The Ultimate Guide to Minimum Viable Products

You don’t want to waste your time and money building a product no one will want to use or pay for. So, first get out of the building and talk to your customers.

But there’s a world of difference between talk and action. What your customers say, and what they eventually do. Talking, and putting the product in their hands. And yes: asking money for it.

You want them to put their money where their mouth was.

Sure, but what if you do not have a product yet? This is where the minimum viable product comes to play.

A minimum viable product is “that product which has just those features and no more that allows you to ship a product that early adopters see and, at least some of whom resonate with, pay you money for, and start to give you feedback on”.

But why minimal? Because your time and money are severely limited. You want the biggest “bang for your buck”: maximum learning with minimal effort.

Here are 7 inspirational MVP examples to get you started this week.

#1 Explainer Video

Explainer video is a short video that explains what your product does and why people should buy it. Often a simple, 90 seconds animation. Using an explainer video as a minimum viable product has served Dropbox very well.

Dropbox minimum viable product

Before their launch, Dropbox had already got 5K subscribers, all based on their video.

Dropbox is a fast growing company with funding in excess of $250 million, ~80 employees, 50 million users, and $240 million in revenue. Drew Houston, the founder and CEO, has turned down an offer from Steve Jobs to buy their company.

But how did they begin?

They started with an explainer video – a 3m screencast published on Hacker news. The screencast was enough to give the early adopters a hint of the product experience. And enough to get many smart people to give them “the same feedback as if putting a product in their hand”, says Drew on sllconf 2010.

New version of the video had the waiting list (of emails) jump from 5000 to whopping 75000 in one single day.

The explainer video served them that well that it is almost the only thing still featured on their landing page.

#2 A Landing Page

A landing page is a web page where visitors “land” after clicking a link from an ad, e-mail or another type of a campaign.

The job of a landing page is to quickly communicate the value of your offering, diffuse objections, and call the visitor to action.

Landing pages are where the excrement hits the fan. Based upon your interviews, surveys, and your product development you build a landing page.

Wait a minute, isn’t a landing page a marketing instrument?

Sure it is. But it is also an MVP. The landing page validates your value proposition, product-solution fit, sales argumentation and can even validate your pricing.

And all that in an environment of brutal and merciless honesty: anonymous Internet browsing.

Here is what to do:

  • Craft your landing page 
  • Set up a Google AdWord campaign and drive traffic to your new landing page. Even here you can let the AdWord engine rotate different messages and test what works best on your prospects
  • Set up Google Analytics. The most important thing to measure is conversions – percent of visitors that sign up (or perform another desired action)
  • Set up a chat to make it easy for the visitors to raise questions
  • Set up a service like Qualaroo to survey your visitors

#3 Wizard of Oz MVP

A “Wizard of Oz” MVP is when you put up a front that looks like a real working product, but you manually carry out product functions. It’s also known as “Flinstoning”.

Zappos shoes Minimum Viable Product

Don’t mind the people behind the curtain

Zappos shoes is the biggest online shoe retailer, with annual sales exceding $1 billion. In his Lean Startup book, Eric Ries describes how the founder started with a Wizard of Oz product.

The founder didn’t start by stocking up big amounts of shoes and investing in an e-commerce backend. Instead, he went to local shoe shops. He would asked the owner’s permission to take photos of shoes and put them online. Once the orders started flown in, he went to the shop, bought the pair that was ordered, shipped it, handled payments, returns… all of it himself, and by hand.

This was not a scalable business.

But it was an experiment designed focused on answering one question: is there already sufficient demand for a superior online shopping experience for shoes? And it allowed the founder to validate most of his assumptions with a very little investment.

#4 Concierge MVP

Instead of providing a product, you start with a manual service. But not just any service! The service should consist of exactly the same steps people would go through with your product.

Food on The Table Mimimum Viable Product

Give your customers the VIP treatment in exchange for their feedback

Food on the table provides easy weekly recipe and grocery lists based on sales at your store. They need lots of stuff to make this work. A list of stores and groceries, weekly updates on sales, recipes, algorithms to match your preference to recipes to promotions…

It’s a lot.

