Strategy

How to Start Learning with a Minimum Viable Product

Many startups launch with a minimum viable product in order to start the learning process. Unlike a prototype or a concept test that may be used to answer technical questions about the product, a minimum viable product is designed to answer business questions.

Dropbox famously launched with a minimum viable product. In parallel with product development, the founders wanted to make sure that they are developing a product that people wanted. File synchronization was not a problem people knew they had. The Dropbox team was trying to develop a solution that would make this happen seamlessly and easily. But this had high technical hurdles. If they invested resources in building the solution fully without validating that what the target actually wanted, they could have lost it all.

They identified that the target for early adoption was going to be the Digg audience. At the time, Digg was a social news website. With dynamic submission and voting mechanism, Digg was able to showcase the latest trending content from around the internet. This was a savvy and social audience. This was the perfect target for Dropbox, a file-sharing tool.

To validate that there was a market, Dropbox launched a video tailored to this target market.

To the casual observer, the Dropbox demo video looked like a normal product demonstration, but we put in about a dozen Easter eggs that were tailored for the Digg audience. References to Tay Zonday and ‘Chocolate Rain’ and allusions to Office Space and XKCD. It was a tongue- in- cheek nod to that crowd, and it kicked off a chain reaction. Within 24 hours, the video had more than 10,000 Diggs.

It drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website. Our beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight. It totally blew us away.

-Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox

The Dropbox team had a leap-of-faith assumption that people would actually want a solution to this problem that they did not know they had. To test their assumption, they launched the video — which was not the technology they were developing at all. But it was a minimum viable product that the Dropbox team can “sell”. They found the answer to the question “is there a market?” in their beta waiting list.

Check out this famous video below:

If the video does not load correctly, click here.

What could be a minimum viable product for your business idea?

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About Jeannie Chan

Jeannie Chan founded Curious. She is a brand strategist who takes on business problems big or small. She inspires organizations to raise the questions no one dared to ask or thought to ask. She has ignited new thinking and delivered growth to Fortune 500 companies, startups, and nonprofits. Jeannie loves espressos, and lives in New York City with her two cats and her beloved. Learn more about Jeannie at JeannieChan.com.
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