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3 Examples of Successful Minimum Viable Products (MVP)

Updated: 6 days ago

The minimum viable product approach of launching with a simplified version of a product has become immensely popular. While new products are common, valuable products are extremely rare. This disparity is a major factor behind the 90% failure rate that plagues modern startups.


By going down the MVP route, you're fast-tracking your business idea to beat the odds and become a truly valuable product. Building an MVP is preferable to completing a full-fledged product because the trimmed-down version will allow you to test your key assumptions with customers before embarking on an expensive development process.


This allows feedback from early customers to guide a company's product features, pricing and messaging. In this way, an MVP But what does a successful MVP actually look like in the real-world?


In this article, we'll go through examples of successful minimum viable products that allowed founders to go from an idea on a napkin to massive business success.

But First: What is the Goal of an MVP?

As a refresher, the logic of launching a minimum viable product instead of a fully-featured product is to commit your company to intelligent product iteration rather than trying to get everything done at once based on assumptions.


An MVP approach aims to:

  • Demonstrate the core value proposition with minimum features

  • Collect actual user feedback on essential functionality

  • Determine what resonates most with early adopters

  • Identify improvements for subsequent product iterations

  • Establish initial traction to support business milestones (financing, team growth etc.)

Still want more of an introduction to MVPs? Go ahead and check out our previous article on the subject.


In summary, an MVP's main goal is to serve as a vehicle that can gather as much early customer feedback on your initial guess about winning your key market.


As you go from your MVP release to your next product development sprint, you're attempting to scale your new product up to the level of confidence that your team has in relation to understanding market needs.


When a team doesn't have clear data from their key buyers, they shouldn't rush into building a finished product because it will be full of wrong assumptions.


This customer-centric model allows founding teams to go from a business idea to a final product while back on untested assumptions. Let’s explore some examples of real-world companies that followed the MVP approach.


Famous Examples of Successful Minimum Viable Products

The three examples shared below are from startups that served vastly different target markets. In pursuit of those different markets, their founders deployed everything from user flow videos, 1-page websites, and pre-order landing pages to test their concepts.


With the access to no-code platforms, advanced graphic design software and AI assistants, there is no reason that founders in 2024 can't go beyond these examples in pursuit of their own new product launches.


Without further ado, let's review the MVP examples.


1. Dropbox

Back in 2007, MIT alums Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi set out to solve a significant pain point they and their peers faced - seamlessly backing up and accessing files from anywhere.


From this pain point, Dropbox was born and built its way to over 500 million users. Yet, in those early days, Houston and Fedrowsi started out by sharing a simple video about their product idea before they wrote even a single line of code.

The MVP

The founders created a 3-minute video mocking up Dropbox’s core functionality. Instead of going heads-down to built a complete product, the founders simply recorded their screen and walked through a basic demonstration. Their walkthrough revealed a few basic features that would allow users to have seamless mobile access to important documents.


Here's the video they originally used to demonstrate their MVP:




Testing & Validation

Houston posted a link to the video on online hacker forums like Hacker News asking for feedback. The video drove hundreds of thousands of views and signups overnight as the founders had clearly tapped into pent up demand for easier file sharing solutions. They woke up to countless emails asking when the product would launch.

Outcome

Without any fully staffed product teams or product mangers, the Dropbox founders validated their core business idea. In particular, the market response revealed both consumer appetite and willingness to pay for their solution. Dropbox refined the synchronization technology and clean interface based on input before officially launching their service. The MVP set the stage for massive growth after launch to over 500 million users across 180 countries just a few years later.

2. Zappos

The ecommerce giant Zappos, known for selling shoes and exceptional customer service, leveraged a basic single-page website outlining their offering as an MVP to gauge demand.



Target Market

When founder Nick Swinmurn couldn't find a pair of brown Airwalk chukka boots at local stores in San Francisco in 1999, he recognized consumer frustration finding the perfect shoes. This population of people who wanted a wide selection of shoes to be more conveniently available were Swinmurn's target market.

The MVP

Instead of building full website functionality, Swinmurn created a single homepage MVP showcasing images of shoes from local stores that couldn’t stock sufficient inventory. He included basic descriptions and prices, emphasizing selection. A toll-free number allowed placing orders by phone.

Testing & Validation

Swinmurn shared his site URL at trade shows with shoe manufacturers to determine if they would dropship orders directly to customers. The positive response and initial orders validated the potential to satisfy market demand. Consumers wanted this more convenient selection and inventory model.

Outcome

Based on the MVP traction, Swinmurn secured funding from Tony Hsieh to build out their inventory and award-winning culture focused on extraordinary customer service. Once officially launched, Zappos became a billion dollar company and was eventually acquired by Amazon.

3. Food on the Table

The grocery recipe and coupon app Food on the Table leveraged a basic landing page instead of initially building complex app functionality, saving significant coding efforts.