But the founders did not start by building all these assets. Again, from Riese’s book, we learn what happened.

Before building anything, the two founders went to their local shop in Austin. They interviewed shoppers until they found one that was interested in their service.

She got a concierge treatment.

The CEO visited her every week. He came with a shopping list and selected recipes, carefully chosen based on (a) her preferences and (b) promotions in the local store. The list was updated on the spot based on her desires and feedback. Most importantly, the CEO would pick a check of $9.95 for this service.

This was no way to get rich.

But each week, they would learn more about what it takes to make their product a success. They kept adding more customers to their weekly visits, until they couldn’t handle the load any more.

Only then they started coding.

One week they start sending lists and recipes via e-mail. A next one they wrote a piece of software to parse promotional store lists. Eventually, they started taking payments online.

Only after validating the basic product with customers of their initial store, they started adding stores, first in their region, to eventually grow into a nationwide business.

#5 Piecemeal MVP

This strategy is a blend between the “Wizard of Oz” and “Concierge” approaches. Again, you emulate the steps people would go through using your product – as you envision it.

But instead of delivering them manually, you emulate them using existing tools.

Tiny habits minimum viable product

I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the first experiment. As a user, I didn’t mind at all that the product was not finished

BJ Fogg, a professor from Stanford, has been studying human behavior for more than 18 years. And he has discovered a very simple way to help anyone install a new habit. All it takes is to pick 3 really tiny habits and stick to them for a week.

It is so simple, it took BJ a couple of hours to create a bare bones minimum viable product:

  • Sign up form was a Google Docs form
  • The instructions were described in a Google Docs document (which BJ was still editing as I was reading it)
  • An email reminder was sent manually every day. You had to reply, and write “y” if you’ve done your tiny habit, and another “y” if you wanted to go on the next day.
  • You’d then get a reply back with an encouragement.

I was one of the first users and I loved it. Along with a couple of thousands of others (3500 as of this writing).

He has obviously discovered a problem worth solving, and validated a very simple solution.

And what’s really cool is that all these steps can easily be automated.

#6 Raise Funds from Customers

This is a special case of “sell it before you build it”. The basic idea is simple: launch a crowdfunding campaign on platforms such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and RocketHub. Not only will you validate if customers want to buy your product, but you will also raise money.

Double Fine Adventure

Double fine adventure raised over a $1 million in less than 24 hours

And the benefits do not stop there. What you win in a successful crowdfunding campaign is a tribe of early adopters and raving fans. In this ReadWriteWeb article, Scott Steinberg advises to “embrace them and stay in constant contact. Not only are they likely to help you spread the word, but many times they’ll also offer to contribute to your business in other ways”.

Of course, crowdfunding will not work for just any type of product. Most products seem to have a strong consumer focus, and a value that is easy to communicate. Just have a look at the Kickstarter’s 10 Biggest Success Stories.

#7. A Single Featured MVP

Emre Sokullu in a Tech Crunch post points out that some of the most successful applications started out with a simple feature: Google and Dropbox.

In fact, these two remain relatively the same as when they launched.

Google as a Minimum Viable Product

Google still is quite mimimal

It is quite remarkable if you start to read the “about us” sections of successful applications. Many relate that their first mistake was to make too many features.

You can’t be everything to everybody.

In their Signal To Noise blog 37 Signals points out the value of simplicity:

The key is to restate any hard problem that requires a lot of software into a simple problem that requires much less. You may not be solving exactly the same problem but that’s alright. Solving 80% of the original problem for 20% of the effort is a major win. The original problem is almost never so bad that it’s worth five times the effort to solve it.

This is the value of the single featured MVP. Chances are that if you cannot find that one killer feature that can stand on its own – at least in with early users – adding more features will not make the product a must have.


The 20 second summary of this lesson is: don’t burn your money on a product no one will want to use. Get creative and think hard about what is the minimum thing you can do now to make sure that doesn’t happen:

  • Select one MVP strategy you think would work for you
  • Create a simple plan to execute on it (remember the “minimal” in MVP)

But which one do you choose? It all depends upon your purpose for creating the MVP. Are you testing the appeal of an idea for a specific type of user? Do you want to learn which are the killer features? Do you need to generate revenue?

