How to successfully design, build and launch an MVPdittofi
In this article we are going to take a look at what is an MVP and how you can use the concept to make sure that you’re building something that people will pay you money for.
You will learn:
- What is an MVP – Airbnb case study
- Benefits of an MVP
- How to design your MVP
- What technology to use
- How to launch your MVP in 4 – 8 weeks
What is an MVP – Airbnb case study
Just over a decade ago, two friends were sitting in their San Francisco apartment, dreaming of starting their own business. At the time they were barely able to afford rent and were looking for ways to increase their income.
One day they noticed that a design conference was coming to town. They realized that they could offer to rent out their spare room for designers coming to town for the conference. This would offer a cheaper alternative to the overpriced hotel rooms just down the street.
A few photographs later and a barely functional website, their loft was up for rent. A woman from Boston, a father from Utah and a gentleman from India each turned up and paid for the privilege of staying on an airbed in a loft, with breakfast included. These guests were part of the first Airbnb transaction ever!
The Airbnb MVP
MVP stands for minimum viable product. This is the absolute minimum feature set that is able to (A) capture the attention of your target market and (B) satisfy your company’s earliest users.
In the case of Airbnb, the MVP was:
- A very basic website
- 3x airbeds
The Airbnb MVP allowed the Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia to prove what we call a “product hypothesis”. A product hypothesis is a best guess at why you think a particular solution will succeed.
In the case of Airbnb the product hypothesis was that “people of varying demographics are willing to pay to stay in a stranger’s home.” Brian and Joe were able to prove this with their MVP, but they were also able to demonstrate what customers expected from the process of renting a property. This helped them to design and build out their online offering.
Here are some more examples of some well known product hypothesis that entrepreneurs were able to successfully validate with an MVP.
- Amazon founder Jeff Besos started with the product hypothesis “people would be happy to buy books online.” (I think it is fair to say that Jeff proved his hypothesis.)
- Groupon proved that their customers would be willing to pay for coupons that offered discounts to events.
- Dropbox proved that there are benefits of being able to file share with their technology over the internet.
- Smartphones were created with the hypothesis that “people will pay a premium for a phone that offers additional functionality other than calls and texts.
Take a moment now and ask yourself “what is my product hypothesis”?
The benefits of an MVP
Many companies that are now wildly successful all started out life by building an MVP (Amazon, Groupon, Dropbox).
In spite of this, founders often fall into the trap of thinking that customers will only accept the “perfect product”. To this extent, they begin by trying to fulfil an exhaustive feature list as they attempt to satisfy every possible use case. This often leads to a jumble of priorities and features, the MVP becomes confused and their venture ultimately fails as development costs rise and end users are nowhere in sight.
The idea of the MVP is to design a product, process or product and process that is simple enough for your early customers to understand. These early customers are the type of people that will use your product in spite of any imperfections.
If this concept makes sense to you, you will save yourself:
- Countless engineering hours
- Huge amounts of personal or investment capital
- Get your product to market sooner
- Take critical feedback from early adopters
- Brand build from day one
Furthermore, an MVP will help you prove to yourself and to prospective investors that:
- There is a market for your product
- People are willing to pay for your product
If nothing else, starting with a low cost MVP will save you a huge amount of time and money if, after you’ve built your product, no one ends up wanting to use it.
Designing your MVP
When designing an MVP, start by asking yourself the question, what is the problem that you’re trying to solve and what are the necessary features required for your customers to solve that problem.
For some inspiration, think back to the Airbnb MVP:
- A very basic website
- 3x airbeds
On day one the founders of Airbnb didn’t include user accounts, smart pricing, automatic payments, optional cleaning, dispute resolution center and so on. They built only a basic website and used manual processes, such as taking cash in hand payments, to complete the minimal feature set.
Of course, your MVP is going to be very different from Airbnb’s and, whilst you want to keep your process minimal there is always the risk of going too minimal. In the case of going too minimal your customers will leave confused about what the product is supposed to do and will be dissatisfied.
