I was a little disappointed in the examples though, running a course is an MVP and delivering a meal is an MVP. MVPs don't need to be software, in these cases, the software is actually definitively not a minimal approach, proven with a non software example of the MVP.
So is a test viable? I have asked people to pay for things I hadn't built yet and didn't intend to build if they wouldn't prepay, is that an MVT and not an MVP? Are waitlists and crowdfunding campaigns MVTs?
Being able to cook meals and deliver them doesn't seem like a test. Thousands of restaurants do that every day, and national chains do it at scale. The test needed to be is there a market at the price point necessary to sustain the kind of meal he envisioned and I guess the answer to that was no.
What would have been enlightening in the article are examples of negative tests -- something one of the firms he was involved with tested and failed at, which led them to reevaluate.
Yes I too was hoping for something a bit more radically different to my existing definition of what an MVP is.
I definitely agree that it's easy to over engineer MVPs - I'm guilty of that myself, a lot, but many/most of the "MVT's" described here really just sound like non over-engineered MVPs.
Nevertheless, the article is still useful as a reminder to really pair it down to the absolute bare essentials at the beginning. So essentially what we end up with is a "minimal viable MVP"!
I was curious to see no mention of doing any kind of research via some sort of survey - to not necessarily canvass potential customers on whether they'd buy the product, but more around the problem space, what problems they currently have etc. To me this seems like quite a low-hanging fruit to help validate ideas?
By the definitions laid out in the article waitlists and crowdfunding campaigns would be MVTs to address marketing or "building something people don’t want" risk.
None of this kind of testing that VCs love and founders do is real testing, statistically speaking. Just because you can sell a bunch of lemonade at the street corner on a hot summer’s day doesn’t mean that you should be going into the lemonade business…
Conversely, Jeff Bezos may have put up a pseudo website when he started Amazon to “test” whether ppl wanna buy books online. After three months maybe a few ppl would’ve bought a few books, but that would’ve told him nothing about whether it’s a good idea.
Yes, lots of startups come out with crap products that no one needs, but I’d argue that much of it isn’t as “testable” as articles like this (which are written ‘from hindsight’) make it seem.
There are plenty of large companies that test extensively and then demand is either spurious or not sustainable. Other products “grow” on ppl, or some celeb makes them fashionable if otherwise, they would’ve died a quiet death.
At the end of the day, these “tests” are just a good persuasion technique for when you need to raise money, but they lack scientific basis, and they won’t “derisk” much. But they make things sound salient and rational like all persuasion techniques, and for that, they certainly have their place.
I just don’t think this needs a 5-page blog post that is abstracting and “frameworkizing” something pretty basic, obvious, and not that interesting.
Oh, and I still don’t know wth a “cohort based course” is supposed to be. Sounds to me it’s just a regular real-time class taking place online?
“Build an initial product to bring all of your insights together and test them with your target customer.”
Yeah, that initial product is the MVP.
This is why the article read fairly false to me, not that there wasn't the odd nugget of value, but coming up with a new MVT, is just adding to the confusion.
You did, but your quote comes directly after he said:
"Once you’ve finally tested enough hypotheses to have more confidence about your product viability, then go to the next steps:"
The MVP is the next step and it distinctly different from what he calls an MTP.
An MTP is not a useable product, it doesn't have a login, stack or maybe any code at all.
System risks e.g. unplanned unavailability count (UU#), mean time to recovery (MTTR)
Marketing risks e.g. customer complaint count (CC#), net detractor score (NDS)
Financial risks e.g. unbooked letters of intent (LOI$), investment value at risk (VaR$)
Process risks e.g. dropout rate (σ), error ratio (ε)
What you need to know is if you can reach at decent scale people that will pay enough to give you a fat margin of profit for your product.
So you need a product that does the job, you need a scalable distribution channel and you need customers to pay enough to give you 60%+ margins.
That’s it. There’s no way around it. With both physical and digital products you can let people pre order them.
You need distribution-product-price fit. When you achieve that you can pour gas on the fire.
TL;DR Just create a damn landing page connected to stripe and take pre orders and make sure the price gives you lots of margin. Then spam
The distribution channel. That’s it.
The product is the easy part.
The hard part is the distribution channel. How to reach lots of people that would pay for something for cheap. That’s the secret you have to uncover as it’s semi unique for everyone. Airbnb spammed Craigslist and Hotmail spammed emails w their hotmail signature.
As a repeat tech co-founder, I easily fall into the trap of being a perfectionist & a complete-ist, always wanting to add one more feature or refactor one more poorly designed aspect of the project. So I appreciate this article as it pulls in the other direction.
However I think doing what he calls MVT's -- basically sub-standard, feature-poor, non-scalable MVP's -- can lead you astray, or simply fail to properly test the hypotheses in question.
In the end it comes down to judgement and experience. I've taught myself to put time-to-market at the top of my list of priorities, but it is still a struggle between wanting to 'get it right' vs missing the opportunity or chasing the wrong assumptions.
Startups live and die by their ideas. The nuance is that ideas can be detailed or abstract, and those details can be some combination of right/wrong and relevant/irrelevant.
I've got back and looked at some of the early pitch decks of my current unicorn employer, and they're shockingly accurate. The founders / early team have been saying the same thing since before launch. It's unreal how fast they figured out the core value prop, and so much of the growth of the company is living up to the promises of that early idea.
Figuring out what really matters needs to happen early, and it's something that founders and early team need to internalize as much as possible. If you can get that deep understanding of what needs to be done, quickly, the company's odds of success go up so, so dramatically.
I) Build community - build something useful for segment you are interested in even it has no big future payout. Or forum/blog/discord/instagram/fbGroup/emailList/twitter/partner with existing influencer... just have access to audience. Talk to them, recruit few to build out v1, blast v1 to all audience.. boom you are in business.
II) Just brainstorm dozens of crude ideas about problems some industry/professional/consumer might be having. Then pick problems you like most. Then find existing solutions and see what's happening. Once you have some insights, you will have lot of questions. Ask existing users all of them. And you will start to learn about industry very nicely.
III) Try to partner with consultant who has helped many businesses. Or try to partner with veteran in industry that is lagging in tech. (more opportunities). Make him significant partner for just giving insights and providing introductions and connections.
IV) If all else fails build anything. Even if it looks a copy of existing thing and inferior. It's likely you will start to find users who still want to use your product, lake is really big. It's not winner take all. But what will happen is you will start making in ways into this new industry and realize why these businesses/users are unsatisfied with existing stuff.
Remember all companies have limited resources. So they always go for segment/problems that yield highest return. They may start with low ROI segment but move onto greener pastures. ie. individuals -> SMBs -> enterprise. FB -> a place for college students -> place for families -> place of businesses.. now it's no longer a place to discover your college peers and share things with them and them alone. Everyone and their grandmother is there. Early adopters/segments are always left in dust. So there are always unsatisfied segment of customers.
V) ME TOO in new markets - Lot of world is still offline and/or has very slow internet. You can be first there.
The "launch fast, fail fast way(launch an MVP and iterate it)" is to optimize for the company and investor, not the customer.