John Petersen

MVP to World Domination

Sometimes, it is incredibly difficult to try to convince entrepreneurs that they should not be trying to conquering the world in your MVP. It is your job as an entrepreneur to be 3 steps ahead of everyone, so it's completely understandable that you have a feature list 5 miles long. I get it.

You want your product to change the world. I'm all for it. In my opinion, you can't dream big enough, but I need you to realize that Rome wasn't built in a day. So I've compiled a list of some companies that I'm sure you've heard of but might not have recognized their lean startup approach or their MVP roots...

1. Initial Idea -- an individual would use twttr to communicate with a small group of friends via SMS
2. The MVP -- The project was created internally within Odeo and originally allowed for messages to be sent to Odeo employees
3. Interesting -- Dorsey, Ev and Biz purchased Odeo and all of it's assets. The 1st tweet ever was from Dorsey: "just setting up my twttr". The name Twitter was inspired by Flickr
4. Now -- Currently preparing for an inevitable IPO rumored to be valued north of $11 billion

1. Initial Idea --ThePoint.com = social media platform designed to get groups of people together to solve problems
2. The MVP -- as The Point was failing fast, Andrew Mason made a pivot to use those groups to sell a deal for a half-price offer for the pizza place on the first floor of his office building
3. Interesting -- the idea for The Point / Groupon supposedly originally came when Mason was trying to get out of his cell phone contract. The Point was originally not intended to make any serious amount of money. The group of "socially responsible" do-gooders went on to become the fastest growing billion dollar company in history
4. Now -- On November 4, 2011, Groupon raised $700 million from its IPO valuing the company at $12.7 billion. As of 1/17 the company now has a market cap of $3.34 billion, not nearly where it IPO'd, but when was the last time you started a $3 billion company?

1. Initial Idea -- to develop an implementation of the BASIC language for the Altair 8800
2. The MVP -- Gates famously called Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) offering to demo the implementation in order to win a contract with the company. He essentially sold a product that he hadn't even built yet -- the ultimate Lean Startup move!
3. Interesting -- In 1975 (the same year Bill Gates and Paul Allen originally came up with the idea), Micro-soft pulled in $1 million in gross income. 40 years later there are startups that would kill for $1 million in revenues in their first year. The Microsoft IPO and rise in share price create 3 billionaires and 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees
4. Now -- World's largest software maker by revenues and one of the world's most valuable companies

1. Initial Idea -- use the potential of the internet to sell stuff online
2. The MVP -- sell books out of your garage because it would allow you to have a much larger selection than the brick-and-mortar stores at a fraction of the price
3. Interesting -- In 1994, Jeff Bezos (inspired by the growth potential of the world wide web) created a list of things he could sell online including everything from music to clothing before finally deciding to go with books. Bezos used an extra door as a table in his garage to help fulfill the initial orders. To this day, many of the desks at Amazon are supposedly still made from doors.
4. Now -- World's largest online retailer

1. Initial Idea -- make an extremely easy-to-use file sharing tool
2. The MVP -- a product demo video of what Dropbox looked like with plenty of "easter eggs" and nerd humor helped the company attract a 75,000 wait-list with 24 hours. Based on the overwhelming response, they slowly allowed select users to begin using Dropbox as they continued to develop the product
3. Interesting -- the idea was conceived by Drew Houston on a bus to New York when he planned to do some coding during the 4 hour ride but left his USB drive at home.
4. Now -- Over 100 million users, $250+ million in venture funding, a rumored $5 to $10 billion valuation, approximately $240 million of revenue in 2011

Moral of the story: despite what Pinky and the Brain might think, you can not take over the world in one night. You need to be laser-focused on your idea, be prepared for the unexpected and remember that starting small can sometimes lead to some incredibly large and earth-changing results.

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