Stage: Outlining Your Product (MVP) | Progress: 0%

Stage: Outlining Your Product (MVP)

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In this section:

1. We'll help you think over about your MVP while outlining what elements you should have your MVP.

2. You will determine whether you should charge, and how you will charge.

3. We'll prepare you with the right mindset before you start building. This mindset will also help you plan out your product for the months to come.

About your MVP 2 Minutes

It's important that we only start building our MVP (Minimum Viable Product) after we are done with customer development. If you are not done with stages Customer Development and Unique Value Proposition, then you could consider going back to finish it so you avoid the risk of building a product no one needs! Ouch!

The reasons are:

1. You might be building a product with the wrong features that doesn't fufill the UVP.

2. You might be building for a problem nobody has.

3. You might be buliding the wrong solution for the right problem.

MVP doesn't mean half-baked. it means the perfect version of something just enough to deliver the solutionMVP means that this product has only the key features that your customers need in order to solve their #1 problems. 

It's best to start with no features, and start from there. Don't include nice-to-haves and bonus features.

After you build your MVP, focus your energy on learning about your customers, and not about optimization. Before you understand your customers fully, you could be optimizing for a wrong solution. At this point, think macro before micro.

Another practice to also remember is to deploy continuously. This is the methodology of releasing very frequently – as frequent as several times a day. Deploy any full feature that your users can use as soon as you are ready. We need to conduct as many experiments as possible.

Continuous Deployment

Charge from day 1, and collect on day 30 6 Minutes
Required Question

So, are you going to charge? Read: To Charge or Not to Charge.


How much? (per month or per year)


Do you offer different packages? If you do, what are they? Enter them each on their own line.

Many people feel that you should be charging from day one. This is true if you are providing a SaaS (software as a service). If you are building a service that needs to get users first so that one day you will have enough content and critical mass for it to be useful, then you probably shouldn't charge so early (Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube, Google).

Getting paid is the best form of validation, if your service immediately provide a value that people will be willing to pay for, then do go ahead and charge your customers. A company like MailChimp that creates their own content and has a service that you can immediately use can charge on day 1.

Also, if you are going to charge, a good method is to do the 80-20 strategy. This strategy is giving away 80% of your features for free, but charging for the other 20% premium features.

Additionally, the price of your product creates the perception of value for your product. Your pricing strategy will also determine what kind of customers you want to attract. If you have a product for corporations, then it makes sense to price it higher, because you are offering more value (supposedly), but with less customers. If you are selling to consumers, then it makes sense to price it lower, because you'd have more customers at a lower price. Therefore, sometimes pricing speaks louder than words.

Charging is also a great user-retention strategy. The reason is because when users pay to use your product, they will feel the need to get the most out of it. When they get the most out of it, they will fully reap the benefits of your product, and feel that it is truly useful. This also motivates them to recommend your product to your potential customers.

Case Study: Hermes' brand is built on their pricing (one of their bags costs more than 10,000!)

See this task for the best pricing practices.

See here to determine your pricing strategy

#1 Problem 3 Minutes
Required Question

What is the #1 problem(s) for your users? Write 1-3, each on their own line.

Again - rewriting it will always help you think of better ways to phrase it.

Solution for that #1 Problem 3 Minutes
Required Question

What are the corresponding key features you will need to build to solve those problem(s)? Each on their own line.

Again - rewriting it will always help you think of better ways to phrase it.

Your MVP's key features should focus on addressing the #1 problem and also deliver on your UVP. You need to be able to understand which features are must have’s, nice to have’s, or don’t need.

Minimum Viable Product

If your UVP is "Lose 10LB in 1 week", then you have to make sure that your MVP can deliver that. Also, you should design your key features in the way that they are easily accessible upon first login - this is actually mandatory. It's very important that they finish 1 use cycle and get a taste of their problem solved on their first login, otherwise they won't want to come back again. 

Very often websites build a great key feature, but don't really have a good interface for users to get started. Imagine you building a great product that is slightly hard to use. You will need to hold the hands of your users through a key feature usage cycle. This is also called Onboarding.

Also, when you build your key features, build the MVP versions of them too. Many key features might include other additional features to optimize it. The key here is to create something that works, not excess.

Key Metrics 5 Minutes
Required Question

What are the key metrics for your service? Think about all the metrics that will help you determine whether or not your MVP is delivered.

Write all of 1-10 key metrics, each on their own line.

These key metrics are the main metrics you need to measure and optimize for your business to grow. These metrics will also tell you whether or not your MVP works.

