My little product

Go bold or go home?

Every good product is a solution — it is supposed to answer a question the customer asked. At the very beginning you can only assume your users’ desires. Without their feedback you won’t be able to meet their expectations in a more exact matter. The idea itself is probably going to be at least a little revised, in order to match up with clients’ needs in a more effective way.

Story time!

What about some examples of MVPs done right? It sure will help you get the idea. You may be surprised how many big companies started as humble little projects and start-ups.

Praising the simplicity: Apple

Although it may sound like a joke today, the idea behind the first Apple computer was to keep its construction inexpensive, fast and simple. When Steve Wozniak, cofounder of the company, built the first computer called Apple I, he made it plain and typewriter-like looking. It didn’t even had its own screen -it shared it with the TV. Later, Wozniak explained that his goal wasn’t to create something every inventor should look up to, but to show everyone that a computer can be made cheaply, with little resources, as long as you are creative and clever.

Asking the customers: Dropbox

When Drew Houston, Dropbox co-founder and CEO, wanted to built his application, he was aware that there was already a huge competition on the market — there were a lot of start-ups offering cloud-storage services. Instead of believing in his idea blindly, he posted a video on the Hacker News, explaining how Dropbox works. And since none of the already released competitive products met all of the users expectations, people showed their interest in Dropbox. The team received enormous response, collecting not only helpful comments, but also over 75 thousands of email addresses in just one day. This way they were sure that their product will have an audience, and also realized which features should be developed, and which didn’t find any use.

Socialising employees: Twitter

Globally known blue bird started internally — within Odeo, the podcasting company. The idea was simple: to allow people to share short text messages within small groups. Odeo employees were literally obsessed with the product, to the point where they began racking up “monthly SMS bills totaling hundreds of dollars” (as reported by Business Insider). Their reaction encouraged the team responsible for development of twittr — because that was the product’s first name — to start thinking seriously about their project. It morphed from a little social networking service into a tool allowing you to not only communicate with friends and strangers, but also to have continuous access to news and information. When released to the public, the platform became a huge success.

Learning from mistakes: Groupon

Andrew Mason had a great idea — to create a site where people could unite and accomplish goals they were unable to achieve alone. Mason was so confident about his vision that he spent eleven months working on it, and then launched it immediately. But the platform, named The Point, despite being based on a nice idea, turned out to be a flop.

Through the fake door: Zappos

In 1999, people weren’t so sure about shopping online. Buying shoes without a chance of measurement sounded a little abstract. However, Nick Swinmurn decided to give it a try — and chose a very controversial method of doing it. He set up a website which pretended to be an online shoe store. But for real, Swinmurn just went to the nearest shop that offered footwear and took some pictures. When someone ordered shoes through the online store, he would buy the chosen pair from a real-life shop and send it to the customer. But wait! He made no profit out of this quasi-business this way — you will say. He sure didn’t, but it wasn’t entirely about making money — but about getting information. And information is worth more than solid gold.

Of a genius and a fraud: Facebook

Finally, there is a story about the most famous social networking site in the history of the Internet. Though it is not a pleasurable story.

Most Valuable Practice

As you probably already noticed, creating an MVP is not only a good idea, but also a necessity. It is your first experiment, first simple answer for the user’s question. Moreover, will also be able to see your idea turning into something tangible and decide if it is something you were shooting towards. Maybe there is someone who developed almost the same idea but did it better than you? Or maybe you are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist?

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iteo is an international technology consultancy & software engineering company, founded in Poland. Visit us on www.iteo.com