Here at CodeStringers, we’ve seen founders make two mistakes vis-a-vis their MVP launch.
- They launch too early before the MVP is actually “viable”.
- Conversely, they may launch too late because they want the MVP to be perfect first. In other words, they launch after the MVP has reached its “minimum” viability.
- Oftentimes, founders insufficiently plan what to do after launch because they spent so much energy focusing on the launch itself.
So let’s take a look at each of these mistakes and discuss how to avoid them. For more about what Minimum Viable Product, i.e. “MVP” is, see previous blog post.
1. Make Sure You Don’t Launch Too Early
The main purpose of an MVP launch is to put the product in target users hands to see if it actually makes their lives easier in some way. In order to be successful, a founder needs to make sure to ask themself two crucial questions:
Is The Product Itself Ready For Launch?
Hopefully, before building this product, the founder did research to learn more about the target market, what their pain points are, and what kind of product is needed to fix those pain points. Therefore, before launching, the founder should put the latest version of the product in the hands of some known “test” users within the target market. Do they think that the product is ready? Does it fix their pain points enough to where they’d pay to use it? A founder should be confident that the answer to these questions are “yes” before they can expect a successful MVP launch.
Do You Have a Go-To-Market Plan?
The #1 reason that startups fail is because they are unable to “get the word out” about their product. My former music business mentor Danny Bennett used to say, “If you go through the trouble of having a party, and you buy the liquor, food, and decorations– don’t forget to send out the invitations!”
That principle applies to startups. When you have a product that can solve a problem for a group of people, it doesn’t do them any good if they don’t know about it. So make sure that you have a plan to get the attention of your target market, and convince them to try your product.
Fortunately, however, you can start slowly at the MVP stage. You don’t have to have a big “Super Bowl Commercial” style launch. All you have to do is to get enough paying “real” users (as in people you don’t know) to show that you actually have a product-market-fit.
2. The “M” in “MVP” Is So You Don’t Launch Too Late
As we’ve said in this blog many times before, a software product is never finished. There are always features that you would like to add in order to improve the product. Consequently, you shouldn’t expect that your MVP will be able to do everything that you want it to do at launch time. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, put it best when he said, “if you aren’t embarrassed by your first version, you launched too late.”
This quote is certainly an exaggeration, however the point is valid. You should launch your app at the point in which it’s likely to solve the user’s pain point well enough for them to pay for it. Everything beyond that can be deferred until after launch.
If you think about most successful startups, they became successful in the first place because they understood this concept. Perhaps the best example of this is Dropbox. Dropbox was founded because it used to be a huge headache to send large files (like videos and high-res photos) over the internet. They were too big for email, and only tech nerds knew how to use FTP (the “official” way of doing it). So, Dropbox provided a simple solution. You go to their site, you upload the file, it gives you a simple url link. You send that link to someone, they click on the link, and their device downloads the file. That was it. It didn’t look great; it didn’t have any additional features. However, it did solve a painful problem that a lot of people were having.
We realize that not every application is as straightforward as the aforementioned example; however, the underlying point still applies. You should launch when the product is likely to solve the users’ pain point problem, and no later.
3. What Happens After MVP Launch?
There is no “official” roadmap for what to do after the MVP launch. However, there are some guidelines that one can follow in order to ensure long-term success. The idea of a “Minimum Marketable Product” (abbreviated, of course, as MMP) is gaining popularity. The idea is that your efforts post MVP launch should evolve into preparing your product and your company for a transition into the general marketplace.
What is an MMP?
A minimum viable product launch tests if it solves user problems before investing more. Potential pitfalls will be explored soon. The minimum marketable product is when these issues are resolved and ready for wider marketing. In Venture Capital, this is often called “Series A” after product-market fit.
What Does a Company Need to Do To Be Ready for MMP Launch?
Again, there is no officially accepted framework for MMP, but based on our experience working with startups across multiple industries, here are a few things to consider.
- Comprehensive customer feedback: Your product might have been perfect, but that’s rare. Expect overlooked use cases, defects, competition changes, and user behavior changes. Address critical user feedback before the MMP launch.
- Understanding early adopters vs. wider customer base: Not all customers behave the same way. Consider the difference between how your mom uses her smartphone and the guys waiting in line for the newest iPhone. Early adopters are typically enthusiastic about new products and are more forgiving of imperfections. However, as you prepare to cater to a broader audience, their expectations rise significantly. Consequently, you should make sure that you understand and can address the needs of both user segments.
- Marketing and financial plan: Growing a business beyond its initial group of users takes a lot of resources. Therefore, you certainly must have a plan as to: a) how are you going to get those resources, and b) deploying those resources to attract enough paying users to justify the amount that you will spend getting them. This is a BIG question, and it’s the question that venture capitalists will spend the most time analyzing. So you need to have the answer. We can’t really answer it here because, if we did, the blog post would be a mile long. But perhaps we’ll explore this in more detail in future News and Perspectives articles.
- Competitive environment: If your product truly can solve a significant pain point in the marketplace, then your competitors will try to imitate it. You must have a strategy on how you’re going to prevent them from doing this. There are two options, so be sure to pick at least one:
- Legal protection: In a perfect world, you should get legal protection for your IP. Unfortunately, this is rarely possible for software products in today’s legal environment. You have to show that your product can do something that would be impossible to do without analog methods like pen-and-paper. If you can meet this high standard, then you certainly should invest in some sort of legal IP protection.
- Stay ahead of the competition: If you continue to innovate, your competition will always be behind you, trying to imitate what you built in your last release. If this is the case, you’ll win because you’ll always be one step ahead of them.
- Product roadmap: With MMP and MVP, there will be features and improvements to the product you want to build but haven’t had time yet. What is your product plan over the next couple of years? How did you come up with that plan? Perhaps most importantly of all, what evidence do you have that your product plan will help you address points 1-4 above?
A successful MVP launch is a key step in the startup process. You should ensure you don’t launch too late or too early. Furthermore, thinking beyond MVP is important because there are still many factors to consider before your product will likely succeed in the broader marketplace.