In the early days of startups, you hear the stories of how Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs made Apple from their garage. As if it were a mythical story of two super geniuses that hid in their lair until their product was completely finished.
That was not the case then — and definitely is not now. In the present day, startups in their product developments tend to be more open about how they aim to release an MVP, not to be confused with the most valuable player, but rather the exact opposite: the minimum valuable product. The MVP is more of a proof of concept, according to The Lean Startup.
Releasing an MVP into a market is like sending a boat to out to sea, hoping first that it doesn’t immediately sink then later hoping it is actually a good boat. If your MVP is still floating, you can measure and learn where improvements are needed.
Startups are not the only people that iterate on their initial ideas, “When you’re writing a book or an essay, you have to produce many drafts and spend lots of time editing. And when you’re writing code, you frequently have to refactor or even rewrite the code. Every creative human endeavor requires an enormous amount of trial-and-error,” according to A Minimum Viable Product Is Not a Product, It’s a Process. Creating a company is a highly creative endeavor, and the creative process is named that for a reason because it’s a process of refining and improving upon your original idea.
“The first draft of anything is shit” — Ernest Hemingway
This process of releasing an MVP and tracking it has turned into a 3 step process.
Step 1: Building
This step is usually done haphazard and just focuses on the timeliness of getting the product out into the real world, to the people. “In a trial-and-error world, the one who can find errors the fastest wins,” according to The Lean Startup. The faster you identify a problem, the more quickly you can rebuild and fix it.
Step 2: Measuring
After you build your MVP you have to set up measurement processes to see how it is doing well but more importantly how it is weak. The important part here is to acquire data that allows for action in when you find yourself rebuilding the MVP, the data has to be useful. An example of useful data was brought up in the Y Combinator article that we read, “Perhaps when faced with the immediate prospect of spending money, you’ll find out the restaurant owners aren’t actually that interested. Well, good thing you learned this from just a few days of work instead of wasting months of development.”
Step 3: Learning
The Lean Startup argues that the learning portion of this process is the most important because the function of an MVP is to just start learning about it as soon as possible.
Joe Gebbia of Airbnb, through building and measuring Airbnb’s success or lack thereof, quickly learned that what he had to do was design trust into his product.
In his TED talk, he highlighted our tendency to immediately distrust people by asking the crowd to unlock their phone and hand it to the stranger next to them. Through the process of releasing an MVP then evaluating its weaknesses, Airbnb was able to learn that their biggest issue would be: How can we build trust between two strangers online to let one stay in the others home?
Interestingly enough, this process of iterating upon your initial idea even after it had been exposed to the public is now being utilized by Kanye West. Prior to the streaming era of music, musicians would release an album and never be able to change anything about how the songs sounded.
West, on songs from his 2016 album The Life of Pablo has been updating songs by either just adjusting the bass or adding a whole new sample through Spotify. The point is that technology is allowing entrepreneurs of all sorts to better create by improving their abilities to build, measure, and learn.
What’s your favorite song off of The Life of Pablo?