Validation of the solution and construction of the MVP
Table of Contents
Validation is a fundamental process to switch from an idea to a startup! If you have come this far and what you have discovered is that there is a problem to be solved and that it is very much felt by customers, then surely you have a good chance to find the right solution and give life to your startup. Let’s see how.
Validation of the solution
In this phase, it is necessary to find the solution to the problem identified in the previous phase in order to be able to build a Minimum Viable Product that meets the needs of your target and complete the validation of your business idea.
Before we move on to the creation of an MVP, there are some recommended steps to figure out if your solution is valid:
- Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas
- Smoke test
Some tools for the validation of the solution: Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas
The first strategy to validate the solution consists in designing a Business Model Canvas (BMC) and a Value Proposition Canvas (VPC) useful for comparing ideas.
Specifically, the BMC is a framework with the nine main elements of a company within it: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partners, and cost structure. It is important to find a sustainable Business Model to validate your business idea.
Instead, VPC allows you to focus on your customers, identifying their needs and possible solutions. It visually looks like a square and a circle. Inside the square you will insert the products and services, the generators of advantages and the reducers of difficulty. Within the circle you will include the advantages, difficulties, and customers jobs. By filling in this model, you will be able to understand if your product fulfils in a unique and original way the customer’s needs, if your solution represents a value for him / her and if it is therefore useful to solve his / her problem and make a further step to validate your idea.
Smoke test to complete the validation of the solution
The final step to complete the validation of your business idea is the Smoke Test.
Before moving on to the realization of the MVP, it is recommended to do a Smoke Test to find out if the target audience is interested in your product or service, making them believe that it is already available on the market.
This approach helps both to reach potential future customers, your early adopters, by making a first lead generation, and to find out as objectively as possible if the product/service is liked. To carry out this test, just create a landing page and check if you get good metrics. To keep track of the test results, it is recommended to use tools such as Google Analytics and Hotjar.
Through a series of A/B tests, you can create the landing page that performs best and collects better metrics.
Construction of the POC
Once the choice of the most effective solution has been identified, you are still not ready to start building the MVP. In fact, it would be better to build the POC first.
The POC (Proof of Concept) is a rudimentary demonstration of the product’s feasibility.
It is not mandatory to develop a POC if the concept is already available on the market. If, on the other hand, your startup is innovating, the feasibility of the practical implementation of the new concept is an uncertain idea and therefore the POC should be used before launching the product on the market and before the product development. In addition, the POC allows you to evaluate whether your product works technically flawlessly or not.
The Proof-of-Concept format itself is much closer to research than to the development of a working product. Only a small part of the system is tested – critical functions and the ensuing results cannot be used in further development. Since POC goal is to make sure that the concept works in a short time, it is possible to omit minor aspects that, instead, are important for the final version of the product. In these cases, after receiving the green light during the POC phase, the team can start developing the product from scratch.
Considering that the development of products based on new technologies can be too risky or complicated, the POC is becoming an indispensable tool to save time, resources, and money.
The POC demonstrates the feasibility of the product. It demonstrates that the project can be completed and provides a starting point for the development of the project.
The POC also identifies several potential pitfalls and weaknesses that should be avoided during the product development. Based on this research, a more accurate estimate of the project is provided, allowing you to move on to the next stage of development.
At the same time, the Proof of Concept does not cover the entire system but addresses a specific part of it that users may never see, since the POC is mainly used internally to enrich the product development path.
The process leading to the construction of the POC can be divided into the following phases:
- Timing: usually time must be very short to get to the realization of the final project.
- Objective of the project: defining the objective is very important to obtain accurate results.
- Choice of resources: you must choose well the people that will develop the POC, so make sure that they have the skills to do the job well.
- Choice of criteria: the criteria include information about the project and determine its success or failure.
- Evaluation: this is the analysis of the results carried out with the entire team and customers.
After creating a POC, you can move on to the prototype stage.
Construction of the Prototype
A prototype determines the appearance of the product, must include its main design elements, and determines the user flows. In addition, it focuses on understanding the fundamental project workflows of the product development process.
Here are the benefits of implementing a prototype for your startup:
- Design concept validation: you can run multiple tests on a project until you get the desired output.
- Resource savings: it helps to determine potential design flaws before the product development, prevents rework, and reduces unnecessary expenses.
- Instant feedback: during the prototype testing, you can get direct feedbacks and quickly identify the downsides, fix them and continue further development.
How to build a product prototype? To create a simplified introductory design, the startup founder will define all the system requirements. Then, the prototype will be developed and tested. Once the weaknesses and strengths are identified, the feedback is evaluated. Each prototype leads to the development of a new system. The entire development system is repeated until its final version meets the user’s requirements and specifications. This approach is the most popular. Remember that at this stage, it would be better to focus on a single segment of the target market, a niche, to collect feedbacks and improve your product, gradually extending your target audience.
Construction of the MVP
If the previous tests went well (if they were necessary), then you just have to move on to the realization of the MVP and start collecting the first feedbacks from your target.
Remember that feedbacks are fundamental to improve the final product and, consequently, to arrive on the market with greater certainty of having a product that works and that satisfies a need.
