How to Create an MVP Using Minimal Time and Resources, from WeWork Engineering Manager Dima Kuchin

Creating your MVP is a crucial milestone on your startup journey, and one that informs the direction you take your product in. You might think that putting an MVP together requires significant time, energy, and skills like design or coding, but a great MVP can actually be done fast and with minimal skills. Labs mentor Dima Kuchin, WeWork customer intelligence engineering manager, held a Labs session during the 5 Day Charge about building an MVP, or minimum viable product, quickly and efficiently. Here’s how to do it.

What’s an MVP and why do you need one?

MVP stands for minimum viable product, and Kuchin describes it as “a strategy to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” It’s essentially the most minimal version of your product that you can create to validate that there’s a demand for what you’re trying to build. There are many reasons why every startup needs an MVP, but the key ones are that “it saves money, it enables accelerated learning, and it allows you to acquire early adopters sooner than later,” Kuchin says. And “you do not really need a lot of money or time to create an MVP.”

Research shows that the most common reason why startups fail is because they create a product that people don’t want or need. Creating an MVP helps you avoid that critical mistake. “It’s the best way to avoid that because it allows you to test as early as possible,” Kuchin says. And “you do not really need a lot of money or time to create an MVP.”

The do’s and don’ts of creating your MVP

When you’re building your MVP, focus on the basics. “All three words—minimum, viable, and product—are very important,” Kuchin says. “It should be minimal. You need to spend the minimum amount of effort in order to deliver something. It should be viable, so it should be something that can be tested. And it should be some product or service.”

Beyond those basic commandments, there are some key things to do, and not to do, when you’re creating your MVP.

The do's

  • Maintain minimal functionality at a high quality
  • Be oriented towards big markets “even though you’re starting with something small.” Kuchin says.
  • Keep a monetization model in mind. “If you test something you don’t know how to make money off if, then you didn’t actually do anything,” Kuchin says.
  • Monitor and apply user behavior. “This is the most important aspect of your MVP,” Kuchin says.
  • Get into the market ASAP
  • Study competitors
  • Come up with a marketing plan and strategy that attracts a large number of users

The don'ts

  • Add unnecessary functionality. “If you think that a specific part of functionality is not important for the first version, just cut it off,” Kuchin says.
  • Delay market entry by trying to add features again and again
  • Forget about the product’s overall viability
  • Be afraid to start again if this MVP fails. “Many MVPs fail,” Kuchin says. “But the point is that you learn from it and apply the takeaways to your next MVP in order to succeed.”

Think of an MVP as a strategy

An MVP isn’t just a product. “It’s a perspective that you should use to look at things within your business,” Kuchin says. “For example, if you’re looking for a cofounder or trying to hire a team. What are the qualities that you’d need in an MVP cofounder? Or in employees? It’s all about working smarter, not harder.”

Examples of great MVPs

Dropbox: “They started with just a cool video ad and allowed users to sign a waiting list,” Kuchin says. “Now they’re worth billions of dollars.”

Groupon: “They had a very simple WordPress site with content and they emailed weekly PDFs to subscribers,” Kuchin says. “Even though they’ve decline, they’re still a very successful company.”

Zappos: “They started by taking photos of shoes without actually buying them, and putting them on a website,” Kuchin says. “Only when customers bought them did they actually buy them and ship them. And they sold to Amazon for almost a billion dollars.”

You don’t need a lot of resources or skills to create an MVP

“For many startups, even hardware startups, you don’t need a final product to validate it,” Kuchin says. “You need something that will allow you to understand the people who’ll be buying it. And there are many different services that allow you to do simple things in order to validate, like building landing pages.”

You can start by figuring out how to attract people to your MVP. “Because if you build an MVP but you don’t know how to attract people, you did nothing,” Kuchin says. “Only then, actually deliver something.”

Here are the resources Kuchin shared that can help you build your MVP:

“All of these things do not really require you to write a single line of code,” Kuhin says. “For MVPs, in many cases, no coding skills are required. But if you do need to write code, you can use freelancers on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. The most important thing is that you need to understand what and how you want to deliver your MVP. Because if you hire a freelancer and their work is failing, in many cases it’s because you haven’t defined the product and the requirements properly.”

“It’s only when you want to start on the steps after you MVP, like building your big product, that you’ll need to know how to code or hire people who can code,” Kuchin says. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your MVP is a test of your hypothesis that underlies your startup, and your goal is to validate that hypothesis. And if your MVP fails, learn from it and try again.

Learn more about product development and creating your MVP as as early-stage startup.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

Interested in connecting directly with this mentor? Ask your Labs Manager for help.

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