Is Pre MVP a good idea?


Our Minimum Viable Product will be an online service. Development takes some time.

Meanwhile we would like to release a small but supposedly impressive feature for free. The goal is to get some feedback and promote ourselves.
Alternatives are

  • to wait for the MVP to come having no customer development done at all or
  • to put a price tag on this small feature, reducing probability of the feedback.

Which one of these 3 tactics would you recommend?


Launch Lean

asked Feb 14 '10 at 02:55
32 points

4 Answers


This is quite a complex scenario. Your stage in customer development isn't clear