Are you a meaning-making machine ?

Idea Validation and Minimum Viable Product

I'm teaching the 4 series- online business course for the third time this year. Its a different set of audience running their own baseline assumptions of issues and understanding. It is always a learning experience to be in a room full of 40 entrepreneurs at different level ideation and validation. The challenge, however, lies in getting them all to the same baseline of understanding their own idea or process of ideation.

In the last series, the audience wanted me to spend more time on the basic ideation and validation process. As a result, this series now includes almost 2 hours of exercises on how idea may be validated in part 1 and how Minimum Viable Product creation occurs in Part 2 ( which I will teach in a few hours time).

Interestingly, the whole foundation of getting to a product/ service idea in any business( whether online or offline), is a function of a well conceived idea which is a gap or a need for a customer. To recognize this gap or need is a prerequisite to the validation of this need or gap by the customer.

The concept of creation of the minimum viable product stems from the fact that a product or a service is not ONLY about your idea but is mostly about the perception of the people who will use and buy it.

To understand why, how and what your customer is willing to spend their money on- products/ services will essentially need to undergo a MVP validation process.

This is a multi-stage approach, where you as an entrepreneur must deduce the whole set of features and services that may be provided by your business to essentially and then reduce the list to those features that may need to be demonstrated to get a customer buy-in at the initial MVP stage.

An MVP is not a demo of the real product. Most start-up ideas that have seen instant customer adoption have not build the real product till much later. Start-ups that look at innovation through products or services make the mistake of assuming that they have zero competition. It may be true that your disruption may have no other credible competition in the market.  However, it is also true that since there is no competition - there is no data on how many customers would either pay or use the product or service. Or most pertinently- does the customer even exist?

Customer feedback cycle can be started by lean startups within hours of the idea being validated.

You can build credible MVP through the following processes
a. A story board video of what the product will do to - which pain or problem of the target customer will it solve.
b. Land the Customer on a page to get his feedback through behavior/ click analysis, interactive chats or surveys. This is also effected through physical feedback in focus groups or meetups
c. Flintstone it. Go to Zappos way by manual creation of a customer interaction process before investing in a business set up or even backend creation
d. Concierge It: Lay out the customer interaction process and run it as a manual process first to understand customer expectation and value before putting in dollars to create and automate it.
e. Hybrid it. Flintstone some and Concierge some parts of the customer interaction process to assimilate feedback.
f. Customer Fund it! Set up indieGOGO or kickstarter campaigns to gauge customer interest and buy in to your idea.

What's the best way method to MVP is a function of what you are creating and how. However, the hard and fast rules of mitigating start-up risk may be summed up as below:

a. Find the MAIN customer pain. Pivot the pain they would pay the most to get rid of
b. laundry list your features and remove the ones that the customer is least likely to pay for.
c. Manually simulate the product before working to automate and sync it with process and technology flows
d. Ugly is good. An ugly MVP that shows the back end skeletal structure is a good MVP
e. Fake it. Dont make it.

 Next: Taking it to the product design.