The MVP, or minimal viable product, is a new approach of how people think about starting companies. How can you strip away all the excess of a company and distill your idea into something to give you some confirmation that your idea could work? This new approach is to simply build an MVP, and that doesn’t necessarily mean a “Phase 1″ of the product after months of development or after you’ve quit your day job. You can start and scratch any idea by simply starting!
Some MVP extremists advocate people to start advertising (a product that doesn’t exist) to see if people will respond to the ad – why not? After all, anyone with a laptop and and $10 can buy any of the self-serve advertising options available (Google Adwords, Facebook Social Ads, Ad Networks, etc) and start seeing if people resonate with the idea to get your early validation on the idea.
Of course in addition to just advertising an MVP, there are many other ways to do this; but one of the most compelling ways I’ve discovered is Kickstarter. Kickstarter, to me, encapsulates the whole ethos of MVP into a nice little step by step program – they even walk you through it with their online school on how to start a Kickstarter.
The premise is simple, come up with a product or idea you are passionate about, build some semblance of a prototype and complete the Kickstarter process to create a “landing page” that effectively communicates the product, and start promoting it to on Kickstarter to see if people will support (and buy) the product. Each Kickstarter project needs to meet a funding goal, which means it has to convince enough people who are willing to shell out enough money for the Kickstarter creator before any money is transferred. If your idea works, then you can hit your goals and launch your product!
I’ve been fascinated at watching other Kickstarters that succeed (and some fail) at this. It was even more fun when my younger brother decided to launch his own Kickstarter on a project he’s been thinking about for a while (shameless plug, the Casellet is an iPhone 4/S case that combines a wallet and an iphone into one). I would argue that for the Kickstarters that failed, it still provided valuable feedback on what people like or didn’t like about their idea and if they have the determination, they would continue to try again – Kickstarter doesn’t take any fees until a project meets its funding goals.
There you have it, if your product or idea is good, then Kickstarter not only helps you validate that idea but also potentially give you access to your very first customers. People on Kickstarter are passionate about supporting creators and by definition early adopters. There’s no better distribution platform that lets you access this tier of early adopters who can propel your product to a more mainstream crowd. I’ll be watching out on Kickstarter for new and interesting projects – and if you are reading this and have an iPhone 4/S, go support my brother on Kickstarter with his Casellet project!