The Real Meaning of “Minimum Viable Product”


[Editor’s Note: In today’s tech startup culture, it’s widely understood that it’s smarter to build a “minimum viable product” or MVP and get it to market quickly than to labor behind closed doors for years on an elaborate and feature-rich product that, in the end, nobody might really want.

But what if the MVP turns out to be too minimal? In the delightful two-minute video below, startup guru and Xconomist Steve Blank shares some insights about the true purpose of an MVP.

The way Blank tells it, an MVP is really just a tool for discovering a scalable business model through customer development. An MVP should have the smallest possible feature set that creates gains for customers and reduces pain—but it can’t be so small that customers have nothing to evaluate. In other words, an MVP gives startup entrepreneurs something to demonstrate when they get out of the building and talk to current and potential customers about what they really need.

If you’re the next Steve Jobs, maybe you can get away with telling your customers what they want. The rest of us need to experiment.]

Steve Blank is the co-author of The Startup Owner's Manual and author of the Four Steps to the Epiphany, which details his Customer Development process for minimizing risk and optimizing chances for startup success. A retired serial entrepreneur, Steve teaches at Stanford University Engineering School and at U.C. Berkeley's Haas Business School. He blogs at Follow @sgblank

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