Most successful businesses start with MVP planning. MVP means Minimum-Viable-Product, and it lets you test your product, business or marketing ideas very quickly, and save a lot of time and money.
When planning your MVP, you want to figure out the simplest version of the product or business. Read more about MVP planning here.
Sometimes, the MVP is way off the mark. And you'll have to go back to the drawing board.
Even some of the biggest companies today began with barely recognizable MVPs. From there, they developed their fully-featured businesses and products that we know today.
Take a look at some examples of famous companies’ early MVP planning. These are a great inspiration to show how you can miss the mark on the first-go, but through multiple iterations, you can still have massive success.
#Airbnb: Renting mattresses
Airbnb’s minimum viable product was very different from its current incarnation. In fact, it didn’t even start with the same name.
Airbnb began as AirBed&Breakfast, and the founders began without any properties. Instead, they just got an air mattress and rented a spot in their living room with free breakfast and Wi-Fi. This MVP planning did not involve a website or any choices such as location, price, or date.
Instead, the team tested their theory that people would pay for that unique sleeping arrangement. From there, they confirmed that people would let others pay to spend the night in their homes. From there, the rest was history and travel arrangements were never the same.
#Amazon: Book store
It's hard to imagine Amazon being anything smaller than the global giant it is today. Jeff Bezos knew he wanted to start selling something online. He also wanted to focus on a particular product category.
After market research, he found that there were more items in the book category than any other category. So, he focused on books and Amazon was launcehd as an online bookstore. The initial company was run right from Bezos’ garage.
#Dropbox: MVP marketing
Dropbox took the MVP route with their marketing. They wanted to make a cloud storage service that was safe, secure, and simple to use. But they couldn't get investors to believe.
They got rejected from meeting after meeting. Every investor thought this was a crowded market with no potential for a new challenger.
They needed to prove that there was a demand for their product but didn't have the capital to set up focus groups. So what'd they do?
They just made a product demo. The founder, Drew Houston, demo'd the product and added humor / call-backs to the early adopters of the product. The video went virtal. Drew recounted, “It drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website. Our beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight. It totally blew us away.”
The user growth proved to investors that Dropbox had a unique-selling-proposition and a place in the market.
#Facebook: An unattractive first iteration
Facebook’s minimum viable product had a completely different name and proposition. It was called Facemash and it was a way for students to rate other students' attractiveness. After failure, the MVP was released in January 2004 as Thefacebook.
Thefacebook started as a directory for Harvard students, where Zuckerberg went to school. As it became more popular, it expanded to other schools, including around the world. By September 2006, it was open to anyone who was at least 13 years old and had an email address.
#Groupon: Just a WordPress blog
Groupon is currently available in 15 counties, but it began as The Point on a much smaller scale.
The minimum viable product was a WordPress blog updated each day to feature new deals. People who wanted to see a deal would get an emailed coupon via Apple Mail.
In the MVP, everything was done manually, even emailing the coupon.
#Spotify: An unresponsive landing page
When Spotify launched in 2006, the MVP was just a landing page on a desktop browser.
The MVP's goal was to confirm the streaming service’s quality. Spotify started with limited beta testing. This let the company handle complaints, test quality, and test assumptions.
This information was crucial and paved the way for the company's growth.
#Stripe: One feature
Today, Stripe is known as a global payment processor, but it started with a much smaller minimum viable product.
It started with a simple website in 2010 and was known as /dev/payments. The main goal was to improve online payments only for developers. The original cloud MVP was only seven lines of code. It stood out from the crowd with its simplicity, connecting users to the site’s financial system.
They later expanded when they discovered they could solve online payments for all internet users.
#Twitch: From one channel to 2 million
Twitch began in 2005 as Justin.tv. The original idea was a single channel featuring Justin Kan. He wore a camera 24/7 on his baseball cap and streamed his entire life.
Later, they expanded to many other chanel categories. When they saw that the video game category was taking off, they spun off Twitch.tv which focused primarily on video game streaming.
While the original idea of 24/7 streaming didn't work, Justin.tv was valuable as it proved streaming had value.
#Twitter: An internal messaging app
The idea for Twitter began in 2006 as an SMS service. It would let people communicate with a personalized, small group of others.
The minimum viable product was actually an internal tool for people within Odeo, where the founders worked. It let employees send and view messages.
In 2006 Odeo released "Twttr" which was open to the public. And in August of that year, an earthquake shook San Fransciso. The word spread through Twittr quickly, and this created the "aha!" moment for the users and founders that let to it's parabolic growth.
#Zappos: A landing page and no inventory
The founder of Zappos wanted to overcome the common frustrations with online shopping. The founder took photos of shoes he found at stores, and put them up on the MVP website.
He didn’t even create the website to make a profit at first. Instead, the goal of the MVP was to confirm that people would buy shoes online.
This simplicity and effectiveness helped Zappos get off to a strong start.
We hope these examples of minimum viable products help illustrate just how simple your MVPs can be. As well as how off the mark you could be while still finding success. If major companies started with such small MVPs, you also have the potential for success with yours.
If you have a product or business idea or want a second-opinion on your MVP planning, contact us at anytime.