To build or not to build a MVP, that’s my question

By Matheus Riolfi

I am not sure that entrepreneurs need to build MVPs if the problem they are trying to solve is well identified. This is something I am struggling in my startup (Tripeese, www.tripeese.com). We are addressing a clear pain point: organizing group travel is a painful experience; most people agree with that. So, I have two options: 1) follow the Lean Startup methodology and build a MVP that will not solve the problem but will allow me to test some hypothesis; 2) go ahead and build a solution that will be robust enough and may solve it, now.

The experience of planning and booking trips with friends is broken, but fixing it is harder than it sounds. Other companies have tried and failed, mainly because their products were not compelling enough, which made user acquisition too expensive. I believe the winner in this space will be the company with the best customer experience, the one that creates the “WOW” effect.

That’s my MVP dilemma. If I followed the MVP approach, I would design something rough to test with users, to get their feedback and to iterate quickly. It would be a website with a poor design without the backend necessary to automate the booking process. I would have to input the inventory (flights, hotels, cars) manually, since I don’t have the connections with travel providers. My question is: what I would be able to test by doing this? I can test if users sign up, if they engage with friends, but it would be difficult to test if they effectively book trips, which is my final goal. Without online inventory I can’t measure if they would like the product or not; I can’t offer the WOW effect.

Alternatively, I could develop a beautiful user interface and build the backend to access the online inventory, and launch a full product. People would have the full experience and if they liked customer acquisition would be easier. This is riskier: it would take longer to build, it would be expensive, and customers might not like what we built.

I have to take a decision soon, as timing is critical in my case. I don’t believe that it is a winner takes all market, but there are some first mover advantages. Competitors are starting to appear and we need to move quickly to stay ahead of the curve.  As we’ve seen in class, the Lean Startup methodology works well to prove that a market exists, but has limitations. My case is a new solution to an old problem, so I think I can skip the MVP stage. However, I am not sure if it is the right answer, since I can be missing the point and wasting important resources (time and money) by not being able to design a MVP that can help me to iterate quickly. What should I do?

I hope this discussion both helps me to find my answer, but also teaches us valuable lessons about MVPs. 



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