Minimum Viable Product

Minimum viable product (MVP) *1 is one of the lean startup techniques where you developing a product that has the minimum core features that allow the product to be deployed, and nothing more. In this way you will avoid wasting your money and time by building a product that no one wants to use or pay for.

MVP is also known as the product with the highest return on investment versus risk. The MVP term was first created by Frank Robinson, and later popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries.

The first time Eric Ries used the term, he described it in the following way:

“A 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.”

Maybe an illustration that best describes MVP is the following:

Original illustration from "Effective Software Design" Blog *2

What you see above is a pure example of how one image is worth thousands of words. Also, notice that at the bottom of the image – on the part that describes “how to build an MVP” – all the faces are smiling. That part usually varies from one author to another, and it also depends on whom you are talking to. Whether you are talking to clients or you have your own product and you are doing personal introspection. The level of happiness (size of the smile) people experience with MVP hugely depends on the outcome, or whether the minimum viable product will be success or failure.

The MVP is comparable to the story about “swallowing the frog” also known as “eating the elephant” metaphor. Usually, along the way, the very first idea we get will significantly diverge from the original, and many of its parts will be replaced.

In order to minimize risks and get the necessary satisfaction to keep us and our project on the track when times are hard, it is beneficial to have those multiple incremental steps in order to get to the final product ... having multiple steps with multiple finished products will, similar to the checkpoints in video games, keep us entertained and prolong our stay in the game.

MVP Image Origin

Consider this a bonus story. When I see something that leaves an impression on me, I usually like to explore it more; I like to find out bit more about not only the subject, but also about the author.

The first time I saw the above MVP image on Twitter, I was so thrilled that I wanted to write this post and include the image, but I did not know whom to give a credit for the idea. I almost immediately started searching for the image with the keywords “minimum viable product,” which led me to the blog of author Hayim Makabee. But I could not be sure of whether the idea was his, as he may have gotten it from somewhere else as well. Maybe it sounds silly, but I concluded that somehow the image looked too minimalistic and perfect to be the original drawing, so I continued looking.

Next, I found a very similar image posted on another blog: *3

But there at the bottom of the image, they had credited the “Spotify product team” for it.

So I added “spotify” to list of my keywords, lengthening the search to “minimum viable product spotify,” and I continued searching. And there it was:

The first thing I noticed was the bright green Spotify logo, but ... wait a minute! I realized that this result was the same as the image next to the Spotify slide, and that there was someone’s name there too: Henrik Kniberg.

Okay, okay ... let’s look for Henrik.

On the Deming blog, I found out that Henrik is the author of the illustration *4, and with another search I determined that Henrik Kniberg was also the Agile & Lean coach at Spotify and Skype, and also the author of several books. *5

So there you go! All I wanted to say is this:

Thank you, Henrik, and to all the guys who improved on his great illustration!

Notes & References: