Getting a startup from idea stage to real product is a challenging task. It requires a lot of discipline to move forward and reach that final stage. The reason why nine of ten startups fail?
Three Most Common Reasons Why Startups Fail
- No need in the market
- Running out of cash
- Lack of discipline
- For more, head over to “10 Practical Examples of Why MVP Startups Rock”
Of course, there are many other reasons for failure. I believe you could write an encyclopedia to describe every case, and a whole chapter could be called Real Problems / Real Solutions.
It’s easy to fall in love with your own idea. Sharing it with your friends, colleagues, and other startup founders might even enhance the feeling that you should go for it and turn it into a real product.
But the key thing to discover is whether the idea solves a real problem, one that is experienced by enough people to allow you to scale. And is the solution you propose good enough to make people pay for it? Because at the end of the day, you’re doing this to help people, but make a profit while doing it.
You won’t find this out until you test your product on a real audience of potential customers. That’s why more and more startups are going for an MVP version and gathering real feedback.
The risk is still high, but there is a way you can further raise your chances of becoming that one successful startup. How? By making your MVP an EVP.
The Problem with MVPs
You already know why MVP startups rock—They launch a core product to test its fit in the market. Releasing an MVP lets you delight an initial group of your customers while gathering important feedback. If the feedback is fine, keep on developing the good stuff. If it’s not, go back to your shed and improve in the second iteration. You have the feedback, so you know what to fix, right?
The thing is, bringing an MVP to the market is quite similar to A/B testing. If there’s no hypothesis to prove, you won’t get results that lead the action. If you build a product that’s simply unfinished, the feedback will focus on what you already know. It won’t point you in any direction.
The problem with the MVP approach is a wrong understanding of the word minimum. You could interpret it as “minimum effort” or “minimal quality.”
Don’t do that.
What Should an MVP Be, Then?
When building an MVP, you should always have the desired outcome in mind. You need feedback. You don’t want to overdeliver, or underdeliver. Make the product just right to take it outside.
The ideal MVP is the one that is basically ready to be sold, but was created with minimal effort, as you’re not sure if clients will like it.
You don’t want to invest in something that won’t pay off, do you? You don’t want to sell something that you wouldn’t buy, either.
If the MVP is done right, you might get some early evangelists at this very stage. Those who fall in love with your product will take it further—and will do the best marketing for you in their environment. For free.
Don’t know which strategy is good for you?
The Concept of EVP
Let’s introduce the EVP in the words of Rand Fishkin, one of the founders of Moz:
MVPs almost never do that.
The MVP is made for as-safe-as-possible testing, while the EVP would be completely the opposite. Remember, the abbreviation stands for Exceptional Viable Product, which suggests you’ll be releasing a close-to-done version.
Going the EVP way, you would spend long days before releasing the product to the market. It’s all about polishing, improving, developing, and optimizing everything that your startup has to offer.
There is some justification for this concept. If you create a product that is great at the moment of its release, it might boom and the news will spread. You will create the wow effect and possibly gain more recognition.
The risk is high, however. By putting a lot of effort and burning your budget for a product that might not be warmly welcomed, you risk investing your time and money for nothing. It’s not that they will hate your product.
They might be just neutral about it.
Which is even worse.
EVP and MVP: the Key Differences
Knowing these two approaches, let’s expose their differences. The MVP’s main purpose is testing and gathering feedback. Mostly, it’s released to a narrow control group of prospects, but can be targeted to a wider audience as well. It’s supposed to give you an idea of the market response with a minimal time and money cost.
The EVP idea suggests going live with the product once it’s fully ready—and only then. You develop it until you feel that it will stand out or even blow people’s minds. Following this strategy is risky but may be worth it.
How to Hit the Sweet Spot?
The MVP feels right for those who don’t have millions of dollars in funding. It’s safer to invest a “just right” amount of time and money to release the product that will be “just right: to start. But that version should represent a core product, with the potential to amaze from the very beginning. Don’t aim for being mediocre and then improving. Instead, focus on having a solid base that is likely to turn the first customers and influencers into your evangelists.
The MVP and EVP are completely different strategies for startups. It’s never good to be fanatical about one point of view, so let’s use the best of both!
The MVP’s blessing is lean management. You can take smaller portions of tasks, do them in a finite time, test, and iterate. Doing that pushes you forward constantly, without causing you to lose focus. This way, you’re more likely to reach the point where you feel that the product is ready for sales.
When you finish your work, look at the product through the concept of EVP.
Is it really worth the money?
Does it solve the problem you identified at the start? At the very beginning?
Is it exceptional?
Can it raise desire and love?
If yes, you’re good to go.
If not, you know what to do. Iterate!