Creating a fully fleshed-out version of your next big thing before delivering it to prospective users sounds logical at first. However, it’s neither efficient nor economical. It’s also not necessary or advisable in a fast-moving marketplace.
Think of it this way: Waiting too long to introduce your idea to the world is like looking at your baby daughter and saying, “We won’t teach her anything new until she’s 18. We’ll just let her grow up and not influence her development until we see what she’s like.” No parent would do that. And you’re essentially the guardian of your concept, which deserves just as much thoughtful nurturing throughout its upbringing.
Rather than rely on the classic “waterfall” method of taking your project from beginning to end before unveiling it to the world or uncovering its flaws, why not lean on agile thinking? Agile encourages you to make informed iterations rapidly. In essence, you nudge your idea into adulthood by implementing successive changes based on feedback. By the time your invention has reached maturity, you’re less concerned about major problems because you’ve addressed them much earlier.
Sound good? You’ll want to start by giving birth to an MVP, or minimally viable product. By putting an MVP out in its infancy, you can better steward all resources from financial to human. Start the building process by concentrating on four major necessities.
1. Determine your project’s most pressing features.
The goal of every MVP is fairly streamlined: Bring an extraordinarily lean version to testers. Yet many entrepreneurs get paralyzed because they’re not quite sure what “lean” means. Consequently, they wind up spending too much time adding unnecessary bells and whistles to what should be a basic innovation.
Limit your MVP to two or three proposed features. For instance, if your product is a sleep and meditation app, make sure to include a couple of elementary functions that back up your ultimate vision and engage consumers. Don’t do this alone, though. You’ll need a quality designer, CTO or tech leader, and developers to add just enough supportive meat to a bare bones concept.
2. Hook up with a technical co-founder.
Are you lacking a technical background? Or do you understand tech but have very little time on your hands because you’re focused on business development and marketing? Think twice before even considering managing the development process that’ll go into your MVP.
Partnering with a technical guru who can serve as a co-founder will make your life simpler and slash the time it takes to get an MVP out there. If you’re concerned about sharing the founding duties, you could opt to hire an outsourced CTO instead. Having someone dedicated to the technicalities of the MVP build will free up your calendar. That’s critical, especially if you’re trying to raise funds or poke around for early adopters.
3. Determine if you need to outsource development.
Plenty of freelance developers and development shops are willing and able to take on the task of generating MVPs. You could hire them to help you put your MVP into the market, but only if you have enough funds to cover their costs at the beginning of your journey and your current team doesn’t have the necessary skill sets to do the job quickly.
At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to decide whether an internal or outsourced development team—overseen by a CTO, ideally—makes efficient, smart sense. Consult your fellow founders and personal mentors, and consider the limits of your budget. You’re not bound to follow specific rules, so do the sensible thing for your company.
4. Withhold enough budget reserves for post-launch maintenance and improvements.
Hurrah! You’ve put your fledgling product into the real world. You’re getting data back that shows you’re on the right path, but need to initiate changes to move your MVP to the next level of development. But is your money situation going to support your needs?
It generally costs at least three times the amount of money you spent to create an MVP to take it to its next plateau of existence. Therefore, give yourself the technical and monetary runway you’ll require post-launch. Never underestimate how much work will go into sorting out the bugs and enhancing the features of version number one.
Introducing a new product into the world can be an exhilarating experience. Just remember that your first iteration doesn’t have to be perfect to make a huge splash. Sending it out an MVP in its toddlerhood will help inform the way you shape it into a successful, mature innovation.