Focus your MVP right

Thanks to Anthill for this wonderful footage of Bruce Lee playing ping pong with nun chucks! Yes you heard that right, nun chucks no less. Shot in the 1960s and reused in a desperate attempt by Nokia to boost sales for their N96 phone, this short film shows what can be achieved with a life time of dedication and focus.

So what I wanted to talk about today was how to focus your own efforts effectively when selecting which features to introduce in your Minimum Viable Product. Here are some of my own thoughts, having read and digested this wonderful article on the ABCs of an MVP by KissMetrics:

  1. The very first word is Minimum. This gives us a clue that we are trying to hone in on the simplest possible feature set needed to test our assumptions about what our customers want. That’s great but which assumption should we test first? According to Ash Maurya, we should test our riskiest assumptions first. This is a bit different to focusing on which feature you think you might build first. Instead, our focus is on which feature does our business model depend on. For example, if you wanted to test a new model for renting sports shirts at football games, you might start by testing who the customer segment actually is and not the ability to choose which shirt to rent.
  2. Viable means it gets the job done, as Kiss Metrics say “The main objective for an MVP is to prove assumptions and learn”. This means you should be clear about what data you are going to collect and how you will be able to use it to prove or disprove your assumptions. This part is particularly overlooked, with many MVP builders focusing more on the build than on the learning. Don’t forget, the MVP is supposed to be thrown away. It is not a version 1. It’s a learning tool.
  3. The product part is often done as a landing page, but there are heaps of other examples of MVPs…see here for a great collection by Venture Hacks.

I was giving an elevator pitch recently and got asked “what is your timeframe? How long do you want to spend testing this idea before you start making money?” I didn’t have an answer and I still don’t. Knowing how long to spend on your MVP and on the search part of your customer discovery seems to be something of an art form. Steve Blank talks about reaching escape velocity. Trevor (see previous post) talks about people jumping out of their chairs and emailing in all CAPS. However you determine your time frame, make a decision and stay focused. Once you have learned what you can, start something. Anything.



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