Choose the Right Type of MVP

24.11.2017 |

Episode #6 of the course How to start a startup with zero budget by Dr. Donatas Jonikas


In order to test your assumptions that we’ve talked in the previous lesson, you need to choose and use the right type of minimum viable product (MVP), a version of a new product that allows collecting the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort. Generally speaking, a MVP includes just a few essential features that allow you to ship a product to early adopters and get some feedback from them to check your hypotheses. Getting paid for your MVP or product pre-order is one of the best indicators for validating your business idea.


Different Criteria for MVP

There are different types of MVPs used for different purposes in different cases. MVPs could be classified into different groups according to various criteria, like:

Coverage is the number of customers reached. An interview is done with few people, while an AdWords campaign can reach thousands.

Product fidelity defines how similar the MVP is to the end product. A software prototype has a higher fidelity than a paper mockup.

Feedback time defines how much time is needed to prepare for the experiment and get results. Conducting an A/B test of the landing page will give you results of the experiment much faster than creating two different product prototypes and showing them to potential users.

Reliability of results defines the possible margin of error in the results of your experiments. If you show a hand-drawn mockup of a product, it won’t give the same impression to your potential user as a video demonstrating all its features and benefits, so there might be a significant difference in customer behavior after interacting with different MVPs.


Choosing between High- and Low-Fidelity MVP

The fidelity of the prototype mostly depends on how much effort is needed to make the MVP look as similar as the final product. It’s probably the most important criteria for startups building their MVP because it influences how fast you can start your experiments and how reliable your results will be (you must find the balance between fast feedback and high reliability).

For instance, you might decide to create a landing page to test if there would be a demand without having a physical product. Normally, it would be considered a low-fidelity prototype because it’s just a landing page, not the real product. But what if you create a landing page for your experiment that looks like your actual sales page in the future when you have the real product? Even though you don’t have a product yet, a potential customer will see exactly the same website as they would see when you’re actually selling the product.

Categorizing MVP types into low versus high fidelity is always relative to the real product. It’s much more important to understand when it’s more practical to use low- and high-fidelity MPV regardless of their label.

Low-fidelity prototypes are typically used to:

• better understand the problem and related issues

• check how important the problem is for customers

• get confirmation if the problem is worth solving

• understand what kind of solution would be most welcomed

High-fidelity prototypes help to:

• determine how much customers are willing to pay for the solution

• find early adopters and evangelists

• optimize various aspects of marketing strategy

• identify most potential viral growth techniques

While choosing the type of MVP for your particular hypothesis verification, you should consider:

• What is the biggest risk you have right now, and how could you check it?

• How much time do you have to build this MVP and get results from it?

• How much money do you have at this stage? What amount would be smart to use? Don’t plan anything fancy for your first tests!

• What makes the most sense in your case? Which of the hypothesis validation strategies would bring your startup to the next level?


Key Takeaway

Different hypotheses require a different type of MVP. Don’t overload your MVP with unnecessary features and details—you are seeking validated learning. Therefore, run planned experiments with MVPs as close to the real product as possible, yet make them easy and inexpensive to build.

Once you have your assumptions tested with the right type of MVP, you can update the business model we talked in Lesson #3 (you have to replace assumptions with facts from experiments). In the next lesson, we will talk about how you should prepare a financial assessment for your business model.


Recommended book

Startup Evolution Curve: From Idea to Profitable and Scalable Business by Donatas Jonikas


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