The MVE: Minimum Viable Experiment

picture of beakers and experimental jars with the words "the minimum viable experiment" written over top

You have all been dutifully instructed to “fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” A lot of ink (virtual or otherwise) has been spent making sure you do your customer research. But as much as the start-up crowd seems to value research,  it still seems like you can’t call yourself a “real entrepreneur” until you build something.

For example, if you spend your time investigating better ways to help senior citizens get to where they want to go, you’re just a do-gooder. But if you tell everyone you are making the “Uber for Seniors,” you are suddenly an entrepreneur.

Even the Lean movement, which espouses an experimental approach, puts a lot of focus on building something. (That “something” being the “minimum viable product.” Emphasis on product.)

I think that would-be entrepreneurs would find a lot more freedom to explore and grow their ideas if there was less pressure to come up with a “thing” to build. Instead, it may be better to focus on conducting worthwhile experiments. So in this post I’d like to introduce the MVE: minimum viable experiment.

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The Startup Pitch

set of clear elevators with the words "perfect your startup pitch" written overtop

In graduate school, whenever we were getting ready to attend a conference, we would all get together to practice our elevator pitches. In theory, the reason we practiced our pitch was that if by some miracle we found ourselves on an elevator with a philanthropically inclined Bill Gates we’d be ready to win him over with a 30 second spiel on our research. In practice, this never happened. We did use our elevator pitches to introduce ourselves to like-minded researchers and build our professional networks, which is almost as good.

The general formula we followed was:

Pitch = problem to solve + method to solve it

My pitch went something like this… Continue reading “The Startup Pitch”

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In an MVP, do looks matter?

Set of makeup brushes, with the words "In my MVP...do looks matter?" written over-top.

The value of building an MVP is getting your concept out in front of the world as quickly as possible so you can start gathering feedback. The keyword in Minimum Viable Product, of course, is “minimum”. An MVP should have minimum features and should require minimum work. A real MVP should just cross the the threshold from useless to functioning.

One question I get a lot is,

When it comes to building your MVP, do looks matter?

The TL;DR answer is : It depends. Probably not too much. But you should definitely come back to worrying about aesthetics as soon as you are ready to move on from MVP to a full product experience.

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User-centered startup = Design thinking + Lean

Design thinking + lean = user-centered startup

Two schools of thought that have risen to prominence in the startup world are Design Thinking and Lean. Both promise to help you find better product solutions, but they take you on different routes to get there. In this post I highlight both approaches and propose that if you want to run a user-centered startup you need to use both: a Design thinking + Lean combo.

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3 UX tips for creating your MVP

3 UX Tips for creating your MVP

You’ve got a Big Idea and you’ve launched your start-up. You’ve read every book on Lean and you are committed to taking a experimental approach. You know the first step is to create your first Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and start honing in on your exact value-proposition. But when you start scoping out the MVP you realize it has quickly gotten out of hand. What is supposed to be a minimal, simple product has turned into a large software development project. It seems like your vision for the company is too big to fit into one prototype.

If that sounds like you, then you are facing one of the most common problems entrepreneurs must overcome. Here are three UX tips to help you create your MVP. These tips are guaranteed to help you to start thinking less like an entrepreneur, and more like a User Researcher.

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