Target Users

Seeing his wife clip coupons and organize grocery shopping by hand gave founder Manuel Rosso the idea for a digital solution. He recognized moms sought help simplifying shopping to provide healthy cost-effective meals for their families.

The MVP

Rosso created a basic landing page showing app UI mockups depicting the core planned features like digitized coupons and weekly meal plans tied to sales flyers. Interested visitors could provide their email address to learn when the app launched. He shared the site on parenting forums to spur signups.



Testing & Validation

Thousands of moms signed up in just 30 days, providing quantitative evidence this target user segment resonated strongly with the proposed value proposition and would use such an app. Investors took notice of the traction which helped fund full app development.

Outcome

When Food on the Table launched 18 months later as a full-featured iOS app, the initial batch of users from their MVP built the early customer base allowing rapid growth. The app became a top-ranked lifestyle app with hundreds of thousands of active users across retailers like Safeway and Kroger. The MVP proved successful not only validating product-market fit but also driving faster launch adoption.

Key Takeaways from Successful MVPs

Analyzing these real-world examples reveals some consistent best practices around minimum viable products:

Laser Focus on Core Value

All three MVPs distinctly conveyed the essential user benefit rather than attempting to showcase multiple ancillary features upfront. Delaying non-vital elements avoided creating clutter.

Drive Targeted User Input

The startups promoted their MVPs among target niches via relevant online communities to capture quality, actionable feedback from early adopters similar to eventual end-users.

Incorporate User Insights

The feedback and engagement metrics then informed what features and functionality to focus on developing for their official product launches to closely align with validated user needs.

Emphasize Business Impact

The traction data supporting demand from MVP experiments accelerated fundraising and strategic growth. This enabled scaling development knowing they had problem/solution fit.

While MVP format can vary, from a basic landing page to low-code prototypes to explanatory videos, the emphasis remains on learning over marketing finishes. Leveraging real user insights fuels creation of highly relevant products. Testing with a thoughtfully designed minimum viable product sets startups on a path aligned with genuine customer needs.

What Makes a Strong MVP

As shown by these examples, an MVP can take many forms. The key is to robustly test your unique business assumptions by initially launching with the most streamlined, least expensive model possible. This will ensure that your initial version will fast-track your team to the creation of a valuable product. Here are recommendations on developing quality minimum viable products:


Focus on Essential Features

Focus strictly on the core features required to show product benefits and appeal. If a feature isn't a must-have, it should be cut from your MVP.

Impress with Branding

Invest in graphic design, copy and photography that aligns with positioning so poor aesthetics don't deter interest or distract early users.

Recruit Target Users

Test with user cohorts that closely match the criteria of qualified customers. These people should already be using relevant existing products and spending an amount of money on those items that will allow them to buy your new version.

Leverage Low-Cost Options

Explore basic solutions like landing pages, videos or manual diagrams rather than expensive coding upfront during experimentation. Again, your goal is to make a valuable product instead of a perfect one.


The emphasis remains squarely on fostering learnings vs aesthetics. Use creativity and available materials to simulate the core user experience for generating empirical feedback that fuels decisions and future development.


We've gone ahead and written up a step-by-step guide for building a startup MVP that you can find here (link).


When are MVPs Not Appropriate?

While experimenting with a minimum viable product has many benefits for early testing and market research, the approach isn't a fit for every scenario.


Here are some examples where launching an quick and dirty MVP may not be advisable:

Established Enterprises

Incumbents with known customers typically have less need for uncertainty reduction before scaling.

Enterprise Sales Cycle

Long sales cycles for validating B2B concepts often require more formal solutions upfront.

Regulated Products

Healthcare or financial products with compliance considerations may necessitate more polished viable product versions.


If you already have sufficient customer insights or need to convey stability for your users from the outset, dedicating resources instead to launching with strong feature set often makes sense.


Ensure you pick the right approach between rapid testing concept viability with a barebones MVP and inspiring initial confidence by launching with a production ready product.


Conclusion

A thoughtfully constructed MVP is an invaluable tool in a startup’s quest to create a truly valuable product. It allows founding teams to hear from real users and clarify their roadmap toward product-market fit. This helps companies avoid premature scaling that regularly causes businesses to go bankrupt.


MVP experimentation provides quantitative and qualitative data that leads to


Leveraging the target user insights generated via an MVP sheds light on what resonates and what doesn’t with your audience to then intentionally craft solutions perfectly matched to satisfying needs. Just be careful to avoid overbuilding unnecessary complexity upfront before you achieve clarity from real customer learning in those crucial early stages.


The ability to rapidly adapt based on empirical feedback is what sets truly customer-centric organizations apart. An MVP facilitates that validated learning effectively so you can build products that matter.


Want some 1-on-1 guidance that will help you apply these principles to your startup? Go ahead and book a call with our team using the button below.



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