Case Study:

Twitter found out that when a new user follows at least 30 users on their first visit, then the user is a lot more likely to become a permanent user. So, one of twitter's main key metrics is actually the number of followers/new user. They make it as easy as possible for you to follow 30 users upon your first login.


# of tweets

# of followers/user

# of referral signups

# of photos uploaded

Features to drive key metrics 5 Minutes
Required Question

What are other features that you need to build in able to optimize the key metrics above?

Again, think carefully about what features are must have’s, and what are just good to have’s for your MVP. Your MVP should have very minimal features – ones where it fulfills the promise that you made to your customers.

The difference between key features and "other" features are that the key features should be the main feature that your customers use to fulfill the UVP. However, some additional features might be required for the key features to work.

Example: A social news website where a user can personalize news has the key feature as customizable news. However, if the MVP of this service actually isn't able to allow the user to see personalized news the first time thie user logs in, then while the MVP has the key feature, it actually fails to deliver the UVP.

Therefore, what this service should have also built along with the key feature are some onboarding features that instructs the users to submit their preferences the first time they log in, so that right after preferences are submitted, they are then directed to see their page of personalized news on their first visit, which then delivers the UVP successfully.

Features or functions that drive key metrics are not all necessary initally. These features also might or might not overlap with the key features. Focus on fuctions that will help you drive Activation, and Retention.

There are many key metrics that drive Acquisition and Revenue that are super important later on (after you validate your MVP), but they are usually not necessary in such an early stage. And you don't have to worry about Referral, which are features that will allow your users to share your content with social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Note: Only worry about growing users after you have validated your MVP/solution with your early adopters.

Examples for MVP Features for StartitUp:

Example of mandatory key metrics for MVP: # of early adopters, # of tasks completed per startup, # of feedbacks

Examples of corresponding key features: beautiful landing page, startup guide, feedback/contact us, onboarding features to help a user use our guide easily on their first login

Example of key metrics that are not needed initially: # of users, # of collaborators, # of mentors

Example of corresponding features that are optional at this stage: referral/social share, collaboratable guide, mentor listing board, dashboard, startup stats, startup analytics, etc.

Summing Up 5 Minutes
Required Question

Please list all the features that you will build for your MVP. Please list them each on their own line.

Please list out your key features and the other features that are required to drive your key metrics. The combination of both will be all the features you need to build for your. Nothing more, nothing less. We want to elliminate as many non-MVP features as possible.

Reviewing your features 3 Minutes
Required Question

Will you have any difficulties or risks with those features? Please write out them out.

Be very careful, because MOST startups fail because they do not think their functions/features through and they hit a technological barrier with very unintuitive work-arounds.


1. API Dependency: Some platforms depend on Facebook's Open Graph. The problem wish this is that your platform is dependent on Facebook. If Facebook bans you from their API, then you'll have to immediately find a workaround.

In fact, many startups had to shut down because Facebook's API policies kept changing, and they were not able to continue, because they depend 100% on Facebook.

2. Plugin Dependency: Your service is a plugin to other people's websites. The problem with this is that the website owner might not necessarily want to use your plugin. One good way to not be a victim of this is to be the content provider yourself.

3. High Difficulty: Many companies' core product is very extensive. While this is okay for products (like a search engine) that do require such scale, most of the time this is not the case. If you see yourself having to build a huge feature for your MVP, it's a good time to reconsider either simplifying your features, or think of a "light" version of your service to begin with.

There's a lot more, so think them through carefully.

If you don't know what to build... 5 Minutes

1. If you are not sure what to build, have a bunch of fake features and see what people click on (have those fake links link to pages with "Under Construction"). Use Google Analytics of Mixpanel to track users' behavior. Learn to use customer behavior analytics.

2. See who is already fixing the problem you are solving, and productize their tactics.

Example: Startup books are super popular, so StartitUp made books into an interactive guide that easier to follow and do.

Intellectual Property 10 Minutes
Required Question

Is there possibility of intellectual property infringement?


Take some time to review this, as this is quite a big issue in the internet world.

USPTO Search:

If you are using content from another author, please let the author know and site the source.

Technologies 5 Minutes
Required Question

What technologies will you use for your startup?

For example, StartitUp uses:

Ruby on Rails, HTML/CSS3, jQuery, Bootstrap, Nginx, Apache2, Ubuntu 11.04

It's good to plan ahead on which technologies you will need to use, because, then you can audit your own team and make sure your team has the capability to build your product.

In the next section, we will introduce some of the best tools you can use to build your startup. It'll be so easy that within a month you will have skills to build your own product. From Scratch!

Stage: How to Build a... Stage: Awesome Tools ...