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An MVP is not a Product

An MVP is not a Product. These are two different things. It’s common to get them confused. In early stage startups, the MVP is the product. In a mature company, these things have to be separate processes.

Your startup is a very specific kind of company. One that is finding product-market fit. You avoid the weight and process of building a Product, by building MVP’s until you find that fit. You’re looking for a disruptive entry into the market.

This is a different process from going into head-on competition, where you build a more luxurious version of an existing product. You cannot do that with MVP’s. You need a different mindset. One is the Concorde way, the other is the Airbnb way. Be honest about what you are.

Airbnb is a disruption to the hotel industry; they started with a crappy MVP, that was nowhere near what hotels offered. And in the beginning they targeted an underserved market. Technology enabled them to do it a magnitude cheaper than a hotel. They found product-market fit.

But do you think Airbnb would be the company it is today if they had kept releasing MVP’s? Obviously, no. At some point, Airbnb became a Product, with very different processes to build it. Does that mean they don’t experiment anymore? No. But experiments are a different process.

This is where I see organisations take a weird turn: they consider that building a Product hastily, is the same as building an MVP. They then launch MVP after MVP to their customers, who get upset. And they decide that the MVP approach doesn’t work.

You can still use MVP’s to test with a small set of customers who are really interested in this, and who understand if things break. But you cannot bring the MVP mindset to building your Product. That’s a downward spiral of releasing bad ? products.

Building and launching a Product is 10× more time intensive than building and testing with an MVP. MVP’s don’t need optimized code, pixel perfect design, regression tests, QA, documentation etc. This is the very opposite of what a Product is: polished and durable.

Both are valuable, so:

  1. Figure out what you’re working on: Product or MVP?
  2. Use the right process to support that.
  3. Profit! ?

And realise that disruption is always looming… ?

(Editor’s note: this post was originally published on Xavier’s personal blog.)

Xavier Bertels

About the author

Xavier Bertels is a designer and managing partner at Mono, where he helps companies deliver simple, useful & beautiful digital products. He tweets as @xavez.

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