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The "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP) explained by Eric Ries

Following the principles in "lean startup" and "customer development" methodologies, when your goal is to find a repeatable and scalable business model you need to use some contrasting tools with potential customers in order to constantly assess whether your long-term vision is on the right track. In this context the "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP) appears as a basic element for this learning process where the product, rather than an end by itself, is a means to get validated learning and to provide solid foundations for decision making. Eric Ries explained this concept in a lecture during the first "Lean Startup Meeting" held in San Francisco in 2009.

Here is the video containing the lecture (duration: 41:33). The recording quality is not very good and the lack of image stability might be annoying sometimes, but the lecture can be easily followed after all.






- "I don’t have the time to watch it."
It's really worth it to use 7 minutes of your time to watch the section between 03:02 and 10:13 time marks, where Eric Ries explains the keys of the "Minimum Viable Product" concept: the product with the minimum set of features required to learn from "early adopters" and to validate your long-term vision. He highlights the idea of "minimum", meaning that we are just looking for the necessary feedback to check whether we are on the right track or not, and in order to do that we don't really need a fully-developed version of our product but something more "minimum" than we may think of. In other words, it is the minimum development level of our product that is required to interact with the customer and get feedback. This idea implies a commitment to "pivot": the entrepreneur's right mindset is not to abandon the idea of building the product after the first negative feedback, but to use that learning for a new iteration of this building process (following the "Build-Measure-Learn" loop, one of the key principles of the "lean startup" methodology).


- "Ok, I’ll give it a try."
Here is a time&content structure of the lecture, so you can organize your time better:
  • (00:00-03:02) Introduction ("¿Why do we build products?"). It's interesting to see that during that time (before publishing his book, "The Lean Startup") Eric Ries was extremely happy just to see that people were less and less skeptical when hearing about his ideas.
  • (03:02-10:13) The Minimum Viable Product as a hybrid of two philosophies: "Maximize chances of success" and "Release early, release often". Description and keys of this concept (mentioned above).
  • (10:13-19:30) Examples based on his experience while launching his startup IMVU (also mentioned in the lecture mentioned in this post) and also while organizing and selling seminars. It's worth highlighting his reflection on the huge amount of time spent thinking about the MVP and how little is needed for having it ready (A lot of MVPs are easier to do that to argue about”), and how important it is to abandon the preconceived notion that a very complex and developed version of the product is required to get the necessary feedback.
  • (19:30-23:30) How the MVP fits in the Customer Development process (Steve Blank). Differentiation of two times inside a startup, focused on problem and solution, respectively. Techniques and tools to facilitate the use of the MVP to get feedback about your product.
  • (23:30-27:27) The 3 most important fears that hamper the use of the MVP: the "false negative", the "visionary complex" and the "too-busy-to-learn effect". The key insight about these barriers is: “You don’t really want feedback, let’s be honest. [...] I want everybody to just think that I’m awesome”.
  • (27:27-41:32) Final conclusions and Q&A's.


 - "Sounds cool, I'll bookmark it!"
If you want to explore this topic further, an obvious reference is the book by Eric Ries published in 2011 or his blog "Startup Lessons Learned". In case you want to know about more use cases of this approach, I would recommend checking the Lean Startup Conference 2013 YouTube channel, where examples from different sectors are discussed.

[Haz clic aquí para la versión en español de esta entrada]

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