MVP in software development – Lean Startup

In the You Are Launched blog, we’ve previously talked a lot about MVPs and how you can apply them to your startup idea. In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at MVP in software development and how you can use the Lean Startup approach to ensure success for your new idea.

We like to use this statistic on the blog a lot, but only one out of every twenty startup ideas succeeds.

When you’re considering launching a new piece of software, you may think that the odds are stacked against you. Competition is high, and it doesn’t help that customers sometimes don’t know what they want!

Luckily, there is an easy way that you can increase your chances of success.

Let’s say you have an excellent idea for a new piece of software. It could be the hottest mobile phone app or the most innovative Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. What do you need to do?

This guide will tell you about the minimum viable product (MVP) and how you can combine it with software development.

  • What is an MVP in software?
  • What type of MVPs can you use in software development?
  • Examples of software MVPs that went the distance
  • How to create your software MVP?
  • Why do some MVPs fail?

What is an MVP in software development?

mvp in software development

A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a no-frills version of your software product.

The idea behind an MVP is that you can quickly build and launch it, and use it to get feedback about your software from key users.

Even though your MVP is a basic version of your final software, it is a fully working one that you can start promoting to your users, potentially earning money from it too.

According to the Standish Group, 45% of features in a software system are never utilized by users. This means that eliminating the non-essential features and focusing on the essential ones can help you get your software launched sooner.

Creating an MVP is a crucial part of the lean startup methodology, which is all about getting a product to market quickly, and rapidly responding to customer comments. As Eric Karjaluoto said, MVPs are a way of ‘avoiding making something that people don’t want.’

The advantages of MVP in software development are:

  1. You can launch a working piece of software quickly, getting customers on board and getting your software to market before your competitors do
  2. Getting feedback about your software from early adopters, letting you know if you need to make any changes before moving forward
  3. You can test the market to see if your target audience and monetisation model is the right one
  4. You can establish a customer base, gaining loyal followers and getting the word out about your product
  5. Saving money and time. If your MVP doesn’t work out, you can go back to the drawing board without wasting resources
  6. You have something tangible to show potential investors, increasing the chances of receiving funding from your angel investor or venture capitalist of choice

What MVPs can you use in software development?

a/b testing. what mvp to use in software development

When people think of MVPs, they typically think of beta-mode mobile apps. 

However, the great thing about MVPs is that there is a wide variety of different types out there, that you can customize to your specific needs.

Here are some examples of MVPs that you can often see in the software development industry.

  • Landing pages. You can create a landing page to sell your prospective service and then create a call to action where prospective customers can find out more, like a mailing list. This helps you see how many people are interested and even find potential customers 
  • Demo videos. A demo video explains what your software does and lets customers register their interest. For example, Dropbox started its business by creating a short video that explained the concept of sharing files across multiple computers. Founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi did this before developing the software to see if people liked the concept. After releasing the video, Dropbox found that signups increased from 5,000 to 75,000 people!
  • Piecemeal. With a piecemeal MVP, founders bring together bits of software from tools that already exist to create a new and improved system
  • Wizard of Oz. Rather than a piece of software that automates the work, someone does the work behind the scenes. If it is successful, then development time can be invested in automating the process. These types of MVPs are also sometimes referred to as ‘Manual-First’ or ‘Flintstones’ MVPs

Examples of software MVPs that went the distance

We love sharing examples of successful software MVPs on our blog. 

We briefly mentioned the success that Dropbox had with their MVP explainer video above. However, here are some more of our favorites, and how taking the time to create and launch an MVP took them in the right direction.


instagram old logo

Instagram was initially launched as Burbn, an app that allowed people to check into nearby bars and clubs – a little like Foursquare for the nightlife industry.

After launching it as an MVP, the founders discovered that users didn’t really care for the ability to check-in, but really loved the ability to share photos. So the app pivoted, and Instagram became a smash-hit overnight!


buffer logo. a smarter way to share

The CEO of Buffer, Joel Gascoigne, wanted to create a social media scheduler but wasn’t sure what else to include. He decided to set up a signup form on his website and started conversations with people, asking what features they would like to see.

The MVP Joel created was a success, and Buffer went from an idea to a product people wanted to pay for in the space of seven weeks.


twitter old logo. twttr

Twitter originally started out as a podcasting provider called Odeo. However, with Apple taking over the podcasting industry, Odeo knew that it had to quickly create and launch a brand new product before the app was pushed out of the market.

