I thought I'd share my experience on how I created a MVP (minimum viable product).
Eric Ries coined the term and defined it as the following: "A minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort."
Please note that creating any product is a ton of hard work. It requires a lot of due diligence sweat equity and preparation.
Here's why you should create an MVP:
1. Nothing beats real life experience. Some people spend months or even years working on an idea without getting potential customers involved. When they finally launch and it fails, they're emotionally devastated when it doesn't take off. You see - You can have an awesome idea, but you'll never really know if it'll work with actual live customers unless you put it out there. The best thing you can do is to create a MVP, test it in a live environment and then see what the results are.
2. Data driven decisions help guide your business. Based on what you learn from the MVP test, you can then make improvements or completely pivot the product if needed. The key question you're trying to answer is: Will this product solve a customer problem in such an awesome way that it can built into a sustainable business model?
So how do you create a minimum viable product? I'm going to walk you through a real life example. A few years ago, I created an app called "Interview Questions Pro" with two of my good friends Eugene Yu and Paul Wu.
Here's how we created an MVP:
Step 1: Start by solving a problem. I was really lucky when it came to this. Eugene and Paul had already recognized a problem that so many college students or job seekers encountered in their lives. When they were preparing for a big test (like the MCATs) or a big job interviews, people would often create flashcards by hand. They would literally buy 3x5 notecards and write questions on one side and answers on the other. This worked fine until you realized...that you had to carry them with you to be productive, spent hours creating them, had a hard time sharing it with friends or worst case scenario - lose the cards!
So Paul, Eugene and I came up with an idea: Create an app that acts as a set of virtual flashcards. Paul and Eugene came up with the original framework and idea and I asked them to make an interview focused app. They said yes.
That's when the real work began.
Step 2: Build a great team (or not). In my case, building an iPhone app required a developer and a coder. I didn't have a strong network at that time, so I couldn't find talent that was local. I ended up searching online for ways to build a team. I soon found out that many people had been building apps by outsourcing. There are sites like elance.com and oDesk (but please take the time to find the right outsourcing platform that you like and prefer). that can build and design apps for you. I posted my job on Elance and soon I got a ton of bidders on the project. I look through a lot of the highly rated profiles and also went through each of their portfolios to get an idea of their quality of work. Once I had it narrowed down to 3 vendors, I would ask them to hop on a Skype call with me to discuss the project. That was my chance to interview them to see if they would be a fit. After the interviews, I finally found the right engineer and designer. I had a team!
Step 3: Get Stuff Done. After the team was officially signed onboard, I outlined clear milestones to help us hit our goal, provided project documents on exactly what needed to be done and immediately asked the two team members to begin their work.
Step 4: Get the product out there. Once the project was completed, we tested it on my iPhone and worked on fixing some of the bugs. Once those were fixed, we launched it and made it live in the app store.
From ideation to launch, it only took us about 2 months to get it done. When we launched, the app gained immediate traction. We then begin to test different pricing models and found that we would get a huge spike in downloads if we set it to free for a few days. Those free users then drove awareness of our product and helped us increase our paid downloads in the short term as well. At it's peak it was a top 3 business iPhone app!
Don't be afraid of putting your idea out there. Yes, in the worst case, someone could steal your idea and execute or improve on it quickly. But executing is really freaking hard.
Good luck out there!