October 4, 2017

Does MVP mean half-assed?

I've been a long reader of Tim Ferriss and follower of the startup world.

Reid Hoffman has his quote:

"If you are not embarassed by your first product, you launched too late."

Due to the whole MED (minimum effective dose) and MVP way of thinking, I can't help but think that there are a lot of ppl (including myself) who take this as permission to do up to what is acceptable (like a 40%) instead of going for excellence (>80%)

What do you think? What is the best way to go about creating the essential stuff and testing it without cutting corners?

  1. 10

    I think there are people who use MVP as an excuse to release bad products in the name of "validation." That's not what I think an effective MVP is supposed to be. [1]

    To me, an MVP means you break a product down its absolute core idea and focus on building a great version of that one minimal thing. Minimal does not equal poorly made.

    Yes, you're supposed to launch soon to get feedback as early as possible. However, I think that early feedback is going to be useless if it's nothing but people saying "This is shit" because you made a sloppy product to launch in a week.

    I think it can also cause people to give up on good ideas. They may think "Oh, I guess this invalidates my idea." The problem may not be that the idea was invalid but that the execution was terrible.

    An MVP is minimal. That means you're grinding your idea down to just the absolutely necessary elements for launch, which means you can launch sooner than if you had a fully featured product.

    An MVP is also viable. That means your product has to be good enough for people to want it.

    I think the shortest and easiest way to explain it is in the words of the guys at 37signals:

    Make a kick-ass half, not a half-assed whole.

    [1] That's not what I think an MVP should be but I do think the attitude comes from the guy who coined the term. Eric Reis, in The Lean Startup, talks about how they launched IMVU in a completely bug riddled state, emphasizing how it even crashed user's computers. I think people took that to mean it's okay to release crap early because the MVP process will make people want it anyways.

  2. 6

    Jason Cohen wrote a great post on this: "I hate MVPs. So do your customers. Make it SLC instead."


    "A skateboard is a SLC product. It’s faster than walking, it’s simple, many people love it, and it’s a complete product that doesn’t need additions to be fun or practical. At the same time, you can evolve the skateboard by adding a stem and handlebars, to create a scooter — only slightly less simple, and definitely loveable and complete. Next, you could grow the wheels, add a seat and some gears, and you have a bike. Again, less simple but now you have a product with massive benefits of speed, distance, and energy-efficiency. Complete, but many accessories available if you choose."

    What he gets at is build a product that would be useful to someone even if you never add anything more to it. If it can stand alone and still provide value than go with that.

    1. 1

      Love it. Will test out SLC from now on.

  3. 3

    It's minimal about "features", not minimal about "quality".

    This image explains well:


    1. 1

      I was looking to see if anyone had posted this graphic before posting it. An MVP keyword is viable not minimum. You still need a fully functioning product before launch. Otherwise, no one will keep using your product.

  4. 3

    A valid point, Ben. I think one of the reasons the whole idea of MVP became such a hype is because it allows people to have a sense of accomplishment more easily. They put up a free sub-domain website with some text and call it a startup. It doesn't attract any customers and they call it a failed startup and brag about how much they've learned from the experience.

    The term is used too broadly. A lot of people here mentioned it already - MVP is the set of minimum features necessary to provide value to customers. Making the right amount of minimum features also requires a good amount of effort, which is not 40%. So, the right way to make a good MVP is not by cutting corners, but by careful consideration what is essential to make at this point and what should be left for later.

    1. 1

      "I think one of the reasons the whole idea of MVP became such a hype is because it allows people to have a sense of accomplishment more easily."

      Right on. Your points taken - minimum set of features necessary to provide value to customers.

  5. 3

    To me an MVP means functional but there's no extra stuff, so an example of an MVP for Indie hackers is a subreddit instead of a website

  6. 3

    I'd approach this from a different angle. In my opinion an MVP should include the minimum features required to provide value - that's it. It helps if it looks decent, but it's not the be all and end all.

    You shouldn't really buy into quotes too much, or think about taking permission to provide 40%, or whatever number you're thinking of.

    Talk to people as early as possible and use a common sense approach in solving their problems. Would you use what you made? Build your MVP with your customers in mind (even if you're the customer).

    Hope this helps.

  7. 3

    I hadn't heard of MED yet (am I out of touch?).

    My take is to limit the scope of what you would like your product to do, but certainly make the effort to have it bug free and with a good design.

    Having several potentially interesting features isn't really appealing if they are clunky and not presented well. But one single feature that is very clear and working should make people interested to hear back from it.

  8. 2

    An MVP should still be a complete experience but only for a core function. Like this > https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bya3nBvCQAASBGi.png:large

    Another thing to consider from a marketing point of view is that people often use perfectionism as an excuse for keeping their idea secret for way too long.

    What happens in reality is that a polished product gets released and.....falls flat.

    A perfect product doesn't give the audience any room to comment. You get nothing.

    An MVP give you an opportunity to present something to a crowd, get them pointing out what is wrong with it (who doesn't love to do that, right?) explaining what would make it better for them and feeling invested when you go ahead and implement those ideas.

    You still finally get to perfection but you then have this group of people that have followed along the way and turn into customers.

  9. 1

    MVP is a product that meets the needs of the market.


    As long as it meets the bar for "low quality use", it will be embraced by the market and you will grow quickly.

    If you don't, your solution isn't viable.

    Don't expect your first release to be Viable. Feel free to be embarrassed by it.