Dream Big. Start Small.

Learn your lessons from MVP before thinking about scale

Over the last couple of years I’ve been dating with very many start-up founders to see if I can partner in their venture in the realm of product management or technology.

During my conversations with every entrepreneur I’ve met, I’ve seen them having a very skewed understanding of MVP. Blame the internet, for the free flood of half-baked resources, written by those who have no clue of software product development or by those slacking in the big corporate world of BS. Read those and attempt to put it in your startup — you are damned for sure! Be selective of what you read. Before you read something, do know its author and his background, to see if the article is worth your time. And after you read, don’t forget to see if it fits your context. For, it is the context, that determines the DOs and DONTs.

That said, there are indeed a few things that are No-No for any startup, if you like me, were to think that the smart way to build a startup is by de-risking. The goal of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is just that — de-risking.

Unfortunately it seem to be easier said than done. Let me quote the point of view of two start-up founders Adam and Eve that they shared with me in their hunt for a CTO of their venture:

Adam the Founder: I’ve got a brilliant idea that is like Uber in this retail segment. I want someone who can build the MVP with loads of interesting features, that scales to millions of users. Do you have it in you?
Eve the Founder: I’ve been wanting to do a startup and been doing some homework on which idea of mine to execute. I decided on this unique idea as there are very few start-ups in this segment and they are not really flourishing. I want someone who can handle both product management and technology, so that I can focus on raising funds and selling the product to enterprises. On technology side of things, it would be great if (s)he has expert knowledge in UI, UX, PHP, and esp. Big-data side of things to mine tons of data. Do you have it in you?

In the case of Adam the Founder, he is talking of MVP juxtaposing with tons of features. And as if that is not enough, he is nuts about his product being scalable to millions of users from day-1 of product go-live. In the case of Eve the Founder, she is talking about building a product that is not really unique given the fact that there are already a few startups seemingly struggling to build traction for a few years.

In all these circumstances, I tried to politely educate them of their ignorance by sharing my experiences of few successes and many failures. It pays to not yield to temptations.

Dream big. Start small.

You would often see me parroting the statement below in the context of startup adventure:

“Be bold enough to dream big. And don’t forget to be wise enough to start small”.

Build a prototype of your product first and see if it has any traction at a first place, let alone takers. There are lessons waiting to be uncovered in the journey of building a product. The mantra is “Build. Measure. Learn”. Build a solution increment of highest importance that you think would solve or mitigate the problem of end consumer. As you measure the results, you should uncover your ignorance and learn some lessons. With renewed understanding, you go about tinkering your product as next increment. Measure again to absorb new lessons. Go back to translating your lessons to product. You attain bliss (a real solution in hand to a genuine problem) as you repeat this cycle. You can now solve the problem of scale as you build your customer base.

Instead of telling you what to do, to better your understanding on the Lean-Startup concepts, I’ll tell you what I did. I read two books The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Running Lean by Ash Maurya, apart from reading hordes of articles from other eminent leaders. I even attended the Running Lean workshop facilitated by Ash Maurya and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Lean-Startup way of building software products.

Like always, don’t forget to clap and share this post should you like it. And needless to say, I am all ears to hear your experience and thoughts about this subject.