Common Fallacies and Mistakes Startup Founders Make When Building an MVP
According to CB Insights, today there are more than 900 unicorns around the world. Each and every one of these successful businesses was once just an idea. But was it an innovative technology, a solid business strategy, or just luck they owe their success to? Or was it also the mistakes they didn’t make when turning their idea into a Minimum Viable Product?
Let’s have a look at the 5 most common mistakes that can lead your startup to join the 90% that failed.
Delivering a solution no one needs
The lack of product-market fit must be one of the biggest reasons startups fail. Entrepreneurs spend significant time and resources on the development and marketing of their MVPs just to launch and find out that their digital solutions have no actual place on the market. Some of them solve a problem a lot of other businesses have already successfully solved. Some fail to identify their direct competitors, launching their MVP without consideration and losing the race because they didn’t have any competitive advantage to offer. And finally, there are startups that market a solution to an overly specific or even non-existent problem.
This most typical mistake happens when entrepreneurs get too confident in the solution they came up with. Enthusiastic and excited “to pioneer the innovation,” startup founders either rush the market research phase without giving it enough time and attention, or even worse, they think their idea is so unique and brilliant that they don’t hesitate to skip on idea validation in order to get to market as fast as they can.
Yes, it’s hard to be objective about your own ideas, but that’s exactly what you have market research for — to help you understand whether your idea is viable and if there’s a demand for it. Is the problem you’re trying to solve relevant at the moment? How big is the target audience for it? Does any other business solve the same problem? Why would users choose your solution over theirs? Are there any failed startups with similar ideas? What could you learn from their mistakes?
The time you spend validating your idea before developing an actual MVP is crucial to the success of your digital solution.
Skipping the prototyping phase
When it comes to idea validation, a prototype must be the most efficient and safest way to do it. Prototyping doesn’t take your startup much time or resources, and yet it helps you save resources, mitigate a lot of potential pitfalls, and smoothen the edges of the further MVP development process.
Be it simple wireframes or a high-fidelity prototype with the smallest detail considered, it’s the best way to explain your idea to stakeholders. You make sure everyone from developers to potential investors to target user groups understands your digital solution just like you do. Stakeholders will personally interact with the prototype and give you constructive feedback, each from their own perspective. This crucial feedback will help you introduce the necessary improvements to your designs before you move on to the actual development.
For example, a potential investor can point out flaws in your business model and market strategy. Feedback from a representative of your target audience may trigger an insight into how to simplify user journeys or improve some features that would give you a competitive advantage. Knowing all the critical aspects of your digital solution, it’s easier for your development team to choose the most suitable software architecture and the stack of technologies for your MVP.
Unfortunately for them, many startups don’t understand the significant risks they take and the opportunities they miss when skipping the prototyping phase. They move straight to MVP development in the hopes of saving some resources and launching sooner. Instead, these startups are likely to face a lot of chaos in the form of unexpected budget expenses, development blockers, and failed expectations.
Overbuilding your MVP
Another common mistake startups make is building too much “glitter” into their MVP. They’re trying to go for what they think is the perfect version of their product straight away. They believe that all the fancy design decisions and sophisticated functionality they add on top of the core solution will impress their potential users and bring their project more renown. What happens in reality is they spend huge budgets and go way overboard with development time to deliver extra features their target audience doesn’t necessarily need, want, or like at all.
With startups being risky as they are, assuming that your audience desires the extras you included on top of the core working solution probably wouldn’t do you any favors. It’s quite the opposite, actually. You’re most likely to be flooded with feedback about some features being out of place, unnecessary, confusing, or even bugged. And the more complex your build was at the start, the harder and more expensive it will be to pivot in case your assumptions were wrong.
When deciding on the features your Minimum Viable Product should have, remember that it begins with the word minimum. Don’t overthink and overbuild your MVP with unnecessary features. It’s not the final product you’re developing right now. Does it solve the problem for your users? Good. Everything else can be added after you’ve launched, in the course of further development, and only after you’ve gathered enough user feedback to make further assumptions.
Compromising on core functionality
While keeping your functionality to the minimum is very important, you must also understand how to keep from going too far cutting down features. What you should do is find a fine line between minimum and viable in your MVP.
Say, you’re building a banking app where security is the obvious top priority. Therefore, your MVP may not need features like Cashback or Scheduled Payments, but it must have Multi-factor Authentication.
Take the functionality essential to solving the problem and develop your digital solution with a focus on making these features work properly. And definitely don’t save on user experience. You wouldn’t want to use an app that looks as if it was put together overnight, would you?
Hiring a development team without due experience
But whether you have a technical or business background, you can’t build your MVP all by yourself. As a founding member, you do probably possess certain skills, domain knowledge, and experience, but you can only cover so much in the project implementation process. For the rest, you would need to gather a team that consists of a project manager, designer, business analyst, a couple of developers, and potentially a variety of other experts, depending on the scale and complexity of your project. And that’s where the challenge arises.
Many startup founders are so protective of their project that they aren’t ready to delegate its implementation to anyone but the people they have long known — their friends or former colleagues. Now, these people may deserve your trust and share your product vision, which is a good starting point. But what if they only cover one or two required skills? What if they don’t possess the necessary startup development experience and domain expertise to build you a good MVP? They can’t get an entirely new set of skills on the spot, and the experience you need won’t come from mere learning.
So what you need to do is fill in the expertise gaps in your project with professionals who have a rich startup development background. Their experience will prove a lot more valuable than that of a newcomer to the startup arena. With a background of numerous successful and failed startups, a professional development team will be able to keep your project on the right track. From idea validation to choosing the right tech stack and business strategy, they will help you avoid decisions that could be fatal to your project’s future.
There are two ways you can approach building a development team.
Your first option is to build an in-house team. You can do this either through networking on various tech conferences and thematic events or hiring a specialized recruitment agency. But this approach may turn out prohibitively expensive as it could take you months to find and onboard the experts you’re missing as well as require overheads such as office space and equipment.
Many startups aren’t ready for challenges such as recruitment in their pre-seed or seed stages. This leads us to the second, a more cost-efficient option called startup outsourcing. Rather than spending months building your in-house team, you can find a software development company with relevant experience. This enables you to gather a team within mere weeks instead of months, and without overheads such as additional equipment and office space. You get the ability to efficiently scale your team up and down depending on your workload. And a faster start also puts you at an advantage of a faster time to market, improving your chances to outrun your competitors.