Minimum Viable Product

October 7, 2019
Don Lodge

An Approach to Creating a new Product

You’re a dog lover. You want only the best for your beloved Labradoodle. In fact, you’re very picky about the canine company your dog keeps. So you have an idea for an app: Rin-Tin-Tinder, the Dog Dating App. 

You are certain that you have a great idea that will sell and be profitable. But how do you proceed? 

In your mind, you imagine the end product will be a full-featured app that satisfies all of your dog’s needs. Other dog owners must be just like you, so it will sell like hotcakes. Right? 

You dive into developing the Rin-Tin-Tinder app.  You sweat, you fret, you stress for your pet.  And – Eureka! - You finally perfect an app that delivers exactly what you want. It’s feature-loaded and will locate the perfect mate for your dog.  It will screen canine candidates on breed, pedigree, color, age, location, temperament, medical history, DNA screening, and Westminster Dog Show performance.  

The big day comes, you launch Rin-Tin-Tinder, and…crickets. 

What happened? 

Take a Different Approach

An alternative way to develop your app is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach. Instead of a complex, full-blown app, you would create an app with a few features, with just enough to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development (Free Code Camp).
The beauty of the MVP approach is that development time, cost, and risk are minimal. You deploy the slimmed-down app to a small group of early adopters. If the product bombs, you have cut your losses. If it catches on fire, the feedback from early adopters guides the next phase of development to a fuller set of features. 

Let's imagine you try the MVP approach. The MVP Rin-Tin-Tinder app includes your dog's breed, size, temperament, playtime availability, and neighborhood. Your early adopters say they don't want mates for their dogs; they simply want to arrange mid-morning play dates. And they want to be sure your Labradoodle is compatible with their Chihuahua for a walk in the local park. They like what you have, but want a scheduling feature. You add that, and Voilà, a successful, profitable app is launched.

By using the MVP approach, you can avoid the time, money, and effort of trying to solve a grand problem and instead learn, with minimal investment, what your target market will buy. More features can be added in subsequent versions -- only when desired by the users. 

The Duquesne University SBDC provides free business consulting for entrepreneurs in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Click here to request free consulting, or contact the SBDC for additional help and information.

Don Lodge is a Business Consultant at the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center (DUSBDC).  He is also a certified business coach who has worked with over 100 small business clients since 2002.  His areas of expertise include profitability improvement, effective sales techniques, and employee relations.