Thomas Bandt

Startup Lesson Learned: The Minimum Lovable Product Is King

Many people in the startup industry are talking about the ‘MVP’ – the Minimum Viable Product. But that term is useless unless you figure out what viable means to your customers.

Published on Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Focus On Your USP

When the idea of your next big thing starts to mature in your head, it’s often easy to add tons of cool features for different use cases. It feels counter-intuitive to leave things out, because that would mean some people you want to address would not be able to use your product.

But that’s the way to get things started, and, much more important, to get things done. You need to focus.

  1. Focus on clear and simple to name use cases.
  2. Focus on clear target audiences.
  3. Focus on clear and fast to develop features.

Remove everything that doesn’t belong to the core of your idea. And if you think you have removed everything that’s possible, repeat.

Example

If you’re building a mobile app for sharing moments with your friends and family, you will sooner or later end up thinking of scenarios where people may want to use it while being offline, let’s say on a sailing trip or abroad (at least if you’re visiting Germany, we don’t have Wifi here ;)).

It seems natural to add an offline-feature with two-way-synchronization to your feature list. But despite the fact that sync is one of the toughest exercises in modern software development, does it belong to the core of your actual idea?

What happens when you’ve invested weeks or months into that feature and people even don’t want to use your app while being online?

Answer: No, it doesn’t belong to your core concept. And if you fail to convince your users to use your app while being online, you may now don’t have enough time to fix that, because you’ve invested so much time (and money) in that offline feature.

It’s easy to add something, but it’s not so easy to defer or remove things. But you need to do it.

Viable Doesn’t Mean Perfect Nor Cheesy.

If your app crashes or the interface is so confusing and ugly nobody understands what your app is doing, you are clearly failing.

On the other hand it’s also clear that you can’t simply call your product viable just because you’ve implemented an endless scalable backend, a beautiful looking interface or a mobile app for all platforms. These things may be important at some point in time, but they are not necessarily important at the very beginning. And they won’t convince a user if your product has some severely conceptual inconsistencies.

Viable Means Lovable.

So what the hell means viable? From my point of view there’s only one answer: Viable means lovable ♥.

You need to build something that people love. An app that your users consider must-have, not nice-to-have. A service they enjoy and tell their friends about, something that enriches their lives and they become fans, not only customers, of.

The first version of that next big thing does not have to be perfect. It doesn’t scale in terms of too many users signing up? Hooray! Luxury problem! It has a lot of rough edges meaning layout or functional errors? Whatever!

It’s much more important to build something few people love, than to build something many people like.

Because we all tend to forget about things we find nice, but many of us are eager to spread the word about the real thrilling innovations crossing our ways in these days, where there is so much bullshit floating around.

Conclusion

Define a clear scope of value of your first product version and focus on people who you think will love that product, even if it won’t be perfect yet. If you manage to convert these first users to fans, that’s the foundation of everything else. If you’re not, iterate and try harder. But don’t waste time by trying to suit everybody.

What do you think? Drop me a line and let me know!