It comes down to tackling the biggest risk you have right now.

And then the next one. Ideally, this is the way you will go to market, one small experiment after another.

A minimum viable product is therefore not a product. It is a minimum viable go to market step.

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  1. Great blog post – thank you for summarizing the MVP concept and the various options a budding entrepreneur may have to explore going to market in a lean fashion.

  2. I want to say this post is really an eye opener. I really loved every bit of it especially the wizard of oz product. Thanks a lot for the post.

  3. Bill Glover says:

    This is one the most concise summaries of MVP I’ve seen. Really useful, thanks.

    (Note on the layout, the inShare widget blocks a good portion of the text on an Android phone. Maybe if there is an option for it to autohide or use a responsive trick to move it to a horizontal bar on the bottom when on a small display?)

  4. Abhinav says:

    Most practical advice … this is a must read for everyone looking to start an online venture

  5. Paul Anderson says:

    Great summary of one section of The Lean Startup. If you folks took value from this, it’s almost an exact summary of the MVP section in Eric Ries book.

  6. Hey, great post! Do you agree with what Neil Patel says – people will pay for features, not solutions?

    • Thanks!

      I love Neil’s work, one of the rare blogs I read almost every post from!

      BTW, are you sure it wasn’t the other way around? I would assume people pay for solutions to their problems, not product features.

  7. Maria Poli says:

    Hi Vladimir,
    Many thanks for this article, I really liked the way you summarized the critical aspects of developing an MVP. I wanted to ask you if you know where can I find info about applying MVPs to social enterprises; also, do you know any good websites that offer the possibility of sketching out a landing page for a MVP? I work in international development and I’m trying to develop an idea related to civic action in Latin America. Thanks a lot! Maria

    • Hey Maria,

      Thanks! There are indeed sites like Unbounce or LanderApp that let you quickly create a landing page. There are also WordPress themes and templates that allow you to quickly create a landing page on an existing WordPress powered website.

      I am not aware of any specific resources for social entreprises, but if you give me more details, I would like to help you think about an MVP that you could build yourself.


  8. Very nice summary, better than the breathless book I’m reading on the same thing!

  9. Inspired me, thank very much. Let me share this gold for my team.

  10. Grateful post, LP + PPC are my favorite tool for testing my ideas

  11. Thanks, I’ve been looking for something exactly like this!

  12. Great article, I have a long way to go to getting to market, but my developer and I are now at least able to communicate with the team that isn’t as advanced in development experience. This is a great bare-bones explanation.

  13. Awesome post, its incredible what dropbox was able to achieve revenue wise with their explainer video. Hopefully our company will have an oppirtunity to do one for a company as large as Dropbox

    Dino| Explainer Video

  14. Great blog! I am trying to building an MVP for a Medical Device concept. I want to know how many people are willing to buy the device. Is an explainer video the right MVP for this purpose?

    • Hey Vineeth, thank you! If you are targeting end-consumers with your device, explainer video might indeed help you get initial feedback. If your device has a wide audience, you might even take it the next step and try a crowdfunding campaign. Before making the video though, make sure you have many conversations with potential users as this will help you understand what is important to them (and what not).

      Of course, if the end-customer of your device is a hospital, or another type of business in healthcare, you better do a series of interviews, and if successful, follow up with a first prototype.

  15. WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by
    searching for startup

  16. Facebook Fanpage also can be minimum viable product. I’ve just conducted a case study and found that online retailers in Bangladesh is using Facebook Fanpage as a MVP. PLease check it and let me know what you think.

  17. Hi,

    your article is really great! It helped me design my MVP and I would be happy if you could give me a feedback about it., is it a “correct” MVP? I would say that it is in between the #1 and #2 categories. Wdyt?


  18. Hey Vladimir,

    I really enjoyed this blog on MVP resources and methodology – thanks for sharing!

    One of the links you cited – Emre Sokullu’s Tech Crunch post (which I also think rocks) – inspired us to take one step back and write a post on “How to Put Requirements Together for an MVP.” You can check it out here:

    Might be worth adding to your article?