A well defined MVP will therefore contain a minimal number of core features that clearly spell out your value proposition and allow your customers to solve a problem. These features can be in a landing page, a website or an app, depending on how technology heavy your idea is.
I encourage you to stop reading now and revisit your “product hypothesis”. Then take five minutes to write down on a bit of paper, or on your computer what is the problem that you’re trying to solve and list out the minimal feature set required to solve that problem. Don’t be afraid to include some manual process.
If you want some more inspiration, take a look at how Amazon.com designed, launched, iterated and scaled their MVP. where we look at examples of successful MVPs.
What technology to use
Now that you have your MVP feature list written down, the next step is to choose the technology that you’re going to use to build your MVP. The technology that you choose for your MVP is important – we will refer to the technology you choose as your “technology stack” or “tech stack”.
The perfect tech stack for your MVP finds a balance between low cost to implement but, is also flexible and powerful enough to iterate on without needing to ever rebuild from scratch.
Investors often decide NOT to invest in tech companies that have picked the wrong tech stack. This is because re-building your MVP from scratch can be expensive, time consuming and risky. Investors want to minimize risks and aim to invest in businesses where the investment will directly be used to grow the initial traction, NOT to rebuild from scratch.
Over the past ten years, advancements in technology have made building MVPs less risky and more affordable. Nowadays, for example, there are hundreds of pre-existing frameworks that have been built by highly skilled and experienced developers. Whilst paying an experienced developer might not be possible for your MVP (they are expensive and in short supply), less experienced developers can leverage these frameworks to build core features of your MVP very quickly. Moreover, new programming languages like React, developed by Facebook, and Golang, developed by Google, simplify writing code still further.
To give a point of reference, ten years ago, a small, well performing MVP coded by expert developers would have cost you between $50k – $100k investment. Nowadays, and depending on the feature sets, hand coding an MVP will cost between $30k – $50k.
The no-code MVP
No-code tools like Dittofi have been developed to help cut the cost of MVP development down to almost zero. For example, you can join a Dittofi Startup App Launch Program and build your app as part of a group for as low as $450.
No-code tools like Dittofi provide a visual app builder interface where non-technical people can build landing pages, websites and apps without needing to hire a developer. These tools are becoming so advanced that they can automatically transform the visual designs into high quality, human readable and scalable developer code in languages like React and Golang.
This makes these tools extremely helpful when looking for a low cost way to test out an idea – without having to spend a fortune in time or money to get started. See below an example of a digital analytics MVP tool developed using Dittofi’s no-code tool.
Whilst it is quick and easy to build landing pages, websites and apps on no-code tools, not all no-code tools are made equal. Many no-code tools are not designed to let you scale past MVP and prototype stage. This means you often need to rebuild your MVP. As we have seen, this can turn off investors.
In contrast, Dittofi has been designed to transform visual designs into robust, enterprise grade and highly scalable computer code. This means that an MVP built on Dittofi is robust, secure and ready to scale from day one.
In fact, Dittofi is the only visual programming interface that auto generates scalable source code that you can export and own. For this reason the technology is even used by Series A funded technology teams and professional developers.
So, once you have proved to yourself and investors that customers are willing to pay for your idea – Dittofi let you take all of the code for you MVP to investors and use this to pitch for investment capital. A successful pitch will ultimately allow you to hire developers and scale your business.
Launch An MVP In 4 – 8 weeks
Dittofi run several different App Launch Programs. These are each for different kinds of companies ranging from early stage pre-revenue companies looking to build the first version of their app, right through to Series A funded technology teams that are looking to build apps that can scale.
The Dittofi Startup App Launch Program gives you everything you need to build and launch an MVP in just 4 – 8 weeks. We also teach technology fundamentals and how to present your Dittofi tech stack to potential investors.
To learn more about this program and to find out how to prepare read more here.
Start building your MVP on Dittofi’s no code platform.
💻 Join Dittofi’s Startup App Launch Program.
Learn more about Dittofi pricing.