Minimum Viable Society
Sitting in Kollider in Sheffield, a Barclays poster catches my eye.
Actually, it’s three letters that draw me in, three letters every startup founder knows as part of the language of the scene. MVP. Minimum Viable Product. In startup terms, your MVP is your product or service, your app or website, in its most basic form.
In evolutionary terms, your MVP is like an amoeba, or one of those ‘can sort of fly’ dinosaurs. It’s a working prototype, the Minimum Viable Pterodactyl for birds, if that makes sense.
The MVP is the most Minimalist, simple, no bells no whistles no feathers version of the thing you’re trying to do. But it has to be viable. It has to actually work. An MVP isn’t just a static demonstration model, although you can be sure it will be used to demonstrate what a great investment opportunity the MVP represents, the MVP has to actually work, be viable, and the Viability is the crux of it. The MVP has to prove itself in the market, it has to be saleable, people have to buy into the idea. That’s one of the main functions of the MVP, to test and validate the concept as a thing that people want to use. Small is beautiful when it comes to making an MVP, small is agile and cost effective and easy to adapt and able to change direction and fast. Startups can build and test an MVP in weeks or even days providing they have the skill set in the founding team.
It’s a bit like making a key. You cut it to the approximate shape you think will work, then test it, does it unlock the market? Probably not quite, so make a few more changes and try again, fashioning an MVP is a process of natural selection, trying things until something works then developing and scaling based on market response. Some startups make the mistake of trying to build the key, pour all their resources into it, polish and package it, then look around, trying to find a lock it might fit. This almost never works, and ‘no market fit’ is one of the top three causes of startup failure. The more likely way to succeed is to find a lock, then learn to pick it with a trial and error key, then when your rough key is proven to work, raise funds and make the best key you can as quick as you can before someone copies it and does the same.
Entrepreneurs are always optimists looking for opportunities, but you can still be an optimist and focus on problems if you’re looking for them with a mindset of creating the solution. Then you’re creating opportunities according to identified needs, a different type of entrepreneurship. And there’s a lot of problems happening at the moment.
The Minimum Viable Society, that’s what we are seeing in Italy, and gradually here in the UK, a minimising of activity and interactions. It’ll be interesting to see what the ‘re started’ society looks like once the restrictions are removed. Viruses change the behaviour of their hosts, this one is changing the behaviour of our entire civilisation. Incredible, given that viruses are themselves the minimum viable version of life, biological keys that unlock cells and transform everything within.
Let’s learn to look at these problems together with an attitude of mitigating them, solving them, nullifying them, transforming them and changing them into something else, then we are all true social entrepreneurs, and we don’t need to make a business out of it, just a lifestyle of problem solving and collective betterment. Unlocking opportunities, unlocking potential, unlocking closed doors, making keys.
First published in Yorkshire Post in March 2020