How to Build an MVP

What is an MVP and How do you Build an MVP?

An MVP is a basic, working version of your product.  It can be built fairly quickly and for less money than a full-blown software.  The idea is to get a basic version to customers to validate your idea, and gather feedback from actual users.  Think of it like the foundation of a new house.  You need to first build a sturdy foundation before putting the rest of the house up.  Building an MVP is similar – start with the key elements of the software that you want.  Once you’ve been able to get validation from actual users, you can then tweak and continue to build more.

There are many good reasons to build an MVP, primarily that you can validate your idea with users and limit your financial risk.  Otherwise it can be easy to put a tremendous amount of resources into a software design that your users may not like.

How to Build an MVP

Once you’ve decided to build an MVP, the question is, how to do it.  There is no exact right or wrong when it comes to how to build an MVP.  This article outlines some general pointers to keep in mind.  Remember – we’re always happy to provide a free consultation to help you think through the idea and get an idea of time and cost.

The first step in building an MVP is thinking very carefully about what you want your product to be.  Then, cut, cut, cut until you have distilled the essential components you want to start with.  If you’d like to read a detailed sample case study of building an MVP, click here.

Next, you need to find someone to build this for you.  As we discussed in an article about if you need to hire a CTO, there are different ways you can get software built.  These include:

  • Trying to find a technical co-founder
  • Looking for a CTO
  • Searching for a freelancer; or
  • Hiring a software development company.

Each of these comes with pros and cons – you’ll need to decide what makes the most sense for you based on your circumstances.

Finding the Right Technology Partner

As a general rule, no matter which direction you take, it is important that you feel comfortable with whoever is going to build the software for you.  Having a partner that will give honest feedback is key.  You need to hear what is best for you, not what approach will create the most work and billable hours.  YourCTO takes this seriously – which is why we offer a free, in-depth consultation.

We want to help you understand the software development process, and to think through different ways you can approach it.  Let’s outline the pros and cons of each approach.  We will always strive to fit your budget and timeline as much as possible.  If a software developer or company tells you right away that everything in your idea is perfect and should be built right away – the chances are they are looking to build the scope of the project as much as possible in order to generate more income.

We recommend talking to a variety of potential partners and comparing your impressions of each.  Things that we think are good signs:

  • They understand your idea and the market you want to go after
  • They provide ideas for how to simplify the project, or cut elements that may not be critical to building an MVP
  • You have a good rapport with the project manager that you would be working on for your MVP
  • You understand the approach they recommend, and the terms and pricing are transparent and simple.

How Much Does an MVP Cost and How Long Does it Take to Build?

Once you’ve selected a technology partner, what should you expect with regards to time and cost when it comes to building an MVP?  This is a good question, and the reality is that there is no one-size-fits all answer.

If you want to build a large enterprise software, and believe that having many features is a critical part of the MVP itself, the project may take longer and cost more than something more simple.  What we advise here is to again speak with several potential partners, and get an idea of what they all charge.  Keep one thing in mind – if an offer sounds too good to be true, that may be because it is.

To give you a sense of our approach and a general ballpark estimate of time and cost – I’d say that if the project is fairly concise – in other words we are not building every bell and whistle, and can together come up with some way to cut costs (for example using a third-party tool for a functionality instead of building it from scratch – e.g. using Google Maps instead of making our own map feature) – a standard MVP will be in the range of $10,000 – $15,000 and take 1-2 months to build.  This, of course, depends on the specifics of the project but this is a good range to keep in mind as an average.

Want to read more?  Here are some links to other related articles: