• Josh Peterson

4 Pitfalls when building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

As an entrepreneur, it's hard not to get personally attached to your product. However, that emotional investment can also be very dangerous.

No one is denying that an MVP will help get a product to market faster, however, they also serve as a proverbial gut check for entrepreneurs, to prevent them from unloading copious amounts of money into the next big idea before even giving the market so much as a taste. By minimizing an entrepreneurs’ upfront investment and generating genuine feedback, MVPs heap to prevent costly, emotion-driven mistakes.

While MVP's might seem like a no-brainer, many entrepreneurs misunderstand or even skip the MVP entirely. And un(fortunately) investors aren't very forgiving which means startups only get one shot. If they build a product that flops, it’s too late to try again.

MVP Pitfalls

If you are ready to deep dive into building your first MVP, I have listed a number of common pitfalls to be aware of:

1. Failing to prototype.

When working with new technologies, it’s easy to make predictions that don’t pan out in practice. Prototyping is about spotting and validating your riskiest assumptions. This might relate to hardware or user interface. One solution is to wireframe the solution and show your target audience. This allows users to tell you straight up whether key features are missing. Expect, however, that you’ll probably need a few prototypes to get it right.

2. Minimum not Maximum

Call it feature creep or bloated features, many entrepreneurs have a misguided belief that more features lead to more value for the user. However, the opposite is generally true. It often makes a product less usable, not more. And this could be deadly for a product.

As a rule of thumb, think back to the original challenge or solution your product should solve, and incorporate only the features that are necessary to do that. Don't be pressured by investors or users to run off course.

3. Not reading the signs to pivot.

The final product that a start-up builds is rarely what their founders thought it would be. This is where the entrepreneur needs to understand that pivoting is part of the product development process.

So when do you know is the best time to pivot? Look for the lukewarm response from product testers. If you hear phrases back like “I’d actually prefer X”, this may signal a new direction may be best. Also, keep an eye on external factors. If other enterprises are making big spends in the same space as your product, realise you may not have the resources to fight back.

4. Over-investing in marketing.

While MVP's need to acquire enough users to prove its viability, a true MVP should still have some kinks to work out. If you attract too much attention, your product may get a bad reputation before it's even off the ground. This means probably skipping any traditional outbound approaches like commercials, print ads and events and opting for inexpensive tactics like blogging, building influencer relationships and building links to the product page.

The goal should be to build some buzz, get users trying the first version and then collating