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How to Build Fast and Cheap MVP for Software-Based Startups

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Startups are in a rush, but it shouldn’t be surprising. The first reason is that founders are ambitious and want to prove their ideas immediately. Another thing is limited funding and the constant pressure where a startup’s future depends on delivering products and validating business ideas. It all makes MVP development incredibly challenging. What’s more, when available resources such as people, money, and tech know-how are limited, it makes it easy to make a mistake when approaching the development process of software MVP. 

Fairly significant funding can help, but even having a decent budget for software development but following the wrong approach might put a startup in big trouble. Especially when it cannot recognize the proper way of planning and executing software development, which is quite often the case.

Focus on solutions that prove the idea is realistic

I asked for the opinion of Maciej Gałkiewicz, CEO and Impact Angel Investor at  Ragnarson, who has advised lots of software-based startups on MVP development. “The most important thing,” Maciej explained, “is to focus on the most straightforward solutions to prove that the idea is realistic and always fit the way to go with development to the context of the product that the startup intends to build.” This advice may be obvious, but it is never so easy.

Startups today have various low-code or no-code alternatives to use when working on an MVP that does not require customization. Maciej uses the example of building MVP based on simple landing pages.  Sounds dubious? In practice, it is not at all.  Maciej’s client, Vehiculum, was the first digital solution on the platform to offer hassle-free car leasing, allowing customers to compare multiple models and lease choices available in real-time. Before Ragnarson built a fully functional actual marketplace platform for Vehiculum, the company had a landing page simulating the ready product. Customers could check comparable leasing offers, choose one of the car models, and leave their contact details.

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There were no sophisticated futures included. It was well-targeted with some paid advertising to make the landing page visible to the relevant audience. Can we call it MVP? Yes, we can since it presents the minimum features needed to deliver value. And it was also a great start to validating the product, reaching funding, and starting actual software development. The same idea to build MVP based on landing pages had Airbnb and many other startups that may now be associated with advanced technology.

The case presented explains choosing a method requiring minimum effort to get early traction and confirm product assumptions. In fact, Maciej says that he sometimes advises startups not to start software development since the momentum isn’t right.

But what if software development is indispensable to building MVP? Let me share several vital points on how to get MVP development right. 

Tech stack

Choosing the proper technology is challenging, especially for a founder who does not have solid technical expertise.  The first thing that is usually considered is a programming language. Some are suitable for specific software solutions, such as systems, utilities, or applications. But, choosing the appropriate language requires optimizing the database to a specific one, establishing a proper development framework, architectural patterns, and many more.   Therefore, the process is much more complex than simply deciding on a language.

That’s also why, on a tech level, MVP development for startups requires choosing a specific tech stack, and the development team must be capable of knowing how to do it right.

Some technologies have a proper maturity, which might be more favorable to startups. A great example is Ruby on Rails. It is a simple, quick, and effective programming language that forms an ideal setting for MVP when combined with the Rails framework. It includes pre-built modules, development tools, or automated mechanisms to support testing that reduce programming time and make it efficient. And as mentioned earlier, it makes it possible to keep MVP development fast and well-shaped. Of course, Ruby on Rails is not always it to a specific case, but having this technology involved, illustrates how important the tech stack may be to make quick and relatively low-cost progress.

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Another aspect related to technology that makes software development startup-minded is proper project management for both product and development. As previously said, when developing MVP software-based products, focusing on only one feature that makes it viable is necessary. And to follow this path and stay on track, proper product management is essential. 

Maciej explains that since each startup situation is unique, everyone should start with a question from the project management domain: “Should the MVP be super complex from day one and have many abstract levels to earn millions of users three years from now? Or maybe the product managers should cut back on the technical team’s ambition and make the MVP far more basic to reach the next milestone.

When the startup has specified the MVP details, they should be effectively conveyed to the programmers. The work should be suitably organized, and all the software engineers working on a project must be strong collaborators. That’s why when quick and cheap MVP development is expected, it is more likely to be achieved with the support of a specialized agency rather than building your own team or hiring freelance programmers. 

People

Building an in-house team will take much work if you cannot attract people. Because startups have a limited pipeline of candidates willing to engage in a very new and uncertain project, finding software engineers with a startup mentality may take time. If the founder needs more technical support, inviting someone with experience in organizing the software development process might be quite a good idea. As already mentioned, if hiring freelancers, they need to be organized and supervised to ensure they can deliver what is expected, operate within an efficient workflow, and so on. So, a proper development management framework is indispensable to keep the team working.

As a result, founders should decide not only on technical matters but also on orchestrating software development and managing it in-house or with the assistance of qualified professionals. These decisions affect both the peace and the costs of software development.

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When considering MVP development, startup founders should remember that its results must be handed over someday. So, even if working with an internal team of software engineers, the framework and a project succession still need to be planned. When the software team has nothing to do with developing tech for startups, it might generate risk for the future to make it easy to scale up on MVP. 

Money

The peace and cost of developing software MVP depend on the tech stack, product complexity, software engineers’ startup awareness, and available resources. On the low-cost side, there are projects with no-code or low-code-based MVPs. Also, the more customized the software MVPs, the more the costs may change depending on technology and project complexity.

To keep costs down, organize your startup as if it could be scaled up in the future instead of trying to become a market leader with an MVP. According to Embroker, 10% of startups fail during the first year; therefore, plan your steps as if starting small and scaling up big in the future. Keep your ambitions under control. Surround yourself with people who understand the risks and demands of a startup’s specifics and help you grow in a way investors would embrace. 

You will only be able to validate and scale up in the future if you keep your development processes tight and well-managed, with an appropriate tech stack and an engaged team that follows the goal of your MVP, which is not yet a fully-fledged product.

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https://therecursive.com/author/pawel-poltorak/

Pawel Poltorak is an experienced CMO and Strategic Advisor in the tech sector, driven by a passion to help founders, entrepreneurs, and investors to succeed. As an author, he explores and writes on CEE startups and new technology through the lenses of marketing, economics, sociology, and geopolitics.