Moving from Idea to Minimum Viable Product: Enroute Hustle

This guest post was written by Varun Bihani, CTO of Galaxy Weblinks and CIC Cambridge member.

Building the MVP the right way

After ages of working on the idea and dreaming the dream (impostor syndrome is cruel, ain’t it?), you have decided to go ahead for the MVP. You have a clear idea of what it should do and how you want it to look. The narrative is ready. All good and great. Your obvious next step–to get ready for shipping.

You need to get the idea in the hands of the real user for validation. To ship a product soon is to complete half the race. Easy? Kinda sorta. How are you going to do it? By getting the MVP out soon.

Now, before getting all hyped up with the jargon, here is the thing: an MVP is a highly misconstrued concept.

A. It is not your final product. Your MVP is not what you give to all your beta users.

B. It is not just basic wireframes or prototype. It is not non-functional or purposeless.

Simply put, the MVP is your idea turned into a product with all the ‘minimum necessary’ features providing ‘maximum value’. The latter is the key ingredient. You have to decide on what to keep and what not to keep because the primary aim is to ensure optimal tangibility and functionality.

It’s all about decisions and iteration. What you choose is what the product becomes. Your MVP needs to have some key characteristics. Here is a quick checklist:

  • it should serve one–just one–specific audience
  • it solves at least one problem
  • it has a functional and usable UX (does not need to be aesthetically pleasing)
  • it can be built and launched quickly

Have you completed this checklist? Great! Here’s what you do next:

A. Brainstorm your idea

What, again? Well, yes! But hear me out. This is not the I-will-stay-awake-untill-I-get-a-revolution-out ninja brainstorming. It’s time to get out of the bubble and talk to people. People who think like you, people who might shun the idea, people who are your customers, and people who might help you build the product (take deep breaths because that is almost too many people to talk to). Get your idea out and start conversing about it.

You need this feedback to refine the blueprint. Sit with other entrepreneurs and discuss your initial challenges. Speak to prospective customers and ask them about their problems and desires. The more you iterate in this zone (let’s label it the ‘buffer zone’), the better it is for later stages.

 

B. Find a techie

There are two ways to go about it. You can either hire a development team or you can get a co-founder & CTO. Finding the right person or team will take time. Do not try to save money here. First of all, you need someone who gets your vision. You will need absolute synchronicity to go ahead with the technical partner. Find people who share your zeal.

Their expertise and technical skill are crucial for further consultancy. Even if you know the nitty gritty of coding and design, getting the right techies on-board is important for technical feasibility. They will help with making better decisions about technology and a proper development schedule. They can point you in a better direction, you can define budgets clearly, and you will stick to the timeline.

 

C. Budget, budget, budget

You are going to spend money. In fact, quite a good sum of money. Better do it wisely. Design a milestone blueprint and allocate funds accordingly.  Your expenses will include the legal costs, fee for technical assistance, product development costs, and sundry expenses. Anything that does not directly help the MVP should be removed from the loop.

Money is no cakewalk. Be extremely wary of what you choose to be the source. Be more aware of which channels get a portion of your share.. Only overburden yourself if you have a knack for constant regret and constant fuss and stress.

 

D. Iterate like your life depends on it

This is a brilliant life hack that seeps right into the development process. Follow the Build-Measure-Learn routine. Get the first draft of the MVP out soon and lock in the first development cycle. Past this, get to alpha testing, and begin the fine tuning. The more you analyse and iterate, the better your MVP is. Build user stories, evaluate performance, spot the discrepancies, and work on it.

It is not an easy loop but a very crucial one, and the one worth spending time on. Conduct functionality tests, usability tests, and a funnel analysis. You will have areas to work on and specific sections to improve. You will need complete coordination with the technical team and a lot of patience. Issues will pop up at the last second and you will need real-time iteration.

 

E. Don’t jump in the jeopardy

Your MVP looks ready and you are hyperventilating. There is panting and breathing and you cannot contain the joy. You want to send the product out there into the universe to rise and shine. Hold the thought, and count to 10 (okay to 50 if you are *that* excited). Do not jump in for the roll-out. Rather, gather your trusted peeps and let them test the product. Take feedback, know the flaws, tell the technical team to fix all the bugs, and let a quick QA happen.

This is the most important step.This ensures functionality for initial customers and a perfect user experience. When you take feedback from real users, you can make substantive improvements in the comprehensive blueprint. Your MVP should drive the product ahead. Take two steps back if it’s not.

Next up, we discuss the elephant in the room: The Pitch. Getting ready for putting your idea out there, showing up, shipping the MVP, and moving ahead. The struggle is real but so is the adrenaline rush!

I am Varun Bihani, CTO at Galaxy Weblinks Inc. I have been in the business for a good 15 years and it has been an exhilarating gig. I love working with startups and hearing new ideas. You can find me in Boston around CIC. I like my coffee strong :)