Written by David De Chambrier
In my previous post, the world is full of ideas, I’ve talked about how complex it can be to sell to large enterprises an early version of your product. So once you convinced your first potential client to help you develop your solution that fits his need, can you be sure that you will be able to scale and apply your idea to other industry players?
In this context, it’s important to understand the concept of an MVP or ‘minimum viable product’.
When Eric Ries originally published the lean startup in 2011 he described it as follows:
“Version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort […] it’s goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses (or leap-of-faith assumptions) and to help entrepreneurs begin the learning process as quickly as possible.”
As described “with the least effort” the MVP is often a super early stage version of what you intend to develop normally; very basic functionalities, developed by a basic dev team, and with very little design.
This first version of the product will demonstrate the market need to yourself, and to your future investors, by generating the first traction or in the best case scenario even some revenue.
In my opinion one of the best examples of an MVP is what Zappos (the first ecommerce website to sell shoes online) did. To test his value proposition, the founder, Nick Swinmurn took pictures of shoes at local stores. He then posted them online putting them up for sale on his website. When customers purchased the shoes, he would buy them from the stores and ship them to his customers.
Another popular example of what an MVP is, is what’s happening on Kickstarter everyday, where you can sell your idea, before having developed it. Some famous examples like the Pebble watch or the now virtual reality king, Oculus Rift ( bought by Facebook for $2B) have proven that it was a great way to launch a product.
This way of developing a product is in my opinion drastically more efficient, and despite what some are saying, can be applied to large enterprise sales as well. The only difference being that you will have to treat your client in a different way, as targeting a few billion human beings is a much different game than targeting a few big players.
In the technology adoption life cycle curve (see graph below), The MVP sits at the very beginning under “innovators”. I sometimes like to say that the MVP has it’s own little evolution curve even before entering the TAL.
First comes the idea (adopted by you), then a little bump with your first client and a slow down phase during re-build or pivot.
Once the concept is proven you will have to be very careful with a few things:
- Even if one client is satisfied with your early stage product, keep in mind how it has been built and don’t assume you can directly sell it to everyone. You can start prospecting but be careful not to disappoint potential opportunities by over selling your solution.
- Hire an in-house development team, to get the full control on your product.
- Be ready to re-think and re-code your product from scratch based on what you have learned so far.
- Re-thinking sometimes equals pivoting. Sometimes you will realise that your first opportunity was maybe not the one with the biggest sales potential. Don’t be scared of pivoting.
- Focus! you will encounter a lot of leads asking you for customisations. Don’t try to satisfy everyone or you won’t be able to actually scale efficiently.
My biggest takeaway is: Always treat your first clients as the best ones, they’ve given you their trust from day one, you owe them undivided attention and respect for that.