MVP (Thu Sep 14, lecture 5)

Homework due for today

Legend: : Participation | : Early | : PDF | : Portfolio | : Zipped

  1. Read: “Lean Startup Chapter 6”. Think about the following warmup questions as you read the chapter:
    • Sometimes customers get a product that’s imperfect, incomplete. When might this happen? . Is that a good or bad thing? What’s the purpose for doing this?
    • It’s been said (by me among others) that an MVP is neither minimum, viable nor a product. Can you explain why that might be a valid statement, or not?
    • How can you do an MVP of a hardware product? After all, a hardware product by definition has to be manufactured and that is never cheap.
    • What 1 or 2 important things from the reading did you not understand? And if you understood it all, then what 1 or 2 important things were most insightful/useful/valuable to you. Please make sure I can tell which is which!
    • Deliverable: Submit your responses to the warmup questions as a pdf in Latte
  2. Each Pilot team (all members) meet outside of class for at least 1 hour again, outside class. Continue working on your Pilot Project Report. Discuss and capture hypotheses for your version of the product. In addition to a hypothesis, consider how you could test it. Update your report.
  3. Term Project: Write up at least one product idea that you MIGHT want to work on and submit a description to the List of Term Project Ideas. You can use any idea, from brainstorming so far, from your own discussions, or from anywhere at all. Deliverable: Submit your idea and add it to the list. Read through all the others, and post a couple of questions, comments and +1’s.

Interesting (optional) reading

  • The term MVP was defined (for this specific context) several years ago by Eric Ries. It has always been a bit of a problem because people starting “misusing” it, to mean, “beta” or “early release”. Another book i really like has their own refinement of the term: What’s an MVP?
  • This MVP Guide has a good video if you want to review things from a different angle. It’s by Eric Ries himself.


  • Discussion of Chapter 6, what’s an MVP, why do we need one.
    • “An MVP is the earliest usable version of your product. Kind of like a beta test or a preview of the product”: True or False?
    • Name some challenges with creating an MVP. How can things go wrong?
    • “The only way to do an MVP for a hardware product is with a prototype”: True or False
    • Let’s name the different kinds of MVPs we can imagine
  • Each Pilot team gives an update of where they are at
    • What is your concept of the Pilot Product
    • Have you gone out of the building?

Tips for choosing a product or service

  • Does not have to be something never before seen
  • You do need to generate evidence that people will be willing to pay for it
  • It should employ technology of some sort
  • Fun and cool doesn’t matter if you can’t show that people need it and are willing to pay
  • Challenge yourself and your teammates
  • Do a little research using your common sense!

Questions to ask yourself

  • How big a problem is this really solving?
  • For who, and do you think those people would be willing to pay for it?
  • How would you get it to them?
  • What kind of price do you think they would be willing to pay?
  • Are you pretty sure this can be productized?
  • What would the Sharktank say of it?

An essay

I was buying something at Einsteins today, and they were short handed. Two people were making sandwiches or something a line formed of people buying coffee or sodas. And I had a thought about finding more product ideas. Look around campus for opportunities and inefficiencies. And think whether with your superior knowledge of students’ everything (habits, interests, money, time, whatever) you could think of some tool, service, application or solution for the other non-student members of the Brandeis community, for example:

  • What could be done to make Einsteins work better? Can we somehow funnel students to place their orders at slow periods? Can we give them a way to forecast when the sudden demand will happen? To know what products will be ordered when? Is there a way to analyze the receipts or output from the POS system to help them? Is there some kind of coupon, discount, off-hour service idea?

  • If you’re an athlete: What does the staff do and how are they not being as efficient as they could be? What is being done by hand, on slips of paper, on index cards, that is causing them to need additional staff? What are the challenges that makes running the athletics at Brandeis more expensive than it could be? How about tournaments? How about organizing teams, or promotion?

  • If you’re an artist (performance or other): same question: is there something relating to how the music department is run? Scheduling of practice rooms? Limited number of instruments? Loaning instruments? Repairing them? Deciding when to acquire new ones? Forecasting what the next set of students coming in will require? Tracking inventory?

You get the idea: look for inefficiencies, and try to think about where there are savings or additional value to be found. If you can free up someone doing something menial they can be doing something more productive. If you can increase the capacity of a resource without actually having to build (by increasing utilization) you are saving.

You have knowledge that others don’t have about what can be done with technology. Something that others might not consider possible, or never had a chance to think about might actually be a major inefficiency that you may be able to solve.

Think about your own domain expertise, your own competitive advantage in terms of knowledge, contacts, information, ability to observe. All those can yield ideas!

Term Projects Brainstorm

Towards the end of September, we will begin working on the term projects. Between now and then we will be coming up with ideas, writing them up, etc.

right now Second round of brainstorming on possible term projects. Collect them on whiteboard and write them down.
  • Review and reference: Hypotheses
  • Review and reference: Minimum Viable Product

  • Let’s talk over students’ ideas so far for term products.
    • Ask: Will it make money?
    • Ask: What are key hypotheses?

Next Class