NEF 2-Day Workshop: Minimum Viable Product (Day 2)


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(Thursday 20th and Friday 21st February 2014, UCL Idea London, Shoreditch, London.)

After Chris, we had a short session with a new presenter; Devin Hunt. Devin is the founder of ‘Founder Centric’, and previously built ‘dex.io’ and co-founded ‘Lyst.com’.

A few words of wisdom from Devin on building an MVP:

“What’s the smallest, quickest thing you can create that tests your business?”

“an MVP” – An experiment that tests a critical, falsifiable hypothesis of your business.

It’s about testing risk.

“I’m not saying that MVP is the only way of doing things – just that it will often mitigate risk”.

Be sure you know and can identify the difference between a “Passion Project” and a Business.

“Learning is Progress… Building stuff isn’t”

“Charge customers from day 1”. By charge, we mean take value from them. Value doesn’t have to be cash; it could be user-ship, leads, email and contact details etc.

Design MVPs for as many risks as you can.

“Increase happiness, or decrease pain”.

Next up, we had a great discussion with Itaxso del Palacio from  UCL, still on the theme of MVPs. One of the first questions up – “What are the benefits of building an MVP?”

(Benefits):

  • We test before we build
  • We build only what we test
  • We do not waste money
  • We can probe the concept
  • So, we can raise money before we run out of savings

–          “Test the concept / product before you build anything, and build only what your customers want”

We then looked a bit deeper into practical ways in which we might test an idea. The 4 ways/methods we discussed can all be regarded as being Minimum Viable Products, but each is better suited to what you need and where you are with your idea. The 4 main options: Pitch, Concierge, Explore, Prototype.

Pitch. This is basically (and often these days) just a landing page on a website. It describes what you do (what you’re about), and outlines your proposition. The Pitch can be used to test if people have that problem, if people will pay for it, and if a segment identifies with that problem. More often than not, a splash page might outline a new product which looks available today, or is in production; and has a number of options to ‘register interest’, ‘join the waiting/mailing lists’, or ‘find out more’. This is the Pitch method in use.

Concierge. This might involve testing your idea by giving one or a small group of customers a very manual and personal experience (concierge experience) of what your product or service hopes to later automate or make easier. Concierge is useful when either; you are confident of your customer segment, or you are not sure how to execute it.

Explore. This is about researching your target market and industry, and learning from existing data. This is particularly useful when; your idea is vaguely defined, you don’t know the budget you need, you don’t know how to segment your customers, or you don’t know how consistent the segment is.

Prototype. Pretty self-explanatory this one. Build a mock-up of your product or service, preferably on the cheap and quickly. If a physical product, you might look to rapid prototyping techniques such as 3D printing (which seems to be the rage these days), or if an app or website – a multitude of tools exist such as POP (Prototype on Paper), Balsamiq, McokFlow, or FrameBox.

It’s really important when building an MVP, to also build alongside it (or before even!), a strong understanding of the ‘Persona’ of your typical customer. You need to identify and understand the personality of your customer – but don’t just have it floating about in your head, map it out and get it down on paper. Then you can take a hard look at it and design your MVP to match.

A good persona will include information like:

  • Behaviour patterns
  • Goals
  • Needs
  • Attitudes
  • Beliefs
  • Workflow
  • Skills
  • Environment

Persona & User Stories:

–          As a <customer type>

–          I want to <do something>

–          So I can <get some benefit>