What’s the one dream every budding entrepreneur has? To become a million-dollar startup-unicorn like Amazon, Uber, Instagram. But the road to success isn’t that easy.
Roadblocks like increasing competition, time constraints, market saturation, changing trends, evolving technologies, and limited funds make the destination look farther away.
Meanwhile, the mounting pressure of being out-competed keeps pulling you back, which leads to a face-first fall for nine in every ten startups. So, how do you beat the odds and end up in the succeeding 10% of startups?
Simple – start small with a product prototype and get validation instead of investing everything in something that your customers might not even want in the first place.
But as simple as this might sound, building a prototype is quite tricky. There’s a minimum viable product; and there’s an exceptional viable product. It’s like standing in front of crossroads. Only the road you choose will determine the fate of your prototype; how much effort you need to put in, how many features you will add, and how much time you need to invest.
Fret not! In this article, we have weighed each option to help you make a better decision for your startup.
What is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?
MVP or Minimal Viable Product is the approach popularized by Eric Reis. It is a methodology in which the startups build an MVP of a product or a mobile app. An MVP is a minimum featured product that helps businesses get real-time customer feedback.
After considering all consumer responses on the first version, the startups can modify the product with additional features and functionalities. And, finally, launch the product in the market.
According to Eric Ries:
Startup success can be engineered by following the process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.
So a simple version of the product, with a limited version of the main features, is launched in the market to test the concept idea and see customer reactions.
Based on the customer response received, the startups upgrade their MVP with additional functionalities, launch it again in the market, and wait for the next round of customer reactions. If the feedback is not what they expected, they can rollback their MVP to an earlier version and test it again with newer implementations. This process will continue until the final product hits the market.
Key rule: Launching the first version of the product with a focus on the main features and improving the product based on customer feedback.
So far, so good…
What is an EVP (Exceptional Viable Product)?
The concept of EVP was introduced by Rand Fishkin, founder of SeoMOZ. He defines EVP as a smaller version of a full-fledged finished product, ready to be launched in the market. Here, the initial product is designed and tested using the distributed agile development strategy. It’s like creating an MVP, but the testing is done either internally or with a very limited closed beta, and the goal is to produce a small-but-polished end-to-end product.
Once the EVP is tried, tested, and improved to the finest version, it is good to launch in the market. The first version is exceptional and unique in such a way that it instantly impresses the audience.
Key rule: Making a product prototype close to the final version. It’s like shining every aspect of the product before delivering it to the end-customer.
It might feel extremely counterintuitive to our current ‘lean’ ideologies of product development. But worry not, it isn’t the same as the old-school ‘waterfall’ methodology. There are situations where going the EVP way makes sense, and it might help to clarify what we’re really talking about when we’re referring to MVP & EVP for the purposes of this article.
Which Thin Product Slice are you Building?
Before you leap to the comments, the above “definitions” of MVP and EVP aren’t intended to be dogma. They’re placeholders for the key question you should be asking as a lean product manager:
Are you starting with a “vertical slice” of product functionality (i.e. focusing on a single function / feature, at the expense of any surrounding / adjacent aspects), or are you starting with a “horizontal slice” (i.e. a polished end-to-end experience, but with a very thin slice of the potential feature-set)?
To be clear, the so-called vertical slice is akin to the MVP in this analogy, and the horizontal slice is the EVP. Of course, whatever you build needs to be an effective validation of the market demand for your concept, so it’s important not to ignore the “viable” bit in both definitions! And every startup will require a different mix of these two approaches, but we’re going to discuss the extreme ends of the spectrum for now to help us figure out where our own balancing point might be.
Difference between an EVP and an MVP
As we have already seen that the two product development approaches follow two entirely different roadmaps. Let’s now expose their differences.
Time to Market
MVP focuses on making the earliest entry into the market with minimal features and a limited budget. The minimal version of the product releases to the market to get user feedback quickly.
EVP believes in making an entry a bit late, but it is fully developed to make an impressive entry in the market. The final product version is launched only when it is exceptionally outstanding.
MVP showcases a basic version of the app. The product design includes mainly one or two functionalities.
EVP, on the other hand, is a completed version app. The main aim of EVP app development is to deliver higher value to the customers, and not launching the minimal app features.
Early Adopters and Testing
When it comes to measuring the success of MVP development, the MVP product is tested by the real audience. In the MVP application development process, different ways are implemented to test, until a good satisfying product is in the catch.
Whereas, EVP is released only for in-house developers and some loyal customers to test the app. The real audience will get the full-fledged app when it is launched. The testing and iterations practices are implemented until the startup receives a perfect version of the product.
Entrepreneurs can start building their MVP with a smaller budget. It doesn’t consume a large proportion of the budget to build a minimum viable product. It can be launched at a fraction of the cost with much less risk.
