The meaning of an MVP for your startup

15.09.2020 | Written by Ole Peterson ©

What is an MVP? - The Definition

In the context of startups, MVP is the abbreviation for Minimum Viable Product; i.e. a minimally practicable product. An MVP is also called a Skeleton MVP, because it is a minimal version of the product and thus represents its skeleton. An MVP always consists only of the irreplaceable and unique core functions of the product idea in order to obtain a new product that is as cost-efficient as possible but also functional. In this article we show you how this works.

What are the benefits of an MVP?

First of all, the development of an MVP is a valuable learning process. In many cases problems become visible in the process, which can become very expensive later on. The costs for a MVP are worthwhile themselves in relation to the possible five-figure costs, which arise, if not goal-prominent features are inserted in the final product. The learning process during development is therefore the biggest advantage of Minum Viable Products.

A founder who can present empirical data about his business model after this learning process is not only faster on the market, but also much more attractive for business angels and investors!

An MVP is an excellent opportunity to validate the functionality of your product on the market without bearing the risk of the complete development costs. An MVP development is comparatively low-priced: Experience shows that the costs for an MVP are only about 10% of the actual development costs. It is always difficult to name concrete key figures for the costs of an MVP, since naturally each business is unique; nevertheless empirical values can surely give a few reference points:

If a product development costs an estimated 50.000 Euro, an MVP may cost 5.000 Euro - it should not cost more than 10.000 Euro in any case. Caution is advised with anything over 10% of the development costs: Are the costs for the MVP really worth it? Do I have too many features or do I lose focus?

The next advantage of an MVP is to get involved in the market faster, attract customer attention and generate valuable feedback and data. A regular product development often takes 6-12 months: In contrast, a lean MVP can be realized in 6-10 weeks and can already be positioned at the market. In addition, every start-up has operating costs, direct costs or opportunity costs - so every month you are not yet present on the market you are effectively losing money. With an MVP, these initial losses are absorbed earlier.

What does a good MVP need - and what doesn’t it?

Defining the features for an MVP requires discipline and the insight that it will not be beautiful or necessarily user-friendly. The focus in developing an MVP must be on the irreplaceable, essential features of the product - and on the “why”. Ask yourself why consumers should spend money on your product and not on other products. The answer to this question is provided by the unique features of your product, solving customers' problems like no other product. Anything extra just drives up the cost, without any additional benefit to your MVP that could justify that cost.

To define these essential, up to the unnecessary features of the MVP, all features can be divided into the following four groups:

  • Must have: Essential functions that make up a product and cannot be replaced manually. Without those features, the product cannot solve the specific problems of the customer as desired.
  • Should have: Features that the product needs later for scaling and monetization. For example automatic payment or similar.
  • Can have: Anything that is more user-friendly and saves time, such as practical UI shortcuts.
  • Shouldn’t have: Anything that does not fall into the other three categories and is therefore out of scope.

A good MVP consists exclusively of must haves! For example, it is initially cheaper not to have a payment function in the product and instead simply write invoices - scaling is scheduled for later.

Find the must-haves of your product

This chart helps you to define your MVP correctly. Assign the individual features along the different paths to their categories. This is where the discipline mentioned at the beginning is required in order not to start with a too large and therefore too expensive MVP.

Once you have found your must-have features, you can now start thinking about the actual MVP development. We will tell you what to focus on.

Quickly build your affordable MVP

Today, there is a wide variety of tools already, that you can use to build your MVP - from automated calendar bookings to pre-made online stores and payment systems. Existing tools are worth using, because a complete in-house development is often far more expensive. A cleverly designed Minimum Viable Product is often a patchwork of combined tools that together provide a solution to a given problem. Nevertheless, it is always a creative contribution of one’s own to map the product using existing tools and thus create a functioning solution.

An example of an MVP:

With Hofly we allow farmers to sell their own products to end customers themselves.

As MVP for Hofly, we integrated a ready-made online store on a hand-written website together with the founder, where you could buy just one product. Thus, the concept “Hofly” was on the market within 1.5 weeks, we could gain valuable insights regarding logistics, marketing and much more and we generated over 1000€ monthly revenue.

The website with payment function originated from the website modular system Wix.

If you cannot develop the MVP yourself, it is most effective to have the MVP developed externally: Hiring your own software developer for the development of a Minimum Viable Product would be much too early and would generate running costs - and running costs are, in contrast to the one-time costs, usually those that cause startups to fail.

The development of the MVP must be well coordinated: an MVP that does not solve the problem is simply worthless. Many start-ups hire only a student for development and after tough months both parties are dissatisfied. This is nothing more than a waste of valuable time and money.

If you have any questions about which existing tools are suitable to map your product, the experienced VIPER-devs can certainly help you. You can here arrange a free consultation appointment on this topic.

Tools for a digital MVP

The following table gives you a concise overview of the already MVP-proven tools that cover many important functions. Most of the tools are not free of charge, but they are still much cheaper compared to an in-house development. Have a look at what the programs can do and for which price; you will see what is already possible at a comparatively very small price.

Required Feature Tool
Scheduled bookings, e.g. on a platform Calendly
Data Collection Google Forms, NinjaForms (For WordPress)
Landing Page Wix (Simple), WordPress (More complex pages with user system)
Regular follow-ups, if necessary with conditions ActiveCampaign, Drip
Online Shop Shopify
Payments, Subscriptions Chargebee
Connections between tools Own scripts, Zapier, IFTTT

Which programs do you use for your MVP? Link the tools in the comment section and share your experience with the community.

Four steps to a successful MVP

  1. Define the core functions
  • Only the Must Haves belong in an MVP
  • Everything that can be done manually should be done manually
  1. Review and combine existing programs
  • Even paid programs are usually cheaper than in-house development
  1. Implement MVP
  • Think carefully about who should develop your MVP
  • Implement it quickly and keep track of your costs
  • Avoid making long-term commitments or working with a potentially unreliable partner who has no experience with MVPs
  1. Launching the MVP
  • At the latest now (best before!) you start selling your product actively!
  • Get feedback

As soon as an MVP is in place, it can be tested on the market and valuable feedback from the first customers can be gathered. Getting this feedback before the actual investment in the final product development takes place is extremely supportive. The 10% additional cost for the MVP pays off many times thanks to the feedback and the earlier market positioning. Again, an MVP is above all a learning process for a start-up and in the end it gives a lot of insight into what the customers need.

Once your MVP is up and running, and you’ve taken the lessons from the process with you and customers have become aware of your product, you can move on to full product development backed-up with customers' feedback.

If you have any further questions about the topic Minimum Viable Product, you can here arrange a free consultation.

With VIPERdev we have already brought many MVPs to market within a few weeks. We know which features are really important, and we know the existing resources of code as well as classic cost drivers very well. Thanks to our experience we can develop a low-cost and highly professional MVP with you in a short period of time. We are also there to help you with any questions you may have via our contact form.

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