8 Minimum Viable Product Examples That Changed the Game
Stories of how some business giants came to be are jaw-dropping. They get you thinking, "How did they pull it off, and will the same strategy work for me?"
Although each company's path to becoming who they are today is unique, many succeed by deciding to start with minimum viable products. On this page, we'll go over some of the most amazing MVPs of all time that you can learn from and get inspired by.
Why Do Businesses Build MVPs?
The MVP definition is quite straightforward: rolling out a simple version of the product to test the viability of your business ideas, ensure there is demand, and obtain feedback from early users.
Such a path allows for putting fundamental business or product hypotheses to the test and learning from your iterations. These are both vital for any business as they will enable us to find out how to alter the product and build something that users will want to buy.
The agile minimum viable product approach also makes it possible to mitigate investment risks, as going for full-scale or traditional product development entails lots of time and money (while the MVP cost is much lower than if you'd work on building something feature-packed and intricate).
Whether entrepreneurs build the early product versions themselves or hire MVP development companies, the process usually implies minimizing the required effort and resources. Plus, the product itself can have various forms, meaning there are different types of minimum viable products that can range from landing pages or simple websites to custom solutions fitted with just enough functionality to bring value to the users and solve a problem.
Numerous world-famous brands and products that are adored by millions of people globally have started out small. Let's find out how they grew to become such a success!
8 Minimum Viable Product Examples
As we've mentioned, unlike a minimum lovable product or minimum sellable product, an MVP is a perfect tool for idea validation. So, which companies have used this approach to their benefit?
Apart from the MVP pioneer, Zappos, and the legendary MVP examples of Facebook, Uber, and Amazon, we've compiled a collection of 8 other inspiring brands that began their journeys as minimum viable products.
Many social media tools today allow you to schedule your posts on various channels, from Instagram and Facebook to LinkedIn, Twitter, and beyond, helping you promote your brand and grow its online presence. But back in 2010 the founder of Buffer, Joel Gascoigne, was concerned about investing money and effort in the development of a product that people might not want to pay for. And this is what makes it among the most curious examples of a minimum viable product, as the Buffer MVP was merely a landing page.
Joel wanted to ascertain that enough people would be interested in the app, so he put together a landing page. What did it include? It briefly described the upcoming product stating it was currently undergoing development. Plus, the page had a few call-to-action buttons and offered to show the available pricing options after the user left their contact details. Those who signed up would see the pricing plans (from the free plan to the paid subscriptions) and get notified about the product updates via email.
When the landing page showed traction (i.e., many prospects were interested in the paid plan), Joel understood that there was a demand for the product. Only then he moved on to creating the pilot version of the app, which only had a minimal feature set and took him less than two months. As the company continued to build in public, Joel shared that the company's MVP experience of going the lean startup way was priceless. Today Buffer evolved into a feature-rich tool for publishing content, analyzing results, and more.
Undoubtedly, Dropbox is one of the most notable tech startup MVP examples that scored a huge user base without even launching the product. The startup was founded back in 2007 when several tech enthusiasts from MIT, Arash Ferdowsi and Drew Houston (the company's CEO), decided to build a file hosting service. Drew constantly forgot his USB flash drive while studying at the university, and that's how he came up with the idea. The solution would allow users to upload their data to a cloud storage, making the digital files accessible from various devices.
As the technical team began building the MVP, they encountered several problems. One of them was synchronization, i.e., managing to integrate the solution with multiple operating systems and platforms. The second was the lack of marketing expertise and traction, which prevented them from obtaining the desired funding when pitching to investors.
The team craved customer feedback and more early adopters, but they couldn't show the product at its best using a prototype. So instead of deciding between releasing a prototype or MVP, they opted for a screen recording type of video demo. The 4-and-a-half-minute explainer was targeted at users who were into tech. It clearly showed what Dropbox is capable of and how to use it, allowing people to discover the benefits of the product.
Although users couldn't give the product a try just yet, they understood its value (i.e., they didn't realize that they had this file storage problem before, yet now couldn't imagine their life without such a secure solution at hand). The Dropbox MVP tour video resulted in a viral website traffic increase, grew the team’s waitlist from 5k to 75k in just a day, got them sought-after feedback, and helped the team raise money as it proceeded with the startup funding process. This subscription-based product is popular to this day.
The story of one of the most prominent product leaderboard platforms for emerging tech products began as a simple email digest. In 2013, Ryan Hoover, the founder of Product Hunt, decided to create a community where like-minded enthusiasts could share and discuss new tools they discovered and liked.
How did he create the Product Hunt MVP? He wasn't keen on spending long hours coding an app, so he used a tool for sharing links called Linkydink to make a group. It took him less than half an hour to set things up, and he invited some friends from the startup community. The contributors would share the news on new products they enjoyed, put together lists with links to such findings, and emailed them to subscribers on a daily basis.
Product Hunt grew into a complete product, a platform where people can submit information about their new tech products, gain viewership, get feedback, and contribute to the growth of other products likewise. Users vote for products and leave comments, and if it gets ranked high (e.g., makes it to the top 5 of the day), this could lead to a fantastic boost. Undoubtedly, PH is a takeoff runway and a strong promotion strategy for many who are lucky with the launch. It lets you find prospects, new ideas, and possibly even opportunities for investment.
