If you build it, they will come… eventually. Or you could skip the waiting and do this.
Building an MVP is one of the first steps in proving the market feasibility of your product, but it can be tricky to make the most out of it, partly because an MVP is two things. An MVP is a Minimal Viable Product that, for most companies, is an app. However, it is also, at a more fundamental level, a proof of concept. For founders, writing (or getting someone else to write) your code is usually easy but getting the MVP in front of people and measuring the value they get out of it is not.
In this article, we’ll explore how founders (technical or otherwise) can skip the waiting and go straight to proving how well their MVP works.
Editor’s Note: Technically, an MVP exists only to prove your solution and not necessarily in the form of an app (that’s the role of MMP or Minimal Marketable Product). For instance, the MVP for Groupon was a coupon sent manually as a PDF file to people looking for discounts. However, in practice, MVP is often used as an umbrella term that includes MVP, MMP, MMF, and other subsets of a skeleton app meant to prove the market viability. We’ll talk about MVPs in the same context.
Validate, and then iterate
The MVP will be, in most scenarios, the very first version of your app. It will have the bare minimum to carry out its main functions, anything complimentary or extra comes after. So building it is generally easy. For instance, product teams at Moonlight Labs can build a moderately sized MVP in less than two weeks, and at that point, they are ready to move on to validation.
One of the most common challenges we see as a development company is seeing founders keep iterating the MVP before taking it to the market and validating their idea. As a founder, it makes sense as you want to put your best foot forward. However, continuing to iterate without market feedback can lead to serious issues like running out of development funds, removing features the user would like (adding features they won’t), losing the first-mover advantage, and so on.
All of these problems can and have killed startups. More importantly, you can always continue improving your product and adding new features, but the core functionality should be enough to bring in customers. In fact, Dropbox already had over 1 million users in just 10 months with an MMP (a more fleshed-out MVP).
Marketing is more difficult, but also more important now
The internet has virtually removed all barriers to entry for marketing, and this is good news for solo founders who want to get the word out without hiring a team of marketers. However, this also means there is more competition to face now and a lot more noise to cut through.
But there is a silver lining here — founders have no shortage of ways to promote their MVP. Here at Moonlight Labs, we’ve helped founders validate their ideas at different stages of their startup. From right before it even began, we were there with a pen and paper and explaining the concept to our target audience in a casual setting — a popular practice explained by Google here.
For projects that cater to younger audiences like students, founders can and should explore the option of reaching out to influencers. It may not always work, but when it does, platforms like Tiktok and Instagram have the power to make your brand go viral overnight. However, it’s important to understand the risks of internet marketing and temper your expectations accordingly.
Another very popular albeit passive way to promote your MVP and ascertain demand and interest is through smoke tests. A smoke test is most commonly a simple landing page used to measure the level of interest or get feedback. Most companies use a newsletter that interested customers can sign up for and reach out to them at a later date with a finished product.
Or directly seek funding
There are many ways startups can validate their MVP, including getting it in the hands of their customers and generating revenue. But for many founders, marketing their MVP can be partially or entirely skipped in favor of pursuing direct funding. In fact, one of the biggest short-term goals for many founders is to leverage their MVP to secure funding. Marketing can be time-consuming and may not deliver the expected results, but if you believe your MVP fulfills a market need well, then it’s worthwhile to reach out to investors and get funding to begin the next stage.
That said, it can be difficult to find backers outside of friends and family. We discussed services like Foundersuite that are incredibly useful in finding investors in our Must Have-Tools for Commercializing Your Startup guide.
Test your assumptions
Being a generally small investment, an MVP is a great tool to test assumptions about your app and your target audience. With a smaller user base and relatively uncomplicated codebase, changes can be made (or reverted) quickly. But before you can do this, spend some time critically thinking about the assumptions to be tested.
Here are some examples of common assumptions to test:
- Why did you build this?
- Why did you include this feature and not that feature?
- How many users will we need to be profitable?
- How many of our users will become paying customers?
It’s equally important to measure the results of these assumptions and use your findings to test new assumptions. In the case your MVP does not meet your assumptions, then it’s time to understand what failed, why it failed, and how you can fix it.
Think about scalability
If you are certain that your MVP fulfills a market need, congratulations! But before building a full-scale app, it’s important to determine if your app will perform equally well when scaled up. In many cases, there simply isn’t a big enough demand to justify a full-scale app, something that many founders find out when it’s too late. Remember, a successful MVP is not a guarantee of a successful app.
But if you are sure of more demand, then it’s time to think about scalability and move on to the next phase of your startup.
Building your app
The MVP phase is low-investment validated learning that enables founders to get key insights into their app directly from their potential customers. However, it’s arguably even more important to reflect this feedback and information into your final app because the stakes are higher. And while the modern startup founder wears many hats, it might be best to partner with a technology company that can take over product development to free up the founder’s time. This is where Moonlight Labs comes in.
Moonlight Labs partners with startups, enterprises and incubators to meet development challenges and talent requirements. We have a simple but effective process that begins with identifying staffing goals and laying out the qualities desired in a product team. We go the extra mile in creating roadmaps, establishing reporting relationships, levels of urgency, managing feedback, and more to ensure a smooth integration.
Through our flexible product teams, Moonlight Labs can quickly build a moderately sized web application for a fraction of the cost of alternative solutions, suitable for meeting core customer needs and demonstrating market fit for investors. Additionally, we can expand the MVP team to begin the active development cycle and build a fully-featured market-ready version of your app.
Get access to top technical talent. Reach out to us for a free consultation today.
About Moonlight Labs
We are a Maui-based technology company specializing in prototypes, MVPs, and fully-functional, scalable products. Through a team of product strategists, developers, marketers, and engineers, Moonlight Labs helps companies through every step of their software journey, from concept to launch and beyond. We share our expertise through flexible product teams 100% dedicated to your project and company needs.