The prevailing wisdom is you should launch your
MVP as soon as possible, full-stop.
In fact, per the definition of a
minimum viable product is that it is distinctly minimal. And, as a consequence, it is going to be both very limited in features and will only appeal to just a few folks.
This is typically where builders of software and teams give the proverbial “head-nod” then proceed to build a much-bigger software application, often times without much (or any) customer feedback.
This, of course, is a big no-no:
Some understanding of the problem is very helpful when building an MVP so please talk to your users before writing code. — Michael Seibel
Even more thanks go to Michael (and
YCombinator!) because he recently gave a wonderful talk on How to Plan an MVP that may prove useful for many of our readers and community members, especially since many of you are in the process of booting up your own communities, side-hustles, projects, and/or businesses!
Give it a watch and then come back for some more contextually-relevant thoughts from our own experience of building YEN:
Thanks Michael and YC!
For starters, most folks
launch with a product that is much, much bigger than they need! Per Seibel, he defines “launch” in this way:
Launch simply means to start getting customers.
And learning from customers is easier with an MVP than without! Your goal, as a pre-launch startup is the following:
- Launch quickly (MVP)
- Get initial customers
- Talk to customers and get feedback
- Iterate (improve the product)
This is what we did when we first started putting things together for what ultimately would become YEN! But what exactly is an MPV (according to YCombinator and Michael Seibel)? Here’s that slide too:
Seibel provides specifics by coining the phrase
Lean MVP as:
- Very fast to build (weeks, not months)
- Very limited functionality
- Appeal to a small set of users
- Base to iterate from
So, with these overheads in place, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we?
Launch Quickly; Everything Else Follows
Most folks when they hear the words or phrase
MVP immediately think that they have to launch some sort of software-based solution. But, the truth is that sometimes the best version of a minimum viable “product” is anything but a piece of software — sometimes a pen-and-paper model will do more than enough!
Our story (and MVP) actually starts here. The first product that we built for our community was something that we could “launch quickly” in just a few weeks (not months): A YouTube Channel!
Not only was this “product” both free and quick to start, it allowed us to find and encounter some of those initial “customers”. This established a direct line of communication with them so that we could get feedback (and thus iterate).
The YouTube channel became so successful that we booted up a forum just a few months later that took only a weekend to put together!
Remember, the goal is to launch quickly and cheaply and don’t worry if it feels limited and lacks a wide appeal — that’s the point! We were able to not only talk to our community and get the life-giving feedback we needed, the sites itself started actually working as well!
In fact, the first month we saw over
2,000,000 pageviews with over
4,000 new users!
With this firm and growing foundation, we continued to create a tight feedback loop, building a healthy and regular dialogue through tools like Discord, Patreon, Twitter, a variety of email newsletters and YouTube channels. And although they cost us nothing to start and use, they did begin to create revenue opportunities for us — also a very good thing!
Our small, passionate set of users continued to give us feedback which created the foundation for apps like CryptoYum, CoinPuffs, 10 Days of Bitcoin, #B90X, and eventually a much-larger YouTube Channel as well — all in service of methodically iterating (and inching) closer to something that people really want.
And then, finally, in February of last year (2018) we began teasing
Project XyZ which we would eventually become what folks know as YEN! We launched a closed-BETA later that year in October to our select co-builders and the rest, as they say, is history.
But don’t miss the
timeline of events! From the very beginning, starting in the Summer of 2017, our team set out to launch the cheapest (i.e. free!) version of an MVP that we possibly could. We grew an initial customer base quickly and established a feedback loop that worked well enough to keep our iterations focused and tight.
We kept asking our community for feedback and we kept building features based on that feedback. Along the way we managed to build a little momentum and revenue (and some press via CNBC!) — enough to warrant the attention of a few select venture capitalists that we felt would be force multipliers for our team.
We’ll take it.
But don’t be fooled — we have a long way to go and our story is still being written as we speak! The fact is that we still haven’t gone fully public with our product and we’re still a ways out from a “PR-launch,” as Seibel calls it.
The point is that we still have a lot to prove to our community and ourselves — the pressure is on to build the best community platform for cryptocurrency on the planet and, with your help, we think we’re going to be able to pull it off.
And to think that it all started with a quick, easy, and free “product” (MVP) on YouTube!
Okay, Now It’s Your Turn!
I hope this was both inspiring and instructive and that you now realize that the gap between where you are today and where you want to be isn’t as big as you originally believed.
You see, launching a new project or business or community looks difficult and daunting if you only have the end-in-mind. Try breaking it down into smaller parts, using the
minimum viable product concepts and framework as a guide on how to get started.
Remember, you don’t have to do much (or spend much) to get started. And our community is here for you! If you’re starting something new and are part of our network, try adding hashtags
#mvp to an update or two and maybe you could even take the conversations to a new
Private Chat Group.
Can’t wait to see what you all build and the communities that will form!