Most of you have used or at least heard of Airbnb, an online service for booking rental accommodation in 191 countries across the globe. But did you know that this renowned product in the hospitality industry started out as a minimum viable product?
Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia had trouble paying for the apartment they were renting in San Francisco. So, in 2008 they founded the company with a mission to build a solution that would connect those who wish to rent out their properties with those looking for homestays. Affordability was a centerpiece pillar of the product. In fact, the team behind Airbnb started off with the idea of allowing hosts to invite guests to crash on something as simple as an inflatable mattress in their living room for a small price.
That's what the founders did themselves in their San Francisco apartment during the time when a huge convention was held in town, and all the hotels were booked out. What served as the Airbnb MVP? They used a very simple website as an MVP testing method. It featured an ad stating that airbeds were up for rent and showed photos of the studio apartment (plus the team bought a few airbeds and the breakfast served to their first three guests, hence the name "Airbed and Breakfast"). The concept proved to be a success.
Be it a short- or long-term vacation rental or the need to find a place to stay on some other occasion, today, the solution has millions of listings with various rental types (including rooms, whole apartments, cabins, etc.), but it still allows to search for rentals at a suitable price. This path is a match for those who have a limited budget and want to stay somewhere cozier than a hostel and homier than a hotel with the locals. The platform has gone a long way since 2008 and is somewhat of an online marketplace that makes a profit by charging a service fee commission.
All the way in 2005, four founders (Rob Kalin, Haim Schoppik, Jared Tarbell, and Chris Maguire) decided to take on the challenge of building a platform that could compete with the e-commerce giant eBay but focusing on a niche target audience: those who sell handmade goods, crafts, and vintage items. They noticed that art creators and craftsmen selling their goods on eBay were unhappy with the high fees that the platform had for sellers.
What did the team start with? It took them less than three months to build a simple yet niche-focused multi-vendor marketplace website. It had multiple categories and allowed users to upload product images with a description, price, and contact details.
Knowing the users' major pain points, the founders placed emphasis on the revenue model when building the marketplace for the Etsy MVP. I.e., they decided to charge sellers for listing their products on the platform, and the item would be up on the marketplace for four months. What made the platform alluring to artisans was that the listing fee was as little as 20 cents, whereas the transaction fee for selling the item was fixed and much lower than the commissions of competing much-hyped marketplaces. The MVP launch was received by users with open arms, and today this marketplace is the go-to place for craftspeople.
Providing more examples of MVP products, in 2008, Andrew Mason, Eric Lefkofsky, and Brad Keywell decided to create Groupon. The idea behind the product was based on the fact that people like bargains. The platform was to make great local deals accessible by offering online coupons instead of good-old newspaper cutouts.
What was the Groupon MVP like? The team assembled a simple WordPress website without going into too much MVP design detail or fancy features.
At the time, people who subscribed to the service received coupons and info on the currently hot local deals in a PDF by email. Groupon then scaled the startup, and the product expanded into a marketplace that would allow various dealers to submit their limited-time offers, discounts, vouchers, promo codes, and other ways to get the best of your buck.
Surprisingly, the social media channel Twitter was once an MVP too. Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams founded it in 2006 as a stem project of Odeo (a tool for podcasting). At the time, Apple's iTunes was gaining momentum, meaning the company had to think about a business pivot.
What was the Twitter MVP like? At the very beginning, just Odeo's employees used twttr (as it was then called) solely as an internal text messaging tool. The platform allowed the sender to text a short SMS message with a special code, and his friends would get these SMS tweets.
The idea hit off with the team members who spent lots of money on tweets. So after testing the product for a little while in-house, the early version of Twitter was released to the masses after about six months.
Finalizing our list of MVP minimum viable product examples is Spotify, the well-known digital audio streaming and music service. Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon founded the startup in 2006 in an attempt to combat the common issue of people pirating music (i.e., downloading unlicensed songs and audio files).
They wished to provide podcasts and music that was protected by copyright so that music labels' and performers' rights wouldn't be violated. It was tough and required a deal of time to sign various artists, create the search, build up the database, and work on the features.
How do you move from a tech startup idea to an actual functioning product? Spotify's MVP concentrated only on a simple music streaming platform available on desktop for free, and they wanted to make a profit from ad placement. Intriguingly, the MVP's beta test was closed, and the paid plan was initiated later on after MVP release to offer users the chance to enjoy the app without any ads. Today, Spotify has millions of songs to select from, works online and offline, and functions on a freemium and subscription basis.
Final Note on MVP Examples
As you see, opting for a minimum viable product can be the exciting start of your business's journey. The MVP approach paves the way for creating a more consistent and user-oriented product. As the stories from the minimum viable product examples above show us, you can test the waters using a landing page MVP, a website, or a small product version focusing only on the core features. This path makes it possible to make a quick launch, deliver immediate value to users, and get feedback, all bringing MVP benefits like helping you mold a better product or offer.
If you're in search of a tech partner to assist you with development and design, Upsilon is a product studio that provides MVP development services for startups and growing businesses. We've already helped several dozen companies build their products! You may use our MVP calculator for a quick project estimate, and if you're ready to discuss your ideas, we'll be happy to talk, so feel free to contact us!