CB Insights has recently published its analysis of top reasons for startup failure. The number one reason (41%) for a start-up to fail is “no market need” — almost half of the start-ups were building products that no one needed. And most startups begin with an MVP, don’t they?

Top 10 Reasons Startups Fail

Source: CB Insights

Thanks to Eric Ries, the author of Lean Startup, MVP has become the default scenario for tech startups. We all know the success stories of Minecraft, Airbnb, Groupon, etc. starting with bare-bone MVPs.

Why do other startups fail? Science reports that new product failure rates vary from 40 to 50%. Is there a secret path to building a 100% successful MVP app? You bet, but before we dive into this, let’s decide on what we call an MVP.

What is an MVP?

The most popular definition of the Minimum Viable Product is the one by Eric Ries:

A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

— Eric Ries

This interpretation also happens to be the most argued-about definition of an MVP.

Product owners and investors, project managers and developers — all stakeholders have their own ideas about the MVP meaning. Click To Tweet

Let’s see if we can find some common ground.

What is an MVP?

The “Minimum” part of the MVP is about efforts, which often translates into the number of features the MVP should have to succeed. The problem is it’s difficult to quantify what the minimal set of features should be.

The “Viable” part means the MVP should churn in profits. If you are serving your customers with your MVP, they should be paying for the service. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons for building an MVP — to get paying customers.

The “Product” is the least controversial part: everybody knows what a product is.

So, taking into account the importance of all three components, an MVP app will be a mobile app that requires the least efforts to build and includes just enough functionality to get your customers to subscribe or pre-order the full-featured version of the app. As Ash Maurya, the author of Running Lean, succinctly put it:

MVP is the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value (and as a bonus captures some of that value back, i.e. gets you paid).

— Ash Maurya

Why Do You Need an MVP App?

Your task will be to gather the feedback from the first customers to iterate on your product. It’s in line with the Lean Startup Methodology:

Building an MVP app is in line with the Lean Startup Methodology

Source: Eric Ries

As the author explains, “The modern rule of competition is whoever learns fastest, wins”. The benefits of building an MVP app are quite obvious:

So, how do we capitalize on this potential of an MVP app and keep it in the success zone? First, let’s discuss the reasons why many MVPs turn out not as expected.

Why Do MVP Apps Fail?

Because companies that choose to start with an MVP app ignore one of the three aspects of the MVP:

Three aspects of the MVP

Get the “Minimum” Right in an MVP App

When building your MVP app, you should remember that you need to get out something pretty fast. The quicker you finish an MVP, the sooner you will collect users’ feedback. You can’t keep adding a feature after feature to make your MVP app more attractive.

In fact, you can start with a bare minimum, even before developing the MVP app. There are such variants as:

Note that you are looking to spend the minimum amount of resources to prep something viable and put it in the hands of your early adopters. Likewise, you should pay attention to what the competition is currently offering and keep only the features that make your app stand out.

The MVP app you have developed should successfully solve at least one problem for your users; and ideally wow them while doing this. Click To Tweet

Get the “Viable” Right in an MVP App

If you are in the app business for profits, you should account for the monetization strategy. It can be a subscription or in-app purchases, but your MVP app should be able to turn in some income. Otherwise, it’s a failure.

Get the “Viable” Right in an MVP App

Although, when your target audience is an enterprise and your MVP app will be used by a company’s employees, the “Viable” part will be a little different. It may be:

Get the “Product” Right in an MVP App

A product is something tangible, complete. Given the universe MVP nature, your MVP app will lack a lot of features. Still, it should feel like a product in the users’ hands. Many successful companies started by building an MVP with a simulated back-end. Founders did all work instead of a back end themselves.

One of the examples is Zappos, where the founder offered users only the photos of sneakers that he would fetch and deliver from a retail shop upon an online order.

Developing a product, even as an MVP app, means you have done a fair share of research. You know your target audience and bring them something unique with your MVP app with each iteration of your app.

MVP App Development

Source: Wikipedia

Other Reasons for Failed MVP Apps

MVP concept ambiguity aside, there may be many other pitfalls during MVP development; like with any software project. The most common reasons for an MVP flop include:

Incompetent Team

Selecting a development team for building an MVP app is same as picking a vendor for any development project. You should be working with competent, skillful software developers that have proven expertise in the development of MVP apps. That’s a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Check out our e-book on selecting a vendor to make sure you get the best match.

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Ignoring Customers’ Feedback

You develop the MVP to gather feedback in the first place. So, not listening to your users will shorten the life of your MVP app. You will be surprised by the ways people use your MVP app and by their expectations. Their feedback will help you pivot and hone your MVP app further.

Inappropriate Development Approach

Agile has become somewhat of a panacea in the software development industry. Our advice is to stick with agile for the MVP app development. Click To Tweet

The waterfall methodology is perfect for complex projects, which can take six months or longer to develop. Instead, with the MVP you should opt for the most flexible and rapid technique — agile.

MVP App Development Approach

How to Proceed if Your MVP App Failed

Think about your MVP as about a process, rather than a finished product. There are many workarounds to turn your MVP into a successful product even if the initial version failed.

Target Audience Match

It may be the case that you didn’t have enough early adopters, or that you were targeting a “wrong” audience. In that case, you can look for other users and either confirm that your business idea needs further work or pivot and iterate on your next MVP version.

Play with Pricing

Setting the price right for your MVP is crucial. It makes sense to include a subscription, or integrate mobile ads. You might also consider a freemium model, so popular with apps.

You need to know your competition and customers to price your MVP app correctly. Click To Tweet

Run a Survey

You can always run a survey among your early adopters to find out what was wrong with your initial MVP version. Users’ feedback and mobile analytics built into the app will give you a clear picture of what went wrong.

When Do We Start on Your MVP?

Velvetech knows a lot about developing MVP apps for Healthcare, FinTech, Transportation, and the general consumer market. As you can see, there are many factors as to whether your MVP will sink or float. We’d be happy to guide you to a successful MVP app.

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