Having worked alongside a number of startups over the past couple of years I have noticed a troubling issue in how people view the concept of Minimal Viable Product.
By now, few people remotely interested in startups haven’t heard about things like MVP, BMC and Lean Startup. The unfortunate state of affairs is that those extremely efficient concepts are still not well adopted. I believe that more than 80% of new companies and new internal projects still don’t understand the most crucial property of MVPs which is they don’t scale. This is very important and worth reiterating. MVPs do not and should not scale.
It’s a scary proposition for many still. Am I supposed to throw away my prototype? The answer is yes. If you’re investing time in your MVP that has too many features then you’re wasting your time. Your initial assumptions are most certainly wrong anyway.
How many features is too many? Anything that does not speak directly to bringing in the cash flow does not belong to the MVP. I will demonstrate what I mean by an example.
A young company that I have been involved with had a vision of making all gym and classes contracts digital. Their users would search for a gym, find out the time to commute, see reviews, sign up, pay and eventually terminate contracts from their computer or smart phone.
They have developed a sophisticated admin panel for gym owners, beautifully designed their UX, set up smart payment processing and even implemented most of what the membership plans would look like. Unfortunately they haven’t managed to convince a single gym to join their platform and burned all the cash available to them without having gone live.
What went wrong? Their goal was to generate cash flow. Was their admin panel crucial to get going? No. Were all the different membership options coded needed? No.
What they needed was a hack to get 10 people on the platform to prove the value prop, learn and come up with the solution that would handle 100 users. What would that look like?
The answer is, a much smaller product would do. Sometimes the craziest proposition is the right one. They could’ve thrown away the admin panel altogether and been signing up themselves in person at the gym of their user’s choice pretending to be paying for a friend instead. Obviously, you can’t be running around your city signing up people to gym memberships forever.
Would that work for the first 10 users though? Yes. It would also have saved $5-10k worth of development expenses or more. The most important point is it would have allowed them to learn. Do people want their product? How much would they pay in fees? Nobody knows because they haven’t launched.