For many founders, creating a functioning prototype of their product and substantiating its usefulness may seem like a daunting task. However, would you believe that this can be achieved in only six steps? Mark Geene, the CEO and co-founder of Cloud Elements, certainly thinks so. Check out the guest post below for a simple plan on how any founder can build a minimum viable product quickly and effectively.
Mark Geene is also a Mentor for the Denver Founder Institute. The blog post “6 Steps to Building an MVP”, has been published with his permission below:
When getting your startup off the ground, the most cost effective way to learn about your target customers and problem/solution fit is to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Building an MVP allows you to test your hypothesis, learn, and iterate without wasting time or money on features or scope that could be unnecessary to your customers. In other words, avoid building out a product that has 100 features if your customers really only care about 10 of them!
The initial targets for your MVP are "Early Adopters" or the "Visionaries". These users can help “fill in the gaps” on missing features and tell you if your product will actually solve a real problem.
The following 6 steps are how we, at Cloud Elements, built an MVP of our API aggregation and integration service. Developing an MVP is a core component of the Lean Startup methodology, created by Eric Ries. Let’s get started!
1. Define the problem
The first step in building an MVP is to write down the problem that you are aiming to solve. The idea for your new product/technology/service most likely came about from a problem that you noticed, so specify what it is. Once the problem you are solving is defined, it will be much easier to communicate the value of your idea.
2. Quantify the problem
Put some data behind the problem you have identified and aim to provide a solution for. Gather data on how big of a problem this is- how many people are affected, or how many people are searching for a solution like the one you are proposing? Once again, having this data to back up the problem will help you communicate the value of your idea and determine the size of your customer market.
3. Develop a hypothesis
Developing a hypothesis will help you test the problem/solution fit. How do you think your product/service/idea will solve the problem? What makes your idea more valuable than the ones before it? Write your hypothesis down and as users test your MVP, ask yourself if they are proving your hypothesis to be correct or incorrect.
4. Build the MVP
Once you have a solid understanding of the market you are entering and have gathered the data to support your idea, you can start building an MVP. Your MVP should be created with the sole goal of validating your hypothesis. It should have only the basic features needed to get feedback and validation from users.
A great way to decide which features your MVP needs to have is to write out user stories for each individual feature. Then, test each user story to determine if it belongs in your MVP. Along the way, ask yourself these questions:
a. Does this feature support the MVP hypothesis and objective?
b. Is this feature essential to solving the highest value problem?
c. Are your customers saying this feature a “must have”?
d. Can I build this feature in a two-month development effort?
Be sure to focus on the needs of your “visionary” customers and don’t be influenced by one or two vocal clients. Just because someone is requesting a feature does not mean it needs to be a part of your MVP.
5. Measure results
What’s the point of testing your MVP unless you measure the results!! Write down all of the feedback and critiques you received from users while testing your MVP. Based on the results, decide if your hypothesis about your product was correct or incorrect.
Now use that feedback to make your product better or change its direction if necessary. From the feedback you received, you should now be able to see which features are necessary and which are unnecessary to your product. It should be clear if your users validated the need for this product or not.
If your product didn’t resonate with your users, then it may be time to pivot your idea. Figure out what changes you need to make so that your product will solve the problem you wrote down in Step 1. Think about what would get a better response from users and don’t be afraid if that means making a big change to your original MVP.
If your product did resonate with your users, hone in on what you can improve on, which additional features you should add and how to tighten your value proposition.
Whatever the results are, the plus is that by building an MVP you were able to gain this market feedback without wasting a ton of time or money. If you need to pivot your idea or just tighten up your existing hypothesis, you can now spend that time and money on the features that you KNOW are valuable to your users.
Cloud Elements is a cloud API integration platform that uses a “one-to-many” approach to connect SaaS applications with entire categories of services, each through a single API. For more information on their service, be sure to visit Cloud Elements’ official website.