    Either way, keep up the great work!

    Chandra, VP Strategic Partnerships, Baked & Branded

  19. Ralf Seidel says:

    awesome summary – easy to execute. Thanks, appreciate this very much!

  20. Great post, it helped me a lot (or at least I hope… 😉 ) , thanks!

  21. your article is really great!After you and your colleagues agree on the prototype, start coding. Coding is a time consuming project, and you know that.

  22. Great article – here’s another one how MVP varies depending on the context of a situation.

  23. This is a very useful summary of the MVP’s in the lean startup. Making an MVP is definitely the most confusing thing to do in a startup.

    There is two things you mentioned, which although correct, often cause confusion. I notice developers, designers, experienced entrepreneurs and startups all making this mistake. I don’t seem to see the same mistake from investors though.

    1. The first is the Element of time and money – Lean is much more about saving time then money. I’ve got to the point where I say only time as when you include both time and money the focus always becomes saving money, which is wrong. I’ve heard Eric give the example: “Someone came to me and said they were being lean, they said we’ve been running for two years and spent almost nothing and he put his head to his forehead” (paraphrased).

    I want you to imagine someone opening a cafe. They could do it a few ways which would clearly seem lean: landing page, crowdfunding campaign etc. But we all know what they would really do They would do research for 6 months, interview people in the area, look into all kinds of statistics. Then they would then spend a lot on the decorations, logos, website, food, create relationships, find a chef and so on. This is clearly not lean. My question is, what would be? Here are the other options:

    a) They open up very quickly, sign a three month lease, sell just coffee but have their full menu. Ask customers what they want as they order and track customer archetypes and which products were ordered.

    b) Create a lemonade-stand style coffee stall out the front offering the same thing, track who buys, at what times and for how much.

    c) Interview customers in the area, track what they pre-order or show interest in and track their preferences and demographics.

    The answer should be a. Every time. No exceptions. Even if it costs $50,000 to do the first option it is still the only option. In this situation , a landing page, crowdfunding campaign or lemonade-stand situation would be irrelevant as coffee is heavily dependant on foot traffic. The important thing is if you don’t get a definitive answer don’t do it, so the lemonaid stand might work, but would probably just lead to a case of “Well, if we were fully opened it would be different”.

    2. The second is the comparison of ‘agile’ and ‘lean’ which are similar but cause confusion when compared and contrasted. The MVP styles of Concierge and Piece Meal are where this is important.

    Let’s compare the coffee shop to a website as an example. If you want to build a shop like the example for meal plans, how do you go forward? You could:

    a) Find a customer to give the ultimate experience to tracking there responses and shopping habits.

    b) Create a landing page, explainer video, crowdfunding campaign create a wizard of Oz effect

    c) Or run a piecemeal amalgamation.

    In comparison to the coffee shop, in this situation the foot traffic would be the visitors to the landing page, crowdfunding campaign or wizard of Aus site (which is arguably the same as a landing page with multiple pages). Any kind of concierge treatment is the same as running survey’s, it detracts from your real statistical learning.

    I use this site as an example as look at it now: it’s simply one of the millions of free apps which has no business model other than advertising for a real business.

    They started with such a complicated, unnecessary premise of data analytics, recording all stores, prices, food and coming up with an algorithm to determine user choices. hmm… So you want to make an app which requires as much buy-in as Facebook, as much comprehensive real world data as Google Maps, Ali Baba & Amazon combined with a user tracking capability 10 times more powerful than google (as it must predict what you like)?.

    The end result should have been Hello Fresh which required absolutely no user feedback, information or any analytics. They could have found this answer by utilising A/B testing and a range of MVP options (landing pages, explainer videos, crowdfunding campaigns, wizard of Oz etc.) and not wasting time by justifying their idea to one customer and then building what that single person told them to. Once they found this had the highest sign up rate they could then start a Piece Meal delivery of the product.

    Can you see how the Piecemeal and Concierge options wouldn’t show the foot traffic? Can you see how they don’t give a definitive answer? Or an unbiased answer? Could it even be possible to run a test like this and then move onto a landing page, explainer video or crowdfunding campaign confidently?

