Business Development · Marketing MVP

The role of an MVP: Traction vs Vision?

Julian Luca Founder of TRAVA Travel

March 13th, 2018

Our MVP is currently on the App Store, the development was outsourced and looks great but it's quite slow and glitchy and will probably not be able to get much traction in its current state. I'm currently looking for a technical CoFounder but after that would like try get some investment. I don't like the idea of asking for funding with low usage numbers but am also weary of spending too much time + money promoting a subpar product.

Obviously there's no black and white answer but if you could share your thoughts +/ experiences it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Carl Hunter Roach @CarlHunterRoach

March 13th, 2018

If I understand, correctly, you are unable to afford product changes now that the first version hit the App Store. You are right not to spend lots of money on promotion. But you've just started on the MVP road.


Paul Graham has plenty of advice packed into this essay:

http://www.paulgraham.com/startuplessons.html


You have done well to "release early". Before you try to scale your users concentrate on the small number of existing users. Among those users find the ones that are getting the most value from your app.


Are you collecting usage stats? If not, ask them what functions do they find the most useful? What is missing? Concentrate on those that love your app and make it better for them.

Amy Haderer CEO and Founder of [M]otherboard Birth

March 13th, 2018

I hear you, we were in the same boat. Bootstrapping to MVP is HARD, especially if you're not a tech person (like me). Essentially after years of struggle I realized I just need to buckle down, ask for funding, and get 'er done. Seed round funding is just for this purpose, to help you build a solid MVP. Because you're right, a glitchy first product isn't going to inspire much traction and early adopters can often skyrocket or kill a business. Look for the right investors that invest in seed rounds in your field (always look for smart money vs dumb money), develop your business plan and pitch deck, and raise the money! Don't worry about not going after funding before users.

Alexandre Azevedo Early Stage Startup Mentor

March 13th, 2018

Hi, Julian!

The MVP is not a version of your product with less features. It is a shortcut for learning - about the problem you are solving and the effectiveness of your solution. Hence, by the time of scaling your business you should have already noticed enough excitement about your MVP from the earlyvangelists (customers that need your solution so much, they don't care if it is slow and glitchy).

Are these first customers really excited about your offer? Do people - besides your friends and family - show a strong willingness to download your app? Are they willing to pay for it?

Remember, before improving your app, you should have answered these questions. Raising funds before validating your business model hypothesis, will lower the value of your business and, consequently, force you to accept a worse condition in an agreement with investors.


p.s.: certainly, having a technical CoFounder in the team may raise the value of your business when searching for investment, but presenting validation evidences is a higher card in this game.


Richard Skinner Consulting CTO

March 13th, 2018

In my experience (which is mostly B2B but might be useful) if you expect too much of an MVP in terms of scale or traction you are going to lose early adopters and not learn enough about what your users actually want. You are usually better scaling back the feature set and keeping cultivating a warm user groups that can help you iterate the product. Investors will be more interested in what you learned than how many users you managed to get.

I work as a Consulting CTO and help start ups to build a roadmap, get MVP built and to scale beyond that with best practice project management and architecture.

If you would like to talk I can maybe help advise you on how the MVP can be optimized in the short-term to be less slow and glitchy.


Dat Nguyen Blockchain technology, growth hacker, & co-founder at softupsolutions.com

Last updated on March 14th, 2018

It will be tough to ask anyone to invest in you without knowing you or see value on your idea, so having traction is VERY important when you are a first time founder and don't have a track record to show.


It's good that you're looking for technical cofounder. You should also reach out and build more connections with investors especially the ones near you. The most important is to build relationship and ask for their advice. Keep them in the loop when you reach certain milestones and ask if them or their associates might be interested in investing when you are ready to do so.


The whole purpose of the MVP is to validate your core concept or idea using feedback loop (build, learn, and improve). So if users are not be able to complete the tasks what the app is set out to do because of slow and glitchy on the app, you are missing the whole point here. Ask the team who built the app for you to track down what is causing sluggish performance (eg coding, frontend/backend, or UX/UI) on the app and improve it.


