October 15, 2019

After 19 failed MVP's, I'm settling in.

Andrew @andrewpierno

If you guys have seen my last 10 or 20 posts, you'd know I've been experimenting with a lot of different ideas lately.

19 of them in fact. I've launched 19 landing pages / MVPs this year. and none of them looked promising, but it wasn't the ideas, it was me.

I think the common wisdom of the MVP is bad advice. The common wisdom says that you should build a crappy MVP and the pain you're solving should be so great that people will suffer through the initial rough edges around the product. Perhaps that was true for companies until roughly 2016.

Since then, the number of SAAS companies has exploded. Everybody has a startup, and the reality is they're easier than ever to build. Given there's so many options on Product Hunt, etc, I've come to the belief that if you build a crappy product, nobody will use it.

So where does that leave you then? How do you vet ideas before putting in a ton of time? The long version I'll save for another day, but the short version is you don't.

How do movie studios know the film they're making will make any money? They don't.

How many authors know their latest novel will be a best seller? They don't.

The reality is you make an educated guess and then you take a full swing. Not a half-assed swing, a full, back-turning swing, and if you miss, well, you took a swing, nobody can fault you for that.

So NoCo is my next full-swing, it's going to a no-code platform with a few twists. My only other real full swing this year has been SugarKubes, which overall I believe will work in time, but not in the way I originally imagined.

So here we go, I'm settling in.

  1. 16

    Hey Andrew. I've got two main thoughts on your experience so far:

    1. MVP as a really rough launch page / basic product. This seems to be a very common understanding of MVP, promoted by sites like LaunchRock. However, I think it's very far from what Eric Ries described in the Lean Startup. There, an MVP was the minimum thing we could build to learn what we needed to learn next about the business. What do we need to learn first? Well, we need a process for figuring that out. Lean Canvas by Ash Maruya is a good way to go about it. The canvas is not a description of a business will work, but how it might work. Everything on the canvas is a hypothesis that needs testing. MVPs can then be used to test hypotheses, ideally starting with the ones which will have the biggest impact if falsified.
    2. I think the saying "Get out of the building" is great advice, and goes hand in hand with "Love the problem, not the solution". The Launch-page-as-an-MVP approach really is the antithesis of both of these and, as you observe, people have become fatigued by pages asking for email addresses and promising to deliver something that never arrives. It really leans towards the quantitative side of understanding a business space as well. So, even with a really successful launch page, we know a lot of people felt motivated by what was on the page, but we don't know which part resonated with them, or how it connects to their problems, or often even who they are.

    The way I've employed these principles myself has been:

    • Developed a Lean Canvas of my business
    • Identified that people having the problem (and recognising it) was the biggest risk
    • Created an "MVP" which was to go out and interview people. I figured if I could get 15-20 interviews for 1 hour in my local area based off a one-sentence description of the problem, and the interviews uncovered a genuine resonance with the problem, that would be a strong validation of the problem.
    • Having proved the problem exists, I want to know people will get their wallets out to solve it. So I'm now moving onto offering a service that solves a tiny slice of the problem for a tiny price. It's not a crappy MVP or a pretend launch - I'll provide exactly what I promise, which just a very small element of the final product.

    I think your conviction with your chosen problem and your desire to take a full swing is great. In the long-term, business owners need to be passionate about the things they're building. My advice would be that your early investments in taking a full swing should not be a huge product build, but instead some serious time put into problem validation, market validation, and solution design. I think we all want to build something significant and full-featured eventually, but we also want to avoid doing that and then getting zero users.

    Best of luck!

    1. 2

      This is gold. Thanks for your thoughts. I haven't heard of the Lean Canvas before but I've seen that document setup somewhere before.

      And I agree, its somewhere in between. I'm definitely guilty of building a god awful MVP hoping to get an accurate pulse of the market and I just don't think that cuts it.

  2. 5

    This touches on several of my recent posts.

    I hate how the term MVP has become abused and I’ve been ranting about it a lot recently on here.

    Nothing, nowhere, has ever said that an MVP should be a crappy version of anything. That is SO annoying.

    The MVP should be a well built, well designed product but with ONLY THE FEATURES required to prove your value proposition. Nothing about it should be crappy. It’s about the contained feature set. NOT the quality of what you build.

    1. 1

      I could have used this advice about 4 years ago haha.

      1. 1

        Haha sorry man.

