What is MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?

For sports fans, the acronym MVP is probably associated with the title of the best player (Most Valuable Player), but this term also has a completely different meaning. Minimum Viable Product is the minimum version of a product or service. But what does that actually mean? Why is it worth paying a lot of attention to build an MVP? What’s the difference between it and the prototype? What are the examples of its use? You will find the answers to these questions in the text below. 

MVP – what is it and what are its goals?

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product with key functionality, i.e. having only those functions that will be the required value for people who test it, and at the same time will allow them to achieve the most elementary goals.

So MVP is the product version:

  • basic and operating to a limited extent,
  • addressed to a specific group of recipients,
  • allowing you to quickly extend the functionality.

The main goals of MVP are to obtain appropriate feedback at the early stages of creating a product or service and to iteratively adapt the new solution to the expectations of its potential users.

MVP – a short history of the concept

Frank Robinson, co-founder and CEO of SyncDev, is considered to be the originator of the term MVP – he first used it in 2001. However, it was not until 10 years later that this concept was popularized by Eric Ries in his great book „The Lean Startup Method”. He defined MVP as a version of a product that allows you to collect the maximum amount of knowledge about consumers with the least effort.

MVP – advantages

The MVP concept is being used more and more often (especially in startups). Significant benefits that result from such action include:

  • engaging users in the process of building the product, collecting their opinions and correctly identifying their needs, 
  • avoiding the introduction of unnecessary or not very useful products, services and functionalities, 
  • the ability to monitor user behavior and adjust to it,
  • determining how realistic the further development of a given solution is, and the directions of this development, 
  • protecting entrepreneurs against wrong investment decisions, 
  • distinguishing business ideas that arouse market interest from those that fail, 
  • determining the technological feasibility and economic viability of implementing a product or service, 
  • verification of product’s assumptions and testing its effectiveness in a real environment, 
  • facilitating the decision to continue working on a product or service, abandoning it or making a pivot, 
  • increasing credibility in negotiations with investors, 
  • the ability to draw conclusions for the future, data-driven development and to offer the target group products more suited to their needs.

MVP and prototype – differences

Both the MVP and the prototype are effective ways to test our business idea. However, they are not the same concepts! So how do they differ?

The prototype is intended only for testing, and its creators do not assume that it will be used as a regular product. Minimum Viable Product should solve customer problems, be refined in terms of UX and technically prepared for long-term use.

MVP is a self-service product, while the prototype mostly imitates functionalities, and it is only used to collect feedback.

MVP – building stages

How to properly create an MVP? Here are some basic steps: 

1/ Identification and understanding of business needs. 
2/ Establishing a long-term product or service goal. 
3/ Identifying potential users. 
4/ Building a Customer Journey Map.
5/ Preparing a list of advantages and disadvantages of a new product or service. 
6/ Preparing a list of opportunities and threats for product or service implementation. 
7/ Determining the most important functionalities of the product or service. 

MVP – examples

The conquest of the market in the MVP formula was started by such giants as Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Groupon and Dropbox.

For example: the case of Uber – an application that is extremely popular almost all over the world. It was established in 2010 under the name UberCab and operated only in the San Francisco area. It was a very simple mobile interface, available only for IOS, used only by the founders of UberCab and their friends – to get access, you had to send an email to one of the founders. This approach allowed Uber to focus on a small user base and use their feedback to improve the product in an iterative way. Further functionalities to which we are currently accustomed (such as live tracking of drivers or advanced information about the expected fare) were introduced gradually as the company developed and the user base expanded.

MVP – summary

A Minimum Viable Product is a form of product or service that can capture sufficient qualitative and quantitative data from users. It is more than a prototype, but of course less than a full product. It enables e.g. minimizing the risk of failure, more accurate positioning, matching the product to the market, saving time and money, and creating a solution that will satisfy both its users and its creators!

Agnieszka Zwolan