The MVP is dead

Episode 34

In this Stretch Goals Quick Hits, Scott and I are going to talk about why the minimum viable product, or your MVP, is dead.

Find us on Twitter @The_Scott_Davis or @RobDickersonJr

Transcript

Robert: In this Stretch Goals Quick Hits, Scott and I are going to talk about why the minimum viable product, or your MVP, is dead.

Scott: Yeah. The concept of it. The concept is dead.

Robert: This is the Stretch Goals Podcast, where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host, Robert Dickerson.

Scott: And I’m Scott Davis.

Robert: You found this article that was talking about “the MVP is dead,” and I think it’s something you’ve been thinking about for a while, so tell us, what was the article about?

Scott: Well, sure. First of all, we’ll link up the article on our website, and on YouTube as well. I’ll even share it on Twitter when I reference this, but basically, the concept of the article with the title being “The MVP is Dead: Long Live the RAT.” What is a RAT? A RAT stands for “riskiest assumption test.” Before I go into that, we’ll talk about the problems with the word MVP and how it’s overused, and what it really means today. The goal of an MVP, minimum viable product, back in the day, and it’s got many different monikers, but could be “minimum valuable product,” “minimum lovable product,” whatever. The point of it is, “Hey, let’s boil down a list of features to something very basic and then put it out the door.”

What’s happened, especially in the startup space, is that the MVP, quote-unquote, isn’t really an MVP. It’s a full-featured product, and that’s completely different than an MVP. An MVP is, let’s boil it down to the most basic concepts that will prove or disprove our app, or our idea, or our software product, or whatever, get it out there, let people use it, and bang on it and give some feedback, and then see, “Hey, does this have some legs to it? Should I turn this into a full-fledged product?” That’s what the MVP was supposed to be, but now with all these people who don’t know really much about startups but they’re just jumping on the startup bandwagon, “Oh, I’m going to create my MVP because I heard that term used once.” And your MVP is really a full-fledged polished product. We’ve talked about this before in previous episodes, Rob.

That’s the reality of what’s happening today in the startup space, and that’s what the MVP has become, but that’s not what the MVP was supposed to be.

Robert: Yeah. I mean, I have a hard time with MVP. I mean, it’s challenging to build a product and it’s … I understand the concept. It’s like, the purpose of it is really to get feedback, right, on what you’re trying to do. Initial feedback. Enough feedback to kind of guide the direction of where you’re going with your product.

Scott: Absolutely.

Robert: You don’t need to have this huge, fully-featured product to get you there. Sometimes it can just be a concept, or it doesn’t need to have all the features. I think that’s what it’s trying … You’re really trying to boil down what you’re showing to people to the core concepts so you can get feedback on that and kind of iterate from there and go from there.

Scott: Absolutely. Absolutely. What you said is 100% true. That’s what the MVP was supposed to be, and that’s not what the MVP has become. The MVP has become this, like I said, full-featured, full-fledged product, and the problems with that, before we go into the riskiest assumption test and what that could mean, is that the MVP is expensive. It’s time-consuming and it’s expensive, because you’re no longer focusing on those small features to prove or disprove an idea or a concept. You are now looking at building an entire project, or entire product. What that means is, you have to break it down. You have to start all over, and don’t try to push out an entire product just to prove or disprove an idea. Put it out there. Make it very basic, and see if it works. You can make it ugly. The point is, if you have a good solid feature and you get good feedback from your users, then you know that you’re on to something and continue down that path.

That’s where this riskiest assumption test kind of comes in, and that’s what this article was talking about. But essentially, what it is is, it removes the temptation to prematurely create a product that’s rudimentary, instead of this relentless pursuit of a perfection of an idea, right? Basically boil it down. What will make your product be worthwhile to pursue down the line? That could be … You just have to ask yourself that question. “What am I trying to achieve?” “Well, I want to make an app that shares contact information.” “Okay, cool. Let’s start with that.” Don’t worry about the UI. Don’t worry about the mechanisms by which you’re going to do it. Prove if it’s needed.

Robert: I really like the MVP concept because it’s the idea of, like, boiling down this huge vision that you have in your head …

Scott: Yes.

