Finding your minimum viable product (MVP)

Building your minimum viable product (MVP) is crucial to getting early feedback and traction. It helps founders not get stuck in analysis. Learn how some of today's top companies got started with very humble MVP-driven beginnings.

An MVP represents the least amount of work you can do to solve your customer’s main problem

As a founder, you almost certainly have the gift of vision. You see things that don’t yet exist and have the drive to will them into reality. And while this trait is a major asset to your startup journey, it can also be a liability - specifically in the beginning before much of anything exists.

As founders we want to start off by building our grand vision. The entire app, shopping center, coffee shop, school, etc. We see what it could be and we want to build it just like that.

The problem with this is that even though we’re certain our vision will be a smashing success if built, there’s a good chance we’re wrong. And if we’re not careful, we can spend months or years of our lives building something that nobody actually wants.

Meet the MVP - designed specifically to prevent this waste of time and money. An MVP is a super barebones attempt at solving your users problem (if you’re not embarrassed by it, you’re doing it wrong) in order to make sure you’re on the right track.

The goal of an MVP is to get early and frequent feedback

Once you have your MVP, you want to get it in users hands as quickly as possible to hear what they think. Feedback is the lifeblood of your company at this stage.

The goal is that you are receiving this feedback as quickly as possible in order to tweak your solution to achieve product-market fit.

Before building your MVP, you should already know your customer, problem, and ideal solution

Before building your MVP, you should already have a clear idea of who your user is, what their problem is, and have tested multiple prototypes to determine what your product will look like when complete.

Examples of minimum viable products from well-known companies

Let’s jump to some examples as this is where MVPs really come alive.


While Facebook would eventually go on to connect a giant percentage of the world via their social network, their MVP was a simple website allowing students at Harvard and a few other universities to post messages on other students’ boards.


Spotify knew their core differentiating feature was to allow users to listen to music without downloading it. In an age where this was novel and streaming was much more challenging, building a barebones project that could play music within a few moments of clicking a button was their MVP - no bells or whistles attached.


Zappos wanted to sell shoes around the globe but when they launched, they weren’t sure if people would buy shoes online without being able to try them on first.

To test this, their founder Nick Swinmurn would go to his local mall, take pictures of shoes, and post them online to sell. When someone would buy a pair, he would go to the store, buy the shoes, and ship them to the person who bought from his website.

While not a viable long-term strategy, this MVP allowed Nick to prove that people were willing to buy shoes online and justify greater investment into the idea.


Today we know Amazon as a company that sells everything (the A to Z store). This was far from the case when Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1994. Jeff started by selling something that was easy to ship and quality didn’t vary much between different products - books.

As Amazon sold more books, they expanded into other products until eventually becoming the retail giant they are today.


Starbucks started in the early 1970s just selling coffee beans - no drinks. Through this they were able to prove there was a market for premium coffee beans and expanded into the company we know today.

Food Trucks

While not a specific company, for individuals interested in starting a restaraunt, a food truck can be a great MVP due to the smaller investment needed to get up and running. Furthermore, since food trucks are mobile they can experiment not just with food but also with location until finding a place they’d like to set up a permenant presence (i.e. restaraunt).


Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, began by simply crafting a few climbing tools and selling them out of the trunk of his car. Over the years the company grew until it became the adventure clothing outfitter it is today.

Ruthlessly simplify your MVP

Building your MVP is a critical step in the startup journey, allowing founders to quickly prove their idea beyond the prototype state. However most founders are constantly drawn to adding too many bells and whistles to their MVP. Be ruthless about cutting out everything except the very core features needed to prove your business.