        Have you read the lean startup? I read it every year or so to re-calibrate myself.

  3. 1

    The website looks great. What did you use to build your nocode platform? how is it any different from bubble, koda, webflow etc.

  4. 1

    Hey Andrew,

    Leaving out definition of MVP very rightly pointed out by GrahamLe.

    I think no-MVP argument is probably only true for experience USP products. Ex: you are building Instagram but with better or different experience.

    For problem solving products, user feedback even before MVP and an MVP itself are really valuable.

    Also, Talking to users even before a product, will help you focus more on the problem than the solution.

  5. 1

    Let me ask you an annoying but potentially useful question.
    How does your "no-code" platform distinguish from others?

    1. 1

      Not annoying at all. Here are the goals:

      • ejectable - you can run it on prem or in the cloud
      • bring your own data - you can choose your own database or hook one up that already exists
      • sensible defaults over infinite configuration
      • Out of the box PWA (progressive web app) for everything you build on NoCo
  6. 1

    I think the advice in the comments is right! I've recently created (and will launch soon) this canvas to help people design, build and launch better MVP's: https://themvpcanvas.com/

    you can download it for free and read the extensive how-to here: https://medium.com/@bramk/the-mvp-experiment-canvas-720f3b93f777/

    looking forward to your thoughts, hope it helps you!

    1. 1

      Is this the same as the Lean Canvas? It looks the same at first glance.

      1. 1

        Hey ! No it's not :) I took inspiration from the look and feel of known canvases like the Business Model Canvas and the Lean Canvas so I get what you're saying. Check out the medium post to learn how it works ! :)

  7. 1

    Interesting post @wrannaman, I definitely relate to this. I think building a 'crappy' or barebones MVP is OK, as long as you iterate on it quickly. The real problem is starting too many projects.

    This year I set myself the goal of shipping 1 project every month. However, on the third month I realised that building another project would take time away from iterating on my other 2 projects, which are showing signs of traction.

    I need to be careful not to spread myself too thin :)

    1. 1

      I'm VERY guilty of this

  8. 1

    Hi Andrew! I guess it depends on how crappy the product actually is :)

    In case it may help you, I've built https://www.joinsecret.com to help entrepreneurs save money on SaaS when they kickstart their business. It's 100% free.

  9. 1

    The common wisdom says that you should build a crappy MVP and the pain you're solving should be so great that people will suffer through the initial rough edges around the product. Perhaps that was true for companies until roughly 2016.

    I agree with this as well. "Landing Page Validation" may have been viable many years ago, but that stuff doesn't seem like it would work today when there's 10 products for every problem you can think of.

    The reality is you make an educated guess and then you take a full swing.

    I think a good example of someone who started their business like this is @ajlkn, and you should check out his podcast episode here if you haven't already: indiehackers.com/podcast/087-aj-of-carrd

  10. 1

    Andrew, I visited NoCo and started getting really excited. I'm guessing it'll be a while? Do you have a rough timeline?

    1. 1

      Awesome! I will likely have at least something to show in a month and will start letting a few people in to take it for a test drive. Happy to reach back out to you when that happens!

  11. 1

    This comment was deleted 7 months ago.

    1. 1

      haha good catch. I was trying to make the point that my definition MVP kind of sucks and needs to change. Based on the comments, it looks like people have a much healthier and more realistic definition than I do.

      Perhaps I should rephrase "Startup MVP" to "Epic SAAS product"

  12. 6

    This comment was deleted 8 months ago.

    1. 2

      Appreciate it!

      This is from the perspective of my day job, where I'm CTO currently:

      I've just noticed for me, the only time I've had a company work out is when we spent 3 years building an end-to-end solution that crushed the competition. Was that a hell of a long time? Yes. Do I want to do that ever again? Hell no. But every "mvp" we tried to sell just got crickets in the market. People were confused or more broadly just didn't walk away thinking the product was "amazing" enough to switch from either their current vendor or even their own hacked together solution.

      Now it would be negligent not to go out to the market all the time and get feedback, but I viscerally remember every iteration, every rejection, every confused phone call with a customer, and the reality is that the product just wasn't good enough yet. When it was, we started getting sales.

      I also know when I do "MVPs", they suck. I'm not invested enough in them to make them shine and it shows. People feel it, and the product suffers for it. So for me, putting the blinders on and building an awesome no-code platform feels like the right move.

      Check in with me in a year though, we'll see haha.

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