Why I do not like MVP – minimum viable product

I will be blunt, for me MVP is a glorified way to build a product that lacks both revenue-model as well as business-model.

It is all about tech geeks that want to build cool stuff. An inside-out approach. Some might succeed, but millions will and have failed!

I have probably already pissed quite a few startups and entrepreneurs off by writing the excerpt like above, but let me dig a bit deeper and explain what I mean with this. First a Wikipedia definition of MVP.

The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

My biggest problem with the term is that it focuses on minimal and not on viable. I love products that are maximum and viable. In that way I do not mean that they are too complex or hard to learn (the classic example is SAP), but rather that a product in my view is like an onion, in layers. It is not only tech, it is everything from relationships, business model to choice of technology. By just hitting keys to produce code, I actually think the road to success will be longer, when lean etc is supposed to be quicker.

I sincerely think that every product should solve a problem and that a vision on the problem solved must be a part of the core of the company. This is the same reason why I have a hard time with the buzzword pivot, see my rant about Pivot in my earlier blogpost. The road to the end-goal is most probably not a straight line, but the goal to solve the problem and by that help others to a better life (or what ever it could be) is a major thing to keep focus on.

Focus vs distraction

We all know how important it is as a startup to keep focus and even here I see potential distractions with the MVP concept. You try out the MVP on a subset of potential customers and they might reject it, you go back to the drawing board and update the product accordingly, and the clients reject it again. Now you start to realise that the product actually does not solve a problem, you just have a damn cool piece of tech, now what? You probably try to find a new market for your brilliant piece of tech, but is that really the best way to go, find a market for the thing you have build, this instead of building something for a market you know exist?

Also from a company point of view this might be interesting. The companies that are most interesting is a product with low market risk, but high tech risk. So when solving a real problem it is more likely that you actually also get attention from investors etc. High tech risk with high market risk is naturally not a top priority to invest in for investors on a regular basis.

Yes, I am a boring B2B guy

MVP it is very often technology driven. That is all good, but since I have a background in the B2B segment it does not make sense for me. To start and develop a product without doing the homework on the market opportunity? and how to sell it and to whom? I can see the popularity of MVP in the age of social and all these snazzy apps without business models.

B2B and MVP

What I have realised is that the enterprise segment is much cleaner and much straight forward. This due to several reasons:

  1. To pay for value is natural
  2. A typical B2B customer is more loyal

If a product does not fit your need or created value, you are out and it will be hard to get back into the account (if you are not IBM, MS, Oracle etc). This gives that you do not want to screw things up early and a MVP approach might not be the best. To add even more on top of that B2B and enterprise clients are much more loyal, so if you do make it and get an enterprise client, they are likely to stay around. Retention in todays subscription-model based world is of essence. Great customer satisfaction = great retention = grew revenue.

So should we go back to the waterfall model?

For gods sake, no. I just think that a more complete beta or v1 is a more viable approach when approaching customers with a product that you want them to pay for one day. Iteration and to listen to customer feedback as well as to pursue your own vision for the product does not conflict with me not liking the MVP model.

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h3>Never mind the buzzword

I just think that a product of today can be developed in a lean way without the MVP approach, the tools available today makes the process of building a product efficient. When you have a vision and a problem to solve (or similar), do your due diligence and market research. Then involve customers as early as possible to validate your idea and to get buy-in. Start to build relationships and the execute the hell out of your business. That should do it.

And when I come to think about it, don’t even care about all the buzzwords, rather just create your 10 slide deck (product, team, marketing and financial) and then just focus and execute on that. A much cleaner and buzzword-free approach.

Also want to put in some credits to this post. Peter Lindberg and Jonas Nockert are two persons that have heavily inspired me to write this. An important note is that they do not agree with me on everything and maybe even disagree with most of it, but they have sincerely inspired me with their knowledge and insight on the subject. Thanks to them and other that I have discussed this with.

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