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MVP, it’s not just for users anymore

In his book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries outlines the approach Dropbox took when they encountered difficulties convincing investors that the world needed another online file backup product. Their MVP was a video which showed in detail how the product would work, even before it was built. The release of the video resulted in tens of thousands people who signed up to use the product when it shipped. $250MM in funding later, and the rest is history.

MVP is not really a product, it’s a tool used communicate, validate and refine a vision. And the bigger the vision, the more important it is to illustrate it. In traditional corporate America, we’re constantly building Power Points, spreadsheets and documents that use words to describe our ideas. But there comes a point in time when the vision is too large for words.

When that time arises, it’s time to break away from words and show, not tell with prototypes, videos or other tangibles which articulate your story. Using the MVP you create to gather valuable feedback from your colleagues and fold it back into the vision, making it iteratively more tangible.

In larger companies we have a tendency to avoid radical ideas in favor of the safe bet. There are many factors that cause this, but not the least of which is fear of failure and the unknown. If we can use an MVP to paint a vision that our colleagues can see, we’ll be much more likely to garner broader support, energy, and long-term innovative success as a company.

Drew Houston‘s Dropbox MVP video:

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Categories: 100 words per day, Business of Software, Minimum Viable Product, Product Discovery, Product Management.

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