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.

The MVE – Minimum Viable Experiment

In a previous post, I suggested that it would be useful for entrepreneurs to think of their MVP as less of a product and more like a probe. In psychology research, the word “probe” is used to describe artifacts, instruments, or anything else that facilitates an investigation. I’m going to take that suggestion a step further and say you don’t really need to build anything at all! Instead of building a minimum viable product, you should start by conducting a Minimum Viable Experiment.

A minimum viable experiment (MVE) is an experiment designed to test the central premise of your business idea. The “minimal” part of MVE means it should test one (and only one) idea. A great MVE should…

For example, fake door testing (aka. the Zynga method of “ghetto testing”), is a great MVE. It requires minimal cost and setup, but gets you virtually instant validation on your business idea.

The Challenge

To push you to think less about your product and more about your idea, I have a challenge for you to consider:

Try to take a start-up idea as far as you can without building a thing.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing more posts to help with this challenge. (I may even be taking the challenge myself!) Be sure to sign-up for the mailing list if you don’t want to miss any of the action.



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