The main method used for the search of the solution is the Lean Startup method, developed by Eric Ries about 10 years ago. This method is applicable to any type of business, although the name can be misleading, and is based on a cyclical process consisting of three fundamental moments:
- Creation: when the product or service is born.
- Measurement: when tests are run, and results are collected.
- Learning: when, in the light of the data obtained during the measurement, it is decided what to improve and/or what to eliminate.
The goal of this method is to eliminate the superfluous to be sure to give potential customers a product or service that can only meet their main needs. The Lean Startup method is a scientific system to verify the functionality of a product or service on the market through the continuous repetition of the construction, measurement and learning phases of the project. So, it consists in the rapid construction of the product, verification and measurement of the results and the use of the data to improve the product, repeating this process in a cyclical way. The goal is to produce innovation if and when users need it.
For more information on this method, we invite you to read the book “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the product or service that you intend to offer in its not yet final form, therefore it is equipped only with the essential characteristics to be tested to receive feedbacks that allow you to develop the product until the total achievement of the objectives.
Remember that an MVP is not a mature product but is considered the first stage of its future development.
The MVP is useful because it can give you the following benefits:
- Rapid development: when developing a product using this approach, you need a minimum set of features. Likewise, it would take longer to provide a complete product. Therefore, your product development will be faster and there is less chance of going in the wrong direction.
- Loyal users: allows the user to interact with the product during the prototyping phase, generating enthusiasm and brand awareness.
- Quick feedbacks: you may have expectations about how your product will look and work, but your ideas may not be relevant to users. The sooner you receive users’ feedbacks, the faster you can improve users’ demand.
- Low investment risk: investors are more likely to finance your idea if you guarantee low investment risk.
It is necessary to analyse well the individual characteristics of the product you want to create and move on to the definition of the MVP by classifying all the requirements collected by the stakeholders (customers, internal team, potential investors …) and translating these requirements into technical specifications. These specifications must always be programmed with a user-centered approach, so that they can fall in love with the product.
Before moving on, it would always be good to set up the so-called Brand Bible, a document that establishes guidelines on all aspects of the business (corporate identity, communication, advertising, design, etc.) always keeping in mind the value proposition, i.e., why the brand was born, what it offers, what are its values, etc.
At this point it would be very useful to build a UX wireframe, i.e., a drawing – this time in a much more professional way – of the product and the website to identify the customer journey and the software design.
The MVP must be developed quickly and with a limited budget. This means that you have to consider an MVP as a test, an experiment aimed at acquiring early adopters.
To develop an MVP, you can choose among various types. So which test to choose to test your solution? Here are some alternatives:
- Core Feature: it is an MVP with a single and fundamental functionality and is used to find out if that functionality satisfies a need and is valid. In this case, you can then proceed by adding other features and/or functionality to the product or service.
- Video Demo: it offers the possibility to discover and know a product that does not exist yet, to understand if it is required by the market.
- Wizard of Oz: it is an MVP giving the customer the impression that the product/service and processes are all automated, while everything is done manually.
- Concierge: it is very similar to the previous one, the only difference is that the customer knows that he is interacting with a person and not with a system.
- Piecemeal: it is a type of MVP that you don’t need to build from scratch but involves the assembly of a series of existing and available tools, which help you in case you don’t have certain skills or lack other types of resources.
- Crowdfunding: it is an MVP that goes on pre-sale on platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo at a lower price than what will be achieved when the product is fully developed.
- Pitch Deck: if you don’t have many resources, you can make a presentation of your product or service to at least collect feedbacks from your stakeholders.
Once you have created the MVP and selected the metrics to monitor, all that remains is launching it on the market and find out how it will be received by customers. You can choose whether using websites created specifically for startup founders who want to test their products and collect feedbacks (such as Betalist, Producthunt and Reddit), or relying on your network and adv campaigns.
At this point, you could go towards two different destinies:
- success, or
In the first case, you overcame an important obstacle, and you can begin to face the next steps for the development of the final product and its promotion. In the second case, there is no need to throw yourself down, because even a failure is a moment of growth, to understand what went wrong and work to solve it, until the result is optimal to move forward. In addition, it is quite common not to succeed at the first attempt and, in fact, many startup founders make “Pivots”, that is, they change the course, they adjust their strategy to achieve their goals.
By following all the steps that we have illustrated, you should be able to successfully complete the validation of the idea. The process is long and complex, and it is therefore clear that to set up a startup you need a lot of passion, patience, work, perseverance and, of course, resources. Being a process that is by no means obvious and simple, it also explains why such a high number of startups fail, but, surely, starting a startup is also a long journey that, if carried out, can also give a lot of satisfaction.
If the process showed so far has given positive results, then you should have successfully completed the validation of your business idea and you can then decide whether to continue your project and give life to your startup.
If you are interested in startup validation, find out more on Validate your startup idea page. You will discover more interesting content and videos to watch!
Please also read the following articles on our blog: Validation: a key process to move from an idea to a startup, Market and competitors’ analysis for market validation and Validation of the problem: the client-problem couple