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Minimum Viable Testing Framework

By: Gagan Biyani

Many founders assume the best first step in exploring an idea is by building an Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This is wrong - there is a better way that can save you time and money. I refer it as "Minimum Viable Testing (MVT.)"

The MVT framework (follow-up article) evolved taking into consideration the below points:

1. The common wisdom in the startup world is that you can’t predict whether people will want your product.

Instead, you do some customer research, throw an MVP out there as fast as possible, and hope it hits. That’s not my approach - and I think it's a waste of time and money.

2. My approach is different: I call it Minimum Viable Testing (MVT.)

MVT involves formulating specific hypotheses about the market and evaluating the veracity of those hypotheses with tests. MVT allows you to predict whether a market will embrace a product before you build it.

3. There's an impactful difference here

Whereas an MVP is an attempt to build a version of a product that feels like a simplified version of the future vision, an MVT doesn't attempt anything. It's a specific test of an assumption that MUST BE TRUE for the business to succeed.

4. My case against the MVP is built around core insights developed during my career as an entrepreneur.

The 5 pillars behind using MVT framework:

a. Vision > Insight

Product creators like to think of what’s possible: They dream about how introducing their product into the market might change the world. Early on, what matters is your core insight about the world, not your vision. 20 insights are often less powerful than 1.

b. Over-Focus on Customer

Especially in B2C, customers don’t know what the product should be. They’ll say they want a “faster horse,” when in reality they prefer a car. This invariably leads you to build incremental improvements instead of delivering a novel breakthrough.

c. Company-Building

MVP-focused founders tend to get caught up in company-building before nailing product/market fit. Building a company has to be secondary to delivering value. Founders should be prioritizing how they are going to deliver value and to whom.

d. Overbuilt Early

You’ve created the user journey you want your customer to go through, and you’ve narrowed that down to the smallest possible thing you can launch with. In many cases, this smallest possible thing isn’t small. Overbuilt MVPs are a huge drain on time and money.

e. Poor Core Products

So many startups I know end up spending half of their engineering cycles paying back technical and product debt in years 2-4 that were created at the outset. This is a huge drain in the long run because they’ve to waste resources digging out from a hole.

So to be better, ditch the MVP and follow the MVT approach instead.

What does Minimum Viable Testing process involves?

a. Finding Your Value Proposition

  • Determine the promise of your idea.

  • Why would users want it?

  • What are you promising them?

  • Focus on actions.

Stay away from complicated ideas. The best companies are built upon ridiculously simple value propositions (think Stripe, Airbnb, and Uber.)

b. List Your Risky Assumptions

  • List the primary risks:

    • Why might this not work?

    • What breaks your system?

  • Will people want this?

    • The riskiest thing is building something people don't want.

  • Can you execute and market the product?

    • Is the market large?

    • Are there good margins?

c. Test the Atomic Unit

  • Determine whether your idea actually works.

  • Focus only on the “atomic unit” of what you plan to sell. This is the most fundamental feature. For Google, it's the search query. For Twitter, it's the tweet.

  • Be sure to pick a clear, specific unit.

  • Pick your risky assumptions and test them one at a time.

  • Devise a test that is specifically tailored to that one assumption.

  • Don't build out a comprehensive test - focus just on the hypothesis at hand.

Here's how the MVT process looked for @MavenHQ

  • Value Proposition: A platform for CBCs will dramatically improve the quality of education on the internet.

  • Risky Assumptions: People may not be willing to pay 10x more for a CBC than for an asynchronous course.

  • Atomic Unit Test: The atomic unit is a CBC. How can we test whether CBCs work as quickly as possible?

To test this, I decided to run just one course. I partnered with @SamParr and co-taught a course that made over $150K in the first cohort - I had my answer.

To summarize, I believe that it's time we ditch the dogma of MVPs. I believe that MVTs are a better way forward for almost all entrepreneurs. I hope this thread gives you a bit of insight into why I believe this and how you can use MVTs to change your approach.


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