Idea to MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

As tech geeks and entrepreneurs, we always think about new, fresh ideas. Ideas that can change the world, ideas that solve problems that matter, ideas that will get you to financial freedom. This article will help you to get those ideas into life. I have listed step by step guidance on how to get your idea into a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) using a lean startup approach. Let’s get started!

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay 

1. Refining the Idea


Once you have an idea that can change the world for good, the first thing to do is breaking it down to a clear problem and the customer base that is facing this problem. Write down the problem statement clearly and list out the customer segments. It is better to be specific with the customer segment since the goal is to find a niche market to focus in the early stages of the startup.

2. Lean Business Model


After refining the idea into a clear problem statement and customer segments, come up with a business model to expand the business idea further. I have been a big fan of the one-page  Lean Business model or the Lean Canvas because of its simplicity. The Lean Canvas contains Problem, Solution, Unique Value Proposition, Key Metrics, Unfair Advantage, Channels, Customer Segments, Cost Structure, and Revenue Streams sections. I will have a new blog post soon going over each of these. You can either google “Lean Canvas” and download a PDF version of the canvas or Sign up at leanstack.com and create one. If you want to learn more about the Lean Canvas, I highly recommend the book Running Lean by Ash Maurya. 

Figure: Lean Canvas
Source: https://leanstack.com/leancanvas


3. Problem Interviews


Now you have a clear business model. Awesome! It is all about research now, research to find out the problem you are going to solve is actually worth solving. The best way to do this is by conducting qualitative interviews on your problem. These are called “Problem Interviews.” The goal of a problem interview is to find out the worldview of your potential customers and how much of a pain this problem is for them. These interviews start with an introduction to the idea and stating the problem in hand to the interviewee. Then let the interviewee explain how they face this problem, how much of a pain is this problem to them, and what solutions they use right now to solve this problem. Then you can ask more open-ended questions from the interviewee to better understand their perspective and the relationship they have with the problem. Try to note down a brief summary of the interview soon after it is complete. 20-30 of these interviews can give you a good idea if the problem you are going to solve is actually worth solving for your selected customer segments.  

4. Prototype

Once you are confident the problem is worth solving, the next step is to build a prototype representing your solution to the problem. This prototype can be very bare bone. It should only represent the main feature of your solution. Try to cut down all the fancy features. If your solution/product is a web or a mobile app, you can use a platform like Figma figma.com or Adobe XD to create some simple screens emulating your product. Keep it simple, clean, and to the point.  

5. Solution Interviews


Here comes the next interview round! Now you have a simple prototype that describes your solution to the problem you intend to solve. Try to either interview the same people you interviewed at the problem interviews or find interviewees who represent your target customer segments. This interview starts with introducing the problem and the solution. After the introduction, demo the prototype and explain how to solution works in action. Then ask the interviewee open-ended questions like what you think about this product? Would you buy or subscribe to this product? And is this better than the existing solutions you use to solve the problem at hand? Again, the goal is to understand the world view of the customer. 20-30 solution interviews would be enough to conclude what your potential customers think about the product you will develop. If the overall interview feedback is negative, rethink the solution and conduct solution interviews until the feedback turns out to be positive. 

6. Design and Develop


By now you should have enough confidence in your idea. It is time to design and build the MVP now. There are two main components to your design, the architecture of your application and the UI/UX design. First of all, you need to come up with the uses cases of your application based on different user roles. These need to cover all the requirements for the main feature of your solution. After the use cases are descriptive enough and well documented, you can document the application architecture with sequence diagrams and class diagrams. By now you should have a clear idea about the implementation of your application. You can also extend the prototype with a proper UI/UX design and all basic screen required. Once all the design work is complete, development can start. Try to follow an agile development cycle which will help you to break the project into sprints and allows you to get feedback on what you build.   

7. Launch the MVP

Finally, you have the MVP developed and ready to be published. Hosting services like AWS aws.amazon.com or Heroku heroku.com have limited free options you can take advantage of when launching your MVP. Once you host your application and add your domain to it you can start reaching out to the potential customers you interviewed in the market research phase and get them on-board. Market your MVP to a selected niche demography in this stage. The goal is to have enough users on board to understand if the users really get their problem solved, which in turn proves your concept.  

Conclusion


Congratulations if you followed the above steps and launched your MVP! You did something many can’t do, getting an idea into life. However, this is just the start of your startup journey. Now your product should find product-market fit. I will have a new blog post soon covering this topic. For now, keep up the good work!

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