Gone are the days of planning a product, raising money, designing it, building it, polishing it, and delivering it in its final glorious form to a coterie of excited customers.
What’s wrong with this big batch model?
Turns out a lot. It’s now a relic of the past. Markets are no longer slow and stagnant. They are dynamic, in a constant state of flux, continuously ebbing and flowing. The appetites of customers shift with every Facebook post, Google query, new technology, and cultural upheaval — altering the substrate of the market environment.
Once upon a time, a team could create a technology and the masses would instantaneously buy it up, causing the company to win and satisfy their stakeholders.
The Rise of Product Validation and the MVP
Today, if companies tried to use the traditional “waterfall” methodology for building a product, they will invariably discover their product did not appease any customers, causing a huge amount of waste.
Now companies and startups have shifted their priorities. They no longer risk shipping a fully polished product to their target market. Instead, they seek to gain product validation.
Product validation involves the creation of a minimally viable product, which may only appeal to early adopters. It may not even have all the features of a fully polished, beautiful technology.
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The point is not to have a perfect product, though. It’s to get customer feedback. It’s to figure out what the market actually wants in a given moment.
Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop
How does a company really get customer feedback via a minimum viable product, though?
Eric Ries outlined how startup’s achieve this in his book The Lean Startup. He called it the build-measure-learn feedback loop.
Effectively, a startup builds the MVP, they measure customer feedback, and then they learn. Afterward, they take this learning and use it to polish the product. They continuously iterate in this fashion until the final iteration finds itself a home on the market.
The reason startups do this is to test their assumptions about the product, and protect themselves from wasting time, energy, and resources. One article from Samsung explained how to go about the process of validation,
To validate your own product, identify the assumptions that are unpinning your idea. Whether you believe that people want a product that’s cheaper, better, or faster, you need to identify key differentiation factors, and then test them. Prioritize your assumptions based on their impact, and plan to prove the validity of those assumptions.
The Pathfinder’s Minimum Viable Prototype
At Pathfinders, we refer to this MVP as an minimum viable prototype. A prototype is an early iteration of the product. It is designed for the sole purpose of seeing if any customer would use it. The value proposition of the prototype is to prevent waste and provide founders with insight into their vision.
Our goal is to help founders test their visions, and ensure they don’t end up wasting resources and go bankrupt. We make measurable commitments to help inform a startups progress, and inject the value of our time-saving efforts into the whole startup plan of action. In this sense, we will act as managers and marketers for the company, and be fully vested in the success of the project.