Sandeep Pai Solopreneur | Internet Marketer | Affiliate Marketer | http://sandypai.com/digitallifestyle

March 13th, 2018

Hi.. I would suggest you release the apk in forums to like beta testers and make it better. Then upload it on play store. When you ask for funding, people will look for active users. If the app is has less users then it's a problem. The method I suggested would work fine. You could ask the same testers to download the app from the play store. App would have been better, downloads will be more and testimonials will be genuine. Investors will look for these parameters for sure. Good luck!

Dave Jules Founder and CEO of Underlined Apps

March 14th, 2018

Hi Julian,


It's not either/or, it's both.


The role of the MVP is to bring your vision alive and to help gain traction. An MVP isn't going to build as much traction as it a fully developed product but it should be enough to jump to the next step. From working with clients, next steps can be visualized as the following.


1. Identify the pain point your problem you are solving

2. Identify the customer segment and early adopters

3. Identify the ideal economic model for the product you intend on building

4. Create a community and product content that your early adopter will resonate with

5. Design the product and gain the first 100 beta users who will eventually be your ambassadors

6. Design and build the product and iterate as needed.

7. Gather as much early adopter/users as you can while increasing your content, marketing, and sales efforts for launch

8. Launch and treat your first 100-500 users/customers with individual care and make sure you provide them with impeccable customer service.

9. Iterate as needed in your sales, development, and marketing efforts


For where you are now, I'd hope you've cultivated a community that will be forgiving of your product even if the beta version is not up to par. In addition, if you didn't do the first three steps I would go back and figure that out.


Also, looking for a technical CoFounder can be really really hard so I always suggest finding a technical project manager. For what's going on with your current app, it would be helpful to look into hiring a company to do a technical audit that can review your tech debt and have them help optimize your apps speed and functionality. In some cases it can be as simple as upgrading your hosting plan depending on the web/mobile app.


When it comes to finding the financial support for things like this, it might be best to look for a bridge loan, small business loan, or friend/family that can help you bridge this gap so you don't get gutted by actual investors or VC's for your equity. You should always be weary when it comes to accruing debt and don't take it on if you don't have a clear plan on how to pay it back.


Lastly, if you are looking for more users look at ASO (App Store Optimization) tactics on YouTube and Google, and try listing it on Producthunt.com.


Best regards,

Dave


dave@underlinedapps.com


Dan Hubbard Founder, www.FocusedAgility.Solutions/

March 25th, 2018

I believe that anyone who answers this question without knowing what your App is/does is likely not worth reading from.

Dmitri Toubelis

Last updated on March 14th, 2018

This is tough problem. Having a technical CoFounder and THEN considering an investment is the right path. Few things to keep in mind though.


1. Finding a good technical cofounder is hard but if you find the right person you may be able to delay investment up until growth phase and that would be ideal. Your experience may vary, finding the right person is not an easy task.


2. The second best thing is to find an experienced adviser/consultant who can help you to find/train your future CTO, help with product development and team building. I used to do that and it worked well for 3 out of 4 companies I was engaged with (one was write off), so this approach definitely works and I would even choose it over option 1 but I'm biased :-)


3. There are also consulting firms that provide "Interim CTO" services and this may work too, but you need to always be aware that there is a little conflict of interest here - they do what is beneficial to their business first and yours second. But since you've done some outsourcing already you should have some idea by now ;-)


Another thing to keep in mind is that getting an investment does not necessarily solves your problem - it just replaces one problem with another. Let me explain. Rightnow you are having hard time finding enough money to finance your development, once you get money - you will be having hard time hiring the right people (it is a separate subject but just trust me on this for now) and you will be under constant pressure from investors. If your goal is just to have enough money to pay to development company - this might be good enough though.


So the bottom line, I would put the priority at finding the technical co-founder and then playing it by ear.

Steve Owens

March 13th, 2018

The purpose of a MVP is to determine if you have the right product, and make this determination quickly and for as little money as possible.


Do not scale until you know the following:

- How much it cost to acquire a customer: CAC Customer Acquisition Cost

- Your COGS - Cost of Goods Sold

- Revenue > CAC + COGS +30% of revenue.


Scaling would included hiring a technical CoFounder. Assume the CTO will be worse than outsourcing - that is what happens most of the time. The likelihood of getting a good CTO this early in your development is close to zero, and whomever you hire will almost certainly not be the right guy for scaling (that requires a manager and a team, not a solo tech guy), so he likely becomes a liability in a year anyway - the so called "hero to zero" phenoma.