It was late 1999 and our DSL router business was doubling each month. Life was good. But now, the carriers (Telco’s) wanted to remotely manage all of the business routers they were buying from me. They also were installing these routers at small to medium sized businesses around the globe. Knowing I had to quickly find a solution, I put the word out that I was in the market to license someone else’s solution. I had a dozen or so companies who came forward. After weeks of analysis we chose the one we felt was best for our customers.
The problem was the product we chose wasn’t complete. We met several times and I insisted that there were four features I needed right now and nothing else. They insisted they had built a scalable, robust, extensible core engine that could handle thousands of features. My response was I knew this and that is why I selected them, but I only wanted four features and I wanted them yesterday. Nothing more! Nothing less! They reluctantly agreed.
A few weeks later with these four features in hand I hit the road. We nailed it! Half a million dollars of business in a matter of months. The selection process was quick due to the limited feature set and we were making money. Mind you, these four features were not randomly selected. I had been carefully listening to the requests and demands of my customers, the carriers, and their customers, the business owners. I selected the four features that were the most valuable, or, in other words the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It worked.
We launched a solution that served a real market need. The solution was incredibly stable due to the minimum feature set. It met the market needs for a viable product. We had created a solid baseline for the future. A year later the product had over 3,000 features and would be licensed to world-class carriers around the globe for between $3 and $5M dollars each with annual maintenance agreements of around $1M per year.
When defining your first version or subsequent versions of a product or service choose your MVP. Don’t let feature creep or creeping elegance delay your launch and over complicate your product. Your initial business plans and business strategies need to be focused on your MVP. If you create a solid base with your MVP, it is easy to build on it. If your product development method includes agile development — iterative and incremental feature development — consider releasing your MVP monthly or even weekly!
Dano Ybarra is a leader, global executive, corporate warrior, serial entrepreneur, husband, father, and Internet pioneer. To learn more about Dano please visit www.danoybarra.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information visit his Beyond.com profile.