Programming is not a skill that has a linear career path, and even less so when starting your own business. There are a plethora of languages as well as niches, so it’s not easy to choose a path if you haven’t been involved with a startup prior.
If you have years of experience and multiple languages under your belt, it would be more tempting to give in to the instant gratification of a 6-figure salaried job in Silicon Valley. Building something from scratch is seemingly incalculable, but it has more potential for career satisfaction and growth than working as a standard code monkey.
The concept of a Lean Startup is a great way to venture into the life of a business owner without initial expenses and responsibility. You only need a laptop and a basic internet connection to start hustling. And I propose creating a minimal viable product is the best place to start.
Minimum Viable Products (MVP)
Eric Ries popularized the term “minimum viable product” in his book, The Lean Startup. The idea is to put together a product or service package with minimal features to immediately be deployed to niche customers.
For example, you could apply your knowledge in agile minimum viable product development to create a SaaS web app for your MVP. You may even outsource the work while devoting your time to marketing efforts.
A few common characteristics of an MVP startup include:
- A product that demonstrates enough value for someone to purchase it.
- It can be scaled/upgraded in the future.
- You set up a means to receive feedback so you know how to much said upgrades.
- Costs can be kept at a bare minimum when developing and maintaining a product.
Products like online games have taken the MVP approach, slowly adding requested features over time so that it remained playable for years. The game may not start as fully-featured nor with polished graphics, but it provides a platform that a niche of players has been wanting.
Of course, since the world of software is so broad, you can think of how an MVP can be applied just about anywhere.
Minimal, but not low-effort
Don’t get me wrong, an MVP is not about creating a low-effort product to make a quick buck and move on. It’s a means of learning the business side of software development, and how to slowly and methodically build up a brand.
Starting an MVP can be time-consuming and emotionally draining when you’re not used to such products, especially if you are having to deal with customers directly.
If a product succeeds or fails, you at least know how to pick up and go onto another project that may be more viable and do it right the next time.
The Feedback Loop
While getting your product into the hands of customers is more towards the end of the project, you need to start planning for the feedback loop from its inception. This also means you need to make your product visible and accessible as soon as possible before something better comes along.
Early beta testing for your product is one consideration, and if it receives great feedback, it also serves as a promotional tool once it’s available to purchase. It also serves at letting you know what customers want, and what should be fixed or cut out so you have a useable product on the market.
MVP is a great way to learn if you are new to the startup world, and even if you don’t do it right the first time, it allows you to build a base for future business ideas. It can also be used as a proof of concept when you are looking for investors to build a much grander project.