EVP, on the other hand, requires a larger budget to build. As this is the near-final version of the product, they need more features, finishing touches, and a polished version of the product. This requires more advanced technologies and takes up more time, hence extra developers’ fees.
Releasing an MVP means you have embarked upon the validation process. It would get you validation on the core feature or the main solution you are trying to sell.
EVP, on the other hand, means you have already gathered a lot of expertise around the solution you are planning to offer. It means the entrepreneur has already gained domain knowledge, market insight, and performed customer research before investing his/her time and money in building the almost finished version of the product.
MVP vs. EVP: What to Choose and When?
When it comes to choosing between the two product development approaches, there are several factors that entrepreneurs need to consider. Let’s find out when you should choose to build an MVP or go with an EVP.
When To Choose MVP Development?
Not every startup can succeed with a minimum viable product. One cannot launch a basic product and expect it to delight even the smallest section of early adopters. It needs to offer something and should master the core values to get some validation. Here’s when you should go for MVP development:
- When you have to test your product idea first and get market validation before moving on to the next step.
- When you have great competition in the market and you need your core features to reach the audience faster.
- When you need to build the product without exhausting the entire product budget and risking everything.
- When your product idea is too complex and launching everything in the very first version would take up a lot of time and money.
- When you want to ensure that there is enough market demand for your product and investing in it would get you good returns.
- When you want to define the right monetization strategy and make iterations so that it will earn profits.
- When you want to engage your customers early on by offering a solution to a real-world problem and turn them into your loyal customers as you grow.
When To Choose EVP Development?
While the MVP way of development is considered the ‘right’ way of development by most startups, there are many cases when launching a functional-first version of the product without much polishing wouldn’t go. Here are some situations when one should go with an Exceptional Viable Product at the very beginning.
- When you want to cast the perfect first impression on your audience with the product and want no compromises in the same.
- When you are ready to invest a sizable portion of your funding in building the first version and are sure that it would be loved by the people.
- When you have long-term goals and can wait for the product’s release.
- When you have already built a loyal customer base for your startup and know that they’ll not shift to another product meanwhile.
- When your competition is pretty tough and a basic product would not take you anywhere.
- When you don’t want to risk your brand equity and taking a little longer to meet your audience’s expectation is a safer option than delivering under their expectation.
Success Stories of MVPs
You must have used famous apps like Uber, Instagram, and Snapchat once in your life. Here’s how all these apps succeed with just an MVP in the beginning.
Yahoo was introduced as a single page MVP website that contained only a list of links to other sites. This was the only functionality to satisfy the users at that time. But today, the website is the second most popular search engine in the world.
Instagram was first launched with basic photo editing and sharing features. Also, some additional messaging sending/receiving filters were there in the app. But today, Instagram is enriched with so many features such as photo sharing, posting, messaging, image filters, etc. It is one of the most popular apps dominating the social media market these days.
UberCabs was an MVP that let the users book a cab from an app, let them track the movement through GPS enabled systems, and get the payment done through cards. But see how they have grown up now with the additional features like live tracking, fare estimation, fare splitting, automated payments, linking to mobile wallets, and much more.
Success Stories Of EVP
While we’ve all heard the success stories of startups using the Minimum Viable Product approach to reach the top, not much is said and talked about EVP. Here, we have two examples of startups that started with an EVP and rose to the top.
This wireframing and prototyping company wanted to impress designers with a really simple idea of paper prototyping notepads. They knew that the idea was simple and the only way to get the attention of designers was with their initial prototype. So, they made several iterations and let their product pass through multiple versions before releasing them. The extreme thoroughness with which it was executed and the quality of the product helped in impressing the designers and getting clearer feedback as well.
1. If you have an innovative product idea, moving forward with the iterative approach can sometimes be helpful. An iterative and incremental approach is considered best for entrepreneurs entering the market for the first time.
2. The majority of the successful startups were established using MVP that offered the maximum value with the minimum features.
3. Startups should have knowledge about their buyer’s personas and their demands so as to ensure which development approach to be followed to get the right feedback they want.
4. Outsourced or remote product development can be the success mantra many startups followed when approaching MVP or EVP.
Right from selecting a tech stack to the development process, it all depends on the scope of work, time, and cost. While making the decision of picking the right approach for your startup between MVP and EVP, it is necessary to consider that both are completely different approaches.
MVP’s main aim is testing and gathering feedback, and scaling the product in an iterative manner. The first version of the product is built with limited features but can be targeted to a wider audience as well. It’s supposed to give you an idea of the market in minimal time and cost.
The main aim of EVP is to perform as many iterations as required within the team before launching the first version. It is followed by startups that want to impress at the very first use. The product could be a smaller version but is finished in terms of the design and UX to cast a lasting impression. It is delighting at the very first use with a complete product.
One right decision can lead your startup to the zenith of success. So, choose wisely and all the best with your startup initiative.