    Again, they are not wrong, but confusing. I would argue to run a concierge or piecemeal as a lean test you would still need statistical relevance so would need to run it 100-500 times. So if you are doing this, are you being lean? Are you saving time or are you running long-winded closed-off user research? Does that sound familiar? Does waterfall come to mind?

    I’m thinking of writing an article on this as I don’t think it is something Eric would have anticipated when he wrote the book. What do you think? Do you want me to dig into it a bit deeper?

  24. Nice post, Vladimir! Agree with you, choosing right MVP strategy helps us to avoid a lot of troubles. From my experience it’s also important to use some tech tools, which can help you to manage your tasks and track dependencies between them.

    That’s why I use – to plan a project you just draw your plan as a flow of tasks. Controlling the project is also very simple because you get a superb bird’s-eye view of all of your tasks and dependencies. This way you can be sure, that every item of your MVP’s plan is done right.

  25. Love this post. Some really great ideas.

    I’m conceptualising a MVP for my fledgling idea as we speak. However I have a barrier that I’m trying to get around.

    A big part of my concept is making it super easy to order. Open an app, be presented with today’s specials, select 1 of 3 daily suggestions, 2 steps to order.

    How can I test this ease of use concept without an app, which is of course a significant investment?

  26. Piyush Sharma says:

    Thanks a lot Vladimir, Lots of love from India for writing such posts at-least for young graduates like me who are about to dive in the business world and looking for the best practices to start up. I am sure MVP is the way to go. And, I will try to think in the same direction to validate my idea in the Indian market. If you get some breathing, I would really like more MVP advice from you for my idea. Please drop a line. I would really be glad. Thanks again.

  27. This was exactly what i was looking for as I go forward in my own business, thank you so much!

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    ハミルトン 腕時計 メンズ おすすめ,ハミルトン カーキ フィールド,ニナリッチ 財布 ピンク

  29. This step by step to how understand and apply the MVP, totally shift my mind, I didn’t think about the solutions and the tools that we have to developed a business, it’s very good when I read this, because I already imagine a path like MVP, with MVP I understand the important to talking with the customers and understand their thought decreasing my waste ans increasing my success.


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  2. […] you want some actual examples, The Ultimate Guide to Minimum Viable Products provides an excellent overview of different ways to deliver a minimum viable […]

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  9. […] The Ultimate Guide to Minimum Viable Products (blog 2013 by Vladimir Blagojevic): Mostly provides an overview of key approaches to MVP from Lean Startup […]

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  11. […] (For an example of some MVP case-studies, follow this link) […]

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  14. […] Er in een vroege fase geprototypeerd wordt (maken van een ‘minimal viable product’) […]

  15. […] to waste your time and money building a product no one will want to use or pay for. This is where MVP (minimum viable product) comes in; creating a product with the minimum set of product features that will give value to […]

  16. […] the Lean Startup concept of Minimal Viable Product (MVP) will serve you well. I love the book, and this post has a great summary of what a MVP […]

  17. […] great approach that I got introduced to in this post is called the “Piecemeal MVP.” It allows you to do exactly the same as the “Wizard of […]

  18. […] opposing interest is called, in the language of the Lean Startup model, the Minimal Viable Product (MVP). Lean product development instructs you to get a working prototype, ship quickly, get feedback, fix […]

  19. […] and capital. Supported by a series of boot camps, they drove towards a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and honed their value […]

  20. […] to waste your time and money building a product no one will want to use or pay for. This is where MVP (minimum viable product) comes in; creating a product with the minimum set of product features that will give value to […]

  21. […] are a variety of different ways to do this and no one answer fits all, but here are a list of some common approaches to choosing an MVP strategy: Explainer Video, Landing Page, Wizard of Oz MVP, Concierge MVP, Piecemeal MVP, Fundraising from […]

  22. […] Founders sometimes ask what to pay themselves once they have raised money or at least be able to tell a prospective investor what they plan on paying them selves post-investment. Obviously in the very early stages this is a non issues as founders are often bootstrapping and/or working while trying to get to an MVP. […]

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