MVP In Action

When Spotify started building its product in 2006, streaming technology was extremely nascent. Products like Real Player were incredibly slow, buggy, and often just didn't work. With its MVP, Spotify set out to obsessively make streaming music the same as if it were playing from your hard drive.

There was one key hypothesis that Spotify set out to test: People don't mind streaming music if it works as well as owning it .

The minimum viable product looked like this:


(image source: Henrik Kniberg)

There isn't much to it on the surface. It basically didn't have any features, and was only able to play a couple of pre-determined songs that were "hard-coded." What the folks at Spotify were doing with their MVP was to see if their basic hypothesis held up.

They quickly learned that they needed to focus on latency, which was something that most of Spotify's competitors at the time overlooked and didn't put obsessive focus into. As Daniel Ek, cofounder and CEO of Spotify, put it:

"We spent an insane amount of time focusing on latency, when no one cared, because we were hell bent on making it feel like you had all the world's music on your hard drive. Obsessing over small details can sometimes make all the difference. That's what I believe is the biggest misunderstanding about the minimum viable product concept. That is the V in the MVP."

Here are a few other examples of successful MVPs:

apple_board.jpeg Apple: The first Apple computer (Apple I) was basically just a motherboard. It didn't include a keyboard or a case, and had to be assembled manually. The early mode of MVP came from Wozniak's hobbyist mentality of playing with technology and tweaking it with friends. If you look at the sleek unibody design of a Macbook Pro Retina today, you can trace it back to a series of continuous improvements upon this over the past 30 years.

dropbox.jpeg Dropbox: When Dropbox was developing its early product, no one knew that syncing files to the cloud was something they needed in their lives. Instead of adopting the old "build it and they will come" mentality, Dropbox founder Drew Houston created an MVP in the form of a 4-minute demo video of how Dropbox would work. Dropbox's waiting list shot up from 5,000 to 75,000 people overnight, which gave him a massive community of people to learn from.

linkedin.jpeg LinkedIn: LinkedIn's MVP included user profiles, the ability to invite

people to connect, search for users, and send email-like requests along with a page summary of network stats. No muss, no fuss.

groupon.jpeg Groupon: Groupon started off as a Wordpress blog that posted daily discounts, gift certificates and vouchers for the Chicago area. According to co-founder Andrew Mason, the interest in the MVP "was enough to prove the concept and show that it was something that people really liked."