The development team came up with a simple SMS messaging service called twttr. The software was initially used to send messages in-house but became so popular that it was launched to the public in 2006. Fifteen years later, Twitter now has over 350 million monthly active users!


Spotify old logo and new logo

Spotify was not the first music streaming platform to launch, but it has been one of the most successful. 

Founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon found that their competitors spent lots of money on flashy websites, only to see them quickly fail. Music streaming companies like Grooveshark, Rdio, and Guvera are just some of the examples that quickly made their way to the startup graveyard.

Ek and Lorentzon wanted to keep things simpler. They created a basic MVP that only did one thing – stream music. This allowed them to keep costs to a minimum while gathering valuable customer feedback. Later on, off the back of comments from users, they added the option for customers to pay for an ad-free experience.

… And one that didn’t

quite mvp sample

Quibi was launched to massive acclaim in 2020. The mobile-focused streaming service claimed it was a major competitor to rivals such as Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime… yet it shut down six months after launching.

The business hadn’t launched an MVP first, but it could have increased its chances of survival if it had. 

What would an MVP have revealed? That there wasn’t any interest in the platform, and many customers canceled their subscription once the free trial period was up. As well as the market already has many well-established competitors, customers could entertain themselves with free content from social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

How to create your software MVP?

Matt Ridley. How innovation works. mvp in software development

Creating an MVP for your software startup can be challenging, especially if you are doing it for the first time. 

Where do you start? 

What features do you include? 

How do you know if your software is successful?

Here are some of the steps to take to create a great MVP that everyone will want to download or log into.

  1. Work out the problem that your software will solve. If your software doesn’t solve a particular issue, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board
  2. Know your target market. Many pieces of software fail as they do not target the right audience. Look at your competitors and see who they focus their efforts on. The more market research you can do at this stage, the better. Look at the demographics of your target audience, where they live, their likes and dislikes
  3. Prioritise the features that you want to include in your MVP. You will not want to include all of your desired features in your MVP, just the ones that will benefit your target audience. The MoSCoW method can be an effective way of determining which features make the cut:
    1. ‘Must haves’ – what is the one crucial feature that defines your product?
    2. ‘Should haves’ – what features will complement your ‘must haves’ and add additional functionality?
    3. ‘Could haves’ – what features are nice to have, but aren’t critical to your product?
    4. ‘Won’t haves’ – what features are irrelevant to your product? Bear in mind that a feature may be irrelevant now, but may not be in a future iteration of the software

and the most expecting steps

  1. Launch! Launching your MVP development software is an exciting time, and you may be a little nervous – this is only natural!
  2. Get feedback. Don’t forget to get feedback! Whether you look at the download stats, email customers for their opinions or look at the comments on social media, feedback is critical in determining what you do next
  3. Take the next steps. Depending on the feedback you receive, you may decide to add new features to your MVP. You may decide to change the focus of your MVP entirely. You may even decide to abandon your software and try something new. If this is the case, don’t worry – you will have learnt valuable lessons that will help you in the future.

More hints and tips about creating the perfect MVP for your startup.

Why do some MVPs fail?

why some startups fail? archer wrong mvp in software development

There are some pitfalls when it comes to creating a mobile app or SaaS MVP. These include:

  • Getting the goal wrong;
  • Getting the target audience wrong;
  • Adding the wrong features, or too many features;
  • Not getting enough, or too low-quality, customer feedback;
  • Taking too long to launch – with an MVP, you want to get to market as quickly as possible; otherwise your competitors could beat you to it.

The good news is that if you do make a mistake and your MVP is not as successful as you would have liked, it will take less time and money to make any changes.

In addition to this, we’ve prepared an article with top 10 startup mistakes to avoid.

One of our customers in the gaming industry likened an MVP to a save point in a game. If you lose a life, you don’t have to start the level all over again!

In conclusion – an MVP in software development can be a great advantage to your startup

If you’re excited about a software idea, it can be tempting just to get it built and launch it straight away. 

However, taking a little time to research the market and bring out an MVP can prove advantageous in the long term.

Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, and Buffer all launched an MVP, and they are now leaders in their respective fields.

What MVP model will you use to move your business idea forward?

Looking for assistance in developing your MVP? You Are Launched can help

If you know that you need to develop an MVP after reading this article but aren’t sure how to go about it, our team of experts is here to help.

We’ve been working alongside lean startups like yours since 2014, helping them to launch high-quality software applications that people want to use.

Contact us today, and let’s talk about how we can work together to help bring your software to market. 

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