Robert: … into what the core things are. I talk to so many entrepreneurs that they spend … I mean, I even do this myself. They spend years thinking about a problem, thinking about an idea, and it keeps growing, and growing, and growing into something that’s so large, that takes so much money to build that it’s not feasible.

Scott: Correct.

Robert: This is really an exercise to think about your idea and keep whittling it down, whittling it down until the only thing that’s left is that core feature that you want feedback on. Like you said, it doesn’t have to be pretty. Doesn’t have to be sexy. It just needs to be the feature that you want to get feedback on.

Scott: Correct. Yeah, and that’s … You hit the nail on the head when you said that they’ve thought about this idea for so long, and it’s a fully thought out product, and in their head, to go to put this app in the App Store or put this out on their website or whatever the case may be, it has to be absolutely perfect. Okay, but that takes time, and that takes resources and money. That’s not often what you really need to do, and so that’s why the RAT model is more specific to what the MVP should have been. Really, what it boils down to is I think everybody needs to go to MVP college and really understand what an MVP is supposed to be, because it’s been bastardized and turned into something other than what it’s supposed to be.

I get it. We’ve talked about this before in perfection versus launching, which is, do you go for this perfect product that you had envisioned in your head, like a Steve Jobs iPhone release, or do you just put something out there, see what people think about it, and then go, “Okay. Well I was way off. Let me make a pivot and work on something else”?

Robert: I think the word that I like in the RAT is “test.”

Scott: Yes.

Robert: I was at MicroConf last week, and one of the major themes that I took away from all the speakers was they were talking about testing their assumptions, and they were talking about how certain things can work for some people, and certain things can work for others. It was so insightful because a lot of times on the web, this podcast included, you hear a lot of noise about how to do different things, and it was funny because some of the things that they found to be true were the exact opposite of what people online were saying. I mean, like they talk about when you’re writing email copy that you want to keep it real short. One of the presenters, Joanna, was basically saying, “No. You want to make it long.” She found that people were more likely to read long copy. It’s these diametrically opposed, like, ideas.

I think with the products and the idea you’re thinking about, you really had to focus on testing what your idea is, what your hypothesis is, and see if it’s true, right? Then you can refine it and tweak it. I mean, at the conference they were talking about headlines. I mean, people, they may be great copywriters, but they run Facebook ads through these different headlines and they actually figure out which one people are clicking on, right? I mean, they’re not just thinking of this one perfect headline. They’re constantly testing the headlines to see what people will click on.

Scott: Yeah.

Robert: It’s that refinement through testing that really gives you the best solution.

Scott: Yeah. The P in MVP doesn’t stand for perfection. It stands for product, right? But let’s just coin a new term. We’re going to call it the MVPT. Minimally viable product test.

Robert: Yes. I like it.

Scott: MVPT. Minimally viable product test. That’s what it should be, right? You heard it here first.

Robert: Yeah. I mean, it’s identifying that core feature and then figuring out how you can test it to validate whether it’s true, and then refine it, and then continue to build out your product based on the information that you found out of that.

Scott: And founders, listen: If you listen to what we’re saying here, you will save yourself a ton of time and money. Just focus on the things you need to prove, fix them. If they work, great. Now go on to the next thing and slowly you will build a product. If you have users, if you put an app out there that’s not completed but proves and solves some very basic problems that you believe in, they will follow your product, and as you continue to make enhancements, they will get more and more vocal about how much they love your product and they will start to share it with their friends because you’re improving on it. That’s the huge part of community development, you know, is that that factor sort of happens. Go with what we’re saying here. Trust me. Like, you know, go with small pieces. Prove tests, not products.

Robert: Yeah. Don’t worry about the acronyms. Get out there. Test your assumptions. Figure out what works, and keep iterating on it. Keep building products based on that feedback.

Scott: Yeah, or you’re gonna make me mad and I’m gonna come to your door.

Robert: And check us out on YouTube. We’ve got the videos up now for this episode, and the last episode, episode 33, so come check us out on YouTube, and see a little behind the scenes action of what we’re doing on Stretch Goals.

Scott: That’s right. Thanks, guys. Thanks for listening.

Robert: See you next week.

Scott: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals Podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over to stretchgoals.fm.

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Robert Dickerson

@RobDickersonJr

Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.

Scott Davis

@The_Scott_Davis

Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.