional information. The idea behind this least expensive MVP is finding or creating an audience then finding out what appeals to them – including asking them directly about their needs. The software company Copyblogger Media now pulls in about $10 million a year.
This popular social networking platform is from Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, creators of the SMS networking system Dodgeball. Foursquare is a location-based mobile app where users can check-in to let their connections know what they’re up to. Crowley and Selvadurai were funded, but still went with a single-feature MVP as Buffer did. This allowed them to test the product without having to worry about intensive design and development. The bare app featured the key check-ins and gamification rewards, focusing on gathering data to learn how they could improve the user experience through feedback. Free services like Google Docs were used to gather data from users. More features were then added and the app grew brick upon brick through the years into what we have today.
This is a great story of using a Wizard of Oz MVP to figure out how big this idea could be. It all started on The Point, a website where people could help each together do things that they were not able to do alone. The site did not fare well, so creator Andrew Mason remade it into The Daily Groupon blog. Mason’s team posted interesting deals every day, would create PDFs for each interested user, and send them out via Apple Mail. This MVP is a somewhat tedious process, but utilized existing resources and gave Mason what he needed to know about his new market. He was then able to confidently invest in the intricate coupon system on the fully functional website that we see now.
Like the Pebble smartwatch, Dropbox used a single video to gauge interest in their idea. Launching another type of MVP would be particularly challenging for this product because of its intricately technical nature. The scope of Dropbox was huge, requiring development on a grand scale to be able to sync data between multiple platforms. Before they could actually offer people a functional file synchronization tool, they had to know if it was viable. Founder Drew Houston knew that investing in an untested product was unwise, so he created a video that showed how his concept of file synchronization would work. Houston explained how useful such a tool would be. He also added loads of Easter eggs into the video that captured thousands. It only took a day for Houston to learn that Dropbox was a go.
This online hiring marketplace is a unique twist on the mainstream systems that are used by business owners to locate and engage remote workers. The idea sprang from its founders’ own eCommerce hiring woes, which were not unique to them, but still had to be tested. Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan knew what, as business owners, they wanted in a hiring platform. The MVP that they used to find out if other business owners felt the same is unlike any other. FreeeUp was bootstrapped, so the founders had to be pulling in something to be able to build out their idea. They also knew that they had to float the idea by less aggressive means and allow it to grow organically.
Nathan and Connor began offering remote workers to clients, but also offered consulting services and Amazon classes. By offering three areas at once, they were able to showcase their broad eCommerce experience and build customer trust at the same time. This wide offering also allowed them to reach a much larger group of target customers from whom they could gather valuable feedback. While earning from the two latter services, they were sharing their experiences with fellow business owners. This included their experiences with remote hiring and what they needed to make the whole process better. From there, offering reliable remote workers from within the same platform became the logical next step. As the remote hiring aspect of the business became clearly viable, FreeeUp was refocused as an online hiring marketplace exclusively.
The above are only ten examples of many already existing minimum viable products that you can take advantage of. After reading this, you should be spiritedly encouraged to go and find even more ideas. Don’t be limited to what’s out there, either. This is just inspiration, and creating your own unique minimum viable product is the ideal result. Take your cue from Nathan and Connor. You know your product ideas better than anyone else. You are the one who can develop the most relevant minimum viable products to test them out.