Moving beyond MVP

Because definitions matter.

After 14 years, I'm abandoning the MVP.

Because definitions matter.

While the original definition was clearly laid out by Frank Robinson (it is an acronym, after all), then popularized by Eric Ries... over time, it's been misconstrued to mean many things.

At this point, almost anything used to learn from customers passes the MVP test,
where P can be a

  • Promise (e.g., a landing page),
  • Prototype (e.g., working demo), or
  • Product (release 1.0).

That's too polymorphic for me and confuses the term with other terms like experiment, demo, and offer.

Then there's the opinion that viability alone isn't sufficient. I agree.

Over the years, others have suggested minimum desirable product (Andrew Chen), simple, lovable, complete (Jason Cohen), minimum marketable product, and minimum lovable product (Jin Zhang) -- but none of these stuck with me either.

And so, if you can’t beat them, and joining them isn’t an option, it's time to pick a different term.

Naming stuff is hard, so I'm choosing to keep it functional rather than trying to be clever.

MDVFP (pronounced MD VFP)

M: Minimum (the smallest feature set)
D: Desirable (that customers want,)
V: Viable (that makes your business model work)
F: Feasible (that you can build quickly)
P: Product (and package as release 1.0)

As for definitions, I won't give you one but three.

Business model perspective:
The MDVFP is the smallest solution that creates, delivers, and captures monetizable value from users and customers.

Design Thinking perspective:
The MDVFP is the smallest desirable, viable, and feasible solution.

Jobs-to-be-done perspective:
The MDVFP is the smallest solution that causes a switch from an old way (existing alternatives) to your new way, i.e., customers fire the old way to hire your new way.

What the MDVFP is Not?

To avoid any confusion, I find it equally important to define what the MDVFP is not.

  1. The MDVFP is not a landing page, teaser page, or pitch.
  2. These types of artifacts promise value but don’t deliver value to customers. As you’ll see below, I use them heavily to test interest and even define an MDVFP, but a product they are not. So I prefer to use a different label instead: Offer.

    MVFDP = Version 1.0
  1. The MDVFP is not a working prototype, alpha, or beta.
  2. Many people equate an MVP to a quick and dirty solution like an alpha or beta. Throwing alpha and beta solutions at customers used to work at a time when customers had fewer choices. But the world has changed.

  3. Customers today have many choices and don’t want to be guinea pigs in an experiment. If a half-baked solution fails to deliver value quickly, customers don’t become beta testers; they leave and pick a different solution.

  4. This means you have to level up and build a better product right out of the gate. Instead of using weaker-positioned alpha and beta labels, I prefer using early access.

  5. MVDFP = Early Access Product

The MVDFP should be like a French reduction sauce - intense and flavorful. A little bit goes a long way.

  1. The MDVFP is not “just” an experiment.
  2. Anything you put in front of customers you can learn from qualifies as an experiment, but an MDVFP isn’t just an experiment. It’s one kind of experiment, as is an offer and a demo.

    MVDFP = One of many types of experiments

How to Define and Build an MDVFP

Defining an MDVFP is a 3 step process:

  1. Business Model Design
    This is where you define your business model viability constraints on a Traction Roadmap and outline desirability and feasibility assumptions on a Lean Canvas.
  2. Mafia Offer Campaign
    This is where you test desirability, viability, and feasibility using a Mafia Offer as a stand-in for your product.
  3. Mafia Offer: An offer your customers cannot refuse.
  4. Build MDVFP
    This is where you embrace your feasibility constraints (scope, speed) to define and build the first iteration (release 1.0) of your product.

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