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The start-up phase of a company is rife with learning experiences, both painless and painful, and capital is rarely in large supply. But many small business owners invest weeks, months, even years polishing their product before it is released to start to return cash to the business. The most perfectionist owners reach capital crisis points because they just can't let go before their offering is exactly right. The MVP approach compresses the learning and speeds the return of capital to the business by introducing the bare bones and enhancing while the product is live and in the market.
This is not to say that quality isn't important, only that live testing with real customers is the best testing. The idea behind the MVP is that you test the product with a limited audience, with only the absolutely essential, most basic features. The approach comes from the software development industry, where "deploy first, code later" enables developers to make continuous improvements by measuring market response to each new product feature. As the product becomes more built-out, it's released to larger and larger bases of customers.
MVP strategy takes guts, and an ability to think quickly and respond to emerging opportunities and problems.
MVP Masters - Flightcar
We first heard this startup story at a conference in Summer 2013. Flightcar was conceived by three teenagers in San Francisco who turned down college offers from Harvard, Princeton and MIT . They realized that a lot of space at the airport was being consumed by parked cars - the outbound travelers' cars stored in garages and lots during their trips, and the rental cars awaiting inbound travelers. They got the idea that people could make money by renting their personal cars to other travelers instead of paying money to park them at the airport lot. And inbound travelers could save money and drive cool rides by renting them. So Flightcar was born.
They needed cars, renters, and insurance. They needed a basic website. And off they went. Because Flightcar's resource sharing concept has been so disruptive to the standard systems at the airport, they have fought legal challenges along the way. They have had to use limo services to drop off and pick up customers to get around the airport's objections to them using the airport lots. They have had to figure out ways to store the personal items from renters' cars while the vehicles were being used by someone else. You get the idea.
The MVP concept allowed Flightcar to learn a lot about how to operate its business in one location. The three partners used the knowledge gained in their MVP to refine and expand the business. As of August 2015 Flightcar is serving 17 airports. Yes, that's seventeen! Now you can even make your car available on a monthly basis, and earn $200-$500! And if you're a renter, the car selections range from compact to sedan to minivan to SUV to luxury models. And of course you can download a free Flightcar app so you can access the service right from your phone!
Not bad performance for a few college dropouts, eh? Maybe the MVP strategy could work for you. Deliver, test with live customers, refine, etc. And please let us know how it works for you.