Why you should focus on building an MVP

Time and time again, entrepreneurs like to skip steps when it comes to building a platform or a product. There are many reasons why you should build an MVP (minimum viable product), before spending an absurd amount of time and money on your idea. In this episode, I tell you those reasons.

Here’s the transcript from this podcast episode, please excuse any typos!

Today I’m gonna change things up a little bit. Usually in my podcast. I tell you how to do something where I give you a bunch of steps on how to get something done. I do also touch a little bit on why you should do things a certain way. But today’s episode I’m going to focus on why building an MVP, or minimum viable product is super important in an early stage startup. First I want to talk about what an MVP actually is: minimum viable product, as it’s called, minimum means, you want to build the minimum amount possible to get your point across, viable it has to be viable enough that people can actually see, touch, feel and react to your product. And of course products. It has to be something tangible, it has to be, whether it’s a service or a platform or a physical widget, something that you built hardware wise or software. You have to have a product or else you have no idea what people are going to think because you have nothing to show, but let’s go back to the minimum viable product when most entrepreneurs come to me with an idea or they want to tell me their concept. They generally go past the minimum viable product stage they usually go into what I would call a version two or version three of the product.

What does that mean, let’s say you came up with an idea for a printer that prints food. That’s right, a food printer. So you came up with a way to get different types of, you know, plant based gelatins and vitamins and minerals together to create food. And so you’re going to build this minimum viable product of this food printer. Most entrepreneurs would come to me and say, oh, but this food printer, it can also print regular copies of paper and it could also print, you know, clothing and it can also print hair and it can print all these cool things you just saw it the different types of things that it can print and it’ll print them. First of all, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to invent this thing and it sounds hard to do, number one. Number two, let’s stick with the minimum viable product and let’s stick with the basics. This means your goal is to build a prototype of a printer that can just print one piece of food, not a variety of food that doesn’t even have any real flavor. As a matter of fact, it should just be able to print a damn leaf, or some sort of type of soy based product, something simple like the most Minimum Viable thing that someone could literally take it out of the printer, chew on it and say, Oh, this has a texture of meat or it has a texture of fruits, or it has a texture of a vegetable.

Wow, you pulled it off. Okay, that wow you pulled it off. That’s feedback, that’s verification that’s validation that’s a customer, a user, someone telling you that what you did worked. That’s the minimum viable product. If you can perfect that process. And then you can add flavors to it later that’s version two, you can add different types of foods vegetables, meats, dairy, cheese, you know everything, whatever you want to add noodles pasta, rice, whatever the printer can print, that’s version three version four, you’re getting bigger and better and your printer is making more food. You don’t want to build all that in the beginning. Same goes for software. This is the number one frustration I have with entrepreneurs. When they come to me with an idea for a platform, they don’t focus on their core value proposition. What’s the core value proposition? It is the main feature of your app that will bring value to somebody’s life. It’s very simple. When you look at an app like Instagram. When it first came out, it only did one thing. It let you post photos that were its core value proposition. You weren’t able to message anybody. You weren’t able to post videos, you weren’t able to post stories. You weren’t able to do really much just post photos. Now you can do 10 different things on Instagram, because they perfected their minimum viable product.

They got users to test it and give them feedback, and they started adding features on top of features on top of features, their version 2345 and so on, but they started with an MVP. Why should you stick to building the MVP. There’s so many reasons. One of the biggest reasons, I think, is because developing an app is extremely difficult. People don’t realize how hard programming is. So when you bombard a developer or a team of programmers that you hired with 10 to 20 features, this big platform, profile, upload photos, upload videos, GPS navigation, you know, messaging your friends to come onto the platform and join you. you know, so many different things that apps do nowadays. When you bombard them, your app is going to take longer to build. It’s going to break a lot, you’re gonna get a lot of bugs and it’s going to take a lot longer than you expected so if you want to get feedback from people right away. Forget it, you’re going to take months and months and months of building this app, and you’re not going to get any feedback. And that’s the problem.

Most entrepreneurs don’t get feedback for their app, they think their idea is perfect, they think their idea is unique, and worth a billion dollars. They think investors will give them money without any proof of concept without any feedback, they believe their idea is so good that they are above building an MVP, that they can just go right to version 234 and five. And that is not the case. It’s never happened in the history of apps, has anyone ever built a behemoth of an app and instantly had a billion users overnight. It just hasn’t happened to name one every big company, Amazon, Google, Facebook, eBay, Instagram, Snapchat,all of them came out with an MVP, and they grind their way through version after version getting customer feedback and beta testing user feedback. Along the way, step by step, and that’s why they succeeded. So my question to you entrepreneurs. Why do you think you are better than the MVP model. Why do you think that your idea is so much better than everybody else’s. Because it’s not. It may sound like a good idea that what sounds like a good idea to you might not be a good idea to the 7 billion people on the planet. They’re the ones who matter, your target market. Whoever they may be. They’re the ones you need to show your MVP to. They’re the ones you have to let them try your rinky dink little primitive prototype of a version, if you even want to call it that, your minimum viable product that most basic feature you have put it in their hands in a month. Not six months, not two months, not three months, get it done in a month. Forget the app. Show them screenshots.

Make a PowerPoint presentation. Get a video editor and put your screenshots into a way that it looks like it’s a video where it looks like it’s moving so it looks like an app, you can fool people into thinking it’s already built, get feedback, figure out is your UI and UX good enough for the people, user interface user experience. Do they like it? Do they like the colors? Do they like the font? Do they like the icons they use? Do they like the features that you put into this video demo, get the feedback because if you build all of this before getting feedback. I can almost guarantee you, one of these things is gonna happen. The first thing the feedback you get after you build your version 234 whatever you built, you’re going to find out that you’re gonna have to like get rid of some features, because people didn’t want them, or you’ll find out that people didn’t like a feature the way it was. And you have to change it, you’ll find out people don’t like your color scheme, and your fonts and your icons, you’ll have to change all those. Trust me when I tell you, if you build all of this, based on what you think is the right move, and what you think is the right decision. you are going to get a rude awakening. When you find out the market does not agree with you.

And that’s the biggest secret about building an MVP, is that you are basically mitigating the risk that you’ll be taking if you don’t build an MVP. If you bypass it, you’re going to spend 10s of 1000s of dollars, months, or even years of your life, only to find out all the theories you had were wrong. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one of the theories you had were right out of the 10. But, wouldn’t you rather avoid the nine that were wrong, it makes sense to me, to avoid spending time and money on something that people haven’t told you they want, or people haven’t validated, or your target market hasn’t told you yes this is what we want. This is why an MVP is so important. Another big reason why I am a huge supporter of MVPs is the market is constantly changing. What’s really cool and hip. A year ago, people weren’t using this here as a great perfect example. Facebook has been a staple in social media. But as everyone knows, the younger generation, mostly millennials and younger, don’t like Facebook, they prefer Instagram, Snapchat, and even tik tok. But Facebook has been kind of dying off with the younger generation. And that’s why they’ve been adapting. They bought Instagram. They bought whatsapp.

They’ve been releasing all sorts of clones of tik tok and snapchat. They’ve been failing these clones, but at least they’re trying to work with other markets. Even now, they released a cryptocurrency called Libra. So they’re trying to get into different markets because they realize it’s changing, it’s adapting. So what do you do about that? The smartest thing you can ever do as an entrepreneur is build as little as possible, an MVP, get feedback from people, build what they tell you they want, then stop building. Just market the living hell out of that product and get as many users as possible. Have it crash. Get your programmers to fix the bugs, get feedback from these users that are using it and ask them what they like about it, what they wish the platform had, what features we should add next then build that feature, give it to them. Give the market what they literally just asked you for. And one of my biggest gripes with entrepreneurs, is the the ln of the app launch. What do I mean by that. Well, they put off launching the app on the App Store or the Google Play Store, till the very last minute when they feel like the app is perfect and finished and it has 20 features, then they launch it.

Six months later, before getting any real feedback from the market and wrong move. You’re messing up again. What you have to do is the opposite. You want to launch your core value proposition, your main feature. Right away. See if Apple approves your app, you’re probably going to get rejected the first go around. Find out why fix it submitted again until you get approved. Once you get approved on the App Store. Then you can submit updates. Updates updates, people. Why are you not just doing that updates are features. So you have an MVP, with one big feature. People tested it out. And now you add a second feature that’s an update Two weeks later, you add a third feature, that’s another update. Two weeks later, and you keep doing that over and over again because people are telling you what they want. And then I hear, but Jason. If our app is on the app store, and it doesn’t have our entire platform, and it doesn’t have all the features aren’t people going to download it and then get upset and delete it and leave a bad review and you know and email us and tell us how bad it is. Actually no.

Here’s why. The trick is when you launch the app to the App Store, you’re going to soft launch it. This means you’re not going to market it, you’re not going to post a press release, you’re not going to post any social media. You’re not going to post something you haven’t told anybody about, except for friends and family, and maybe some people locally in your neighborhood or your city college students, your target market. And yes, you can use testflight or some other beta testing app, but I gotta tell you guys, even though I use them. It’s a pain, getting people’s emails and UD IDs and having to put them into your developer portal and setting them up in the apple developer system. It’s kind of a pain to send people, these APKs and IPA files and have them install them in their phones and they don’t trust it it’s like are we gonna get a virus and like, I’m telling you, I personally always submit my app to the App Store get it approved, and then start beta testing with 100 500 1000 people. Once it’s up there, you can submit those updates. And then of course, entrepreneurs are still skeptical about this, they’re still skeptical they say, but if we post it up there. What if people do download it and leave bad reviews and I’m like look look look look. You guys have to look at it from a different perspective. Look at it like this. Say you put your first version, your MVP, on the App Store. And let’s just say, you get about 100 downloads, which is like a trickle because you get a couple every day, capture their email addresses on the back end on your database capture the email addresses, put them in mailchimp.com it’s free to use up to 2000 emails, make a nice little colorful HTML email that says, hey, thanks for joining our platform, we are in the beta stages, we haven’t finished the platform yet, so we’re collecting feedback.

And here’s where entrepreneurs say, Well, why are they going to fill this out why are they going to tell us what they think, okay, use type form type form. com. It’s a great survey platform works on mobile works on the web it’s free, you get analytics out of it. Make a five question survey, multiple choice. True and False really quick and simple, asking them questions about your platform, what they thought of what they saw, the colors of the UI, the UX, what features they might want in the future, that kind of thing. And then, how are you real simple? Tell them that if they fill out this survey, and they join your quote unquote beta testers program, they will get freemium upgraded to premium, which means your app will always be free to them, even when you launch version four, and it costs $100 a year for to unlock the premium features, they will get it for free for the life of the platform, and most people will dive right into that and if an entrepreneur is skeptical of this add something on top, say, for filling out this survey, you will enter a random drawing, where you will win a $50 Starbucks gift card or a $50 amazon gift card. And out of those 100 to 500 people give one of them. The gift card pulls a random email out of a hat or random generator online and gives somebody the gift card email. Everyone here’s the winner. You know, have them take a picture with the card I don’t know, like, make people incentivized you want people to be incentivized. So therefore, give them as much as possible upfront for their valuable feedback.

There’s a lot of other ways you can get feedback. You can use Amazon mechanical Turks, to take your survey, you can post your survey online and survey chats and survey forums and finding people in your target market on Reddit, and Facebook and Twitter, asking people what they think of your app, go to your local colleges in the entrepreneurships programs, entrepreneurship classes and ask entrepreneurs what they think of your platform, people always like to give feedback and they love to tell you what they think, especially for a new app. But remember, in the end, you want to build as little as possible, an MVP, get feedback as quickly as possible, and then use that feedback to build the next part of your app, and do that step by step, every single step of the way and you will find yourself spending less time, less money, you’ll have less headaches, and less frustration down the road, and I hope this helps you understand why an MVP is so important. So please, please don’t build version 234 and five before getting feedback, but do build an MVP, and you will succeed.

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Jason Sherman