What's an MVP?
First, we gotta clarify what the term actually means. MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. It's basically the most barebone version of your application that has just enough features to show what it's all about. In that sense it's somewhat similar to a prototype.
MVP is perfect for gauging real audience interest in a product. It helps companies to:
quickly set their foot into the market,
- attract their first customers,
- and gain insights on how to further polish and improve the project.
A custom MVP development services company can create one in only a couple of months or less. And that's what makes it so popular: it's very time- and cost-effective.
Examples of MVP Success
MVP development is low-risk, but has the potential to be extremely rewarding. A lot of industry giants got their start as an MVP. In fact, too many for this article to cover. We'll limit ourselves to only 5.
You've almost certainly used or at least heard about these services before. But what did they look like when they first entered the market?
The MVP for Uber launched in 2009 under the slightly less catchy title of Ubercab. The service was invitation-only, operating in New York and San Francisco with just a few cars in their fleet. This helped keep the number of users manageable.
Ubercab had only one feature: booking a ride by specifying your location in the app or via an SMS. A car would then come pick the user up. Eventually, as the creators of the application analysed user feedback, they added more:
- in-app tracking,
- different vehicle options.
This is a textbook success story of a single-feature MVP. Uber knew exactly what it was aiming at from the very start, and simply iterated and improved on the idea after validating the demand.
Now Dropbox is an interesting case, because they didn't have a product at all. What the founder did was record a video that showed users how Dropbox worked. It was a simple, non-interactive demonstration, but boy did it pay off: the beta waiting list went from 5K to 75K users overnight.
It wasn't done to pull some dirty trick, of course. The problem was the core idea of Dropbox itself: seamless file sharing was expensive and difficult to make. It needed several months' worth of commitment - far beyond that of a standard MVP.
The video format was a smart choice. It was easy to share and understand, especially considering how straightforward the concept of Dropbox was. It's a great example of how MVPs can work regardless of their form, so long as they provide genuine validation for your project.
The idea for Etsy came from a very common complaint merchants had about eBay: the seller fees were too high. Etsy was meant to be an alternative platform for selling handmade crafts, and launched its MVP in 2005.
Unlike other eBay copycats at the time, it managed to succeed. Why?
Because it understood and targeted a very specific demand. It was also the first service to directly address it - the MVP only took the team 2.5 months to develop. If the founders decided to make a full-featured product from the start, they'd run the risk of being outpaced by a different player.
That serves to illustrate one of the biggest benefits of MVP: being able to address a pain point and secure yourself a place in the market before anyone else.
While Facebook has seen somewhat of a fall-off in recent years, it's hard to deny its once monumental status. That said, its beginnings were relatively humble.
The Facebook MVP was first launched as a directory of all the students in Harvard University. Though, for an MVP, it was quite feature-rich: it came with a customisable user profile, friends, messages, and groups.
The website was a huge hit, and half the Harvard students had Facebook accounts within a month. By 2004, the network became open to all North American universities, and by 2006 - to the global public.
It's a good example of how an application idea can gradually expand and evolve into something truly big from a safe MVP space.
The very first version of Spotify, the most popular music streaming platform in the world, was developed in only 4 months. The MVP beta launched in 2007, back when there were no high-quality services for listening to songs online.
What really put the V in MVP was the founders' obsession with delivering a seamless streaming experience. In fact, most of the development time was spent on solving latency issues.
Spotify wanted to create a sense that users had all of the world's music on their hard drive. And that dedication made all the difference.
The fact that you're developing an MVP doesn't mean you can put in little effort. What it really means is that the effort must be channelled into a very well defined set of features that makes your product unique. The success of Spotify is proof of that.
An MVP is an incredible way to test a product idea with real audiences. It's also the perfect foundation for building a more intricate and polished solution from its core functionality.
Many world-famous tech giants began as MVPs. Their stories teach us that no matter what kind of MVP you choose to go for, it must:
focus on what makes it stand out;
- perfect those core features to the extent your resources allow;
- trim the fat as much as possible;
- validate user interest in the product;
- give users enough taste of the experience to harvest feedback.
You never know: perhaps, the next big thing is just one MVP development away.