Before we start - the key thing to remember is that an MVP is in fact (as Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, explains) a process and not a product.
Product Managers must understand this in order to build successful products.
Broken down, an MVP is not 'done' or built once and shipped.
The goal of an MVP is to help the product team understand what the core solution might look like, test it with your target audience, and then continually iterate into developing a production-ready product.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some great examples of successful companies and how they started out with a simple test or MVP in order to build a great product.
Product Managers At Groupon Baked In Collective Buying Power
A great example of an MVP that has turned into a billion-dollar company is Groupon - the famous green logo'd discount app/website that sells pretty much everything you can think of.
Interestingly, they started off as a simple WordPress blog which allowed the small team to offer discounts, coupons, movie and theatre tickets, and more in the Chicago area where they were first launched.
It was as simple as that - no complicated user interface or mobile app, just a simple WordPress blog that gave the information people wanted - discounts.
As the team grew and Product Managers were hired, the platform has been able to keep a closer ear to the ground and offer more and more successful deals that have driven the company to billion-dollar status.
AirBnB Changed The Way People Travel
Another excellent example of a solid MVP that turned into a major success is AirBnB.
Starting in 2007, the two founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn't afford the San Francisco rent on their apartment, and so they decided to open up their loft as a cheap place to stay for an upcoming design conference coming to town.
To keep it simple, they just took pictures of their apartment, uploaded them to a simple website they designed (again, notice how it's very simple), and pretty quickly they already had 3 paying guests.
As with any early-stage startup, the Founders often absorb the product manager roles before hiring dedicated product managers as they scaled fast.
What this allowed the two founders to do was give them close-up communication with these early customers and understand what they were looking for and what they might want.
This acted as proof of concept that people would be willing to pay to stay in other people's houses if it fitted their budget and location.
This gave birth to AirBedAndBreakfast, now known as AirBnB.
Buffer Makes It Easy To Do Social
If you have anything to do with social media marketing as a job, or if you run your own accounts for your business you'll likely have heard of Buffer.
Buffer is a super simple app that lets users schedule social media posts out in time all in one go, so they can build a social campaign and then let Buffer post on their behalf to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and more.
The company has a now-famous backstory that shows the true power of an MVP. Joel Gascoigne, the Founder built a test page to validate his idea.
It was a simple 3-page funnel (no actual product) that outlined 3 things:
- Choose times to Tweet
- Add Tweets to your Buffer
- Buffer does the rest. Relax
These three bullet points show what it does, what you do, and what Buffer does.
From a Product Manager’s point of view (i.e me), this is a solid execution strategy to validate and idea without investing serious cash in building a product without first getting feedback on the concept from users - a mistake many product managers still make.
It really couldn't get more simple than that but still showing everything you need to know to make a decision if you'd want the app.
If you did, the 'Plans and Pricing' button would lead to a simple page outlining pricing, then the final 'Signup' button would then lead to a lead capture page outlining the product wasn't ready and to leave your email to be notified on release.
This is what it looked like:
As a Product Manager, you can't just build a product and hope for the best. At ProductFlare we’re a small team of Product Managers, but even with our experience we still make common mistakes.
But, it’s key to remember that the biggest and best companies started from humble beginnings with a really simple, low-cost MVP to validate their idea.
Once they had either a paying customer set like in the case of AirBnB, or a waitlist like Buffer, they knew that their idea had some demand and therefore was worth building.
That being said, there were fewer services and companies of a similar nature at the time these companies were founded, so as we progress and launching a startup becomes more and easier there are now tens if not hundreds of potential competitors to contend with.
Your customers are the foundation to your business and you shouldn't ever stop listening and taking on their feedback.
Keeping the focus on your core value as a company and building out your product around that is key to building a sustainable business that people actually want to be a customer of or, in the case of tech, use.
Your product team and founders should always have a 'fit for purpose' tool to help gather critical feedback at the early and even later stages of the product development process, so if you are a SaaS company or startup be sure to start a free trial of Announcefly below - the only SaaS-first product development tool that helps you gather, prioritize, plan & execute your next big product release.
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