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John Petersen

Tips for Building an MVP

Based on a a question from Quora, I've put together this of list of tips and advice for building an MVP. These are things I find myself saying on a daily basis in some capacity or another. There's certainly some more to be added to thist list, but for now, here's the Top 8...

  1. Read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. If you haven't read it recently, go back and re-read it (this time specifically thinking about how it applies to your idea).

  2. Identify, study, and love the problem you are trying to solve. If you don't know the problem you are solving, STOP! If you don't know who else is playing in your space, STOP! If you don't know how you are going to be 10x better than others attacking your problem, seriously pause and consider if you really want to invest effort into something where you might be marginally better than the existing solution.

  3. Establish core assumptions. The point of the MVP is to validate your assumptions about your problem and solution. If you aren't clear about your assumptions from the beginning and you aren't clear how to measure those assumptions, you will never know if you are succeeding.

  4. Talk it out. If you don't have a sounding board for new ideas, you need one. Until you're forced to try to explain to someone else why your idea could be the next best thing, it's all just hypothetical. The best thing you could ask for is someone who is brutally honest and is going to shoot down your idea.

  5. Speak to potential customers -- the more, the better. Remember that problem you're solving? Find people with that problem and pitch them your solution. Ask them 100 questions, but most importantly ask them if and why they would use your solution. [Now if you're thinking, "Wait, I'm pitching potential customers and I don't even have any product at all," you are correct. Everything we've discussed so far doesn't involve creating any wireframes or mockups, landing pages, or writing a single line of code. But I've got some suggestions for that as well.]

  6. Focus. Now that you understand your problem and you know what potential customers are thinking and feeling, you can begin to think about what the solution should really look like. Keep everything focused on your core solution and how to invalidate all of your assumptions. Be the best in the world at solving your specific problem.

  7. Get super creative. Sometimes, the best solution doesn't need to be some fancy mobile app. An MVP could be built with smoke and mirrors to gather feedback with "manual automation" happening in the background that no one knows about. An MVP isn't a final solution. It's the beginning.

  8. Borrow inspiration. If you are going to build a website or an app, the MVP is not the place create the shiniest diamond on the internet. You also cannot ignore design completely, so you must "borrow" inspiration from others. Find things that look nice and design from them.

  9. Launch and be prepared to iterate. You should have a feature list a mile long. And if you're doing a good job talking to your customers, that feature list should span the globe. The most important thing to do is launch the MVP. DO NOT DELAY LAUNCH TO ADD MORE FEATURES. I can't put enough emphasis on this statement. You want to validate assumptions and then iterate repeatedly. F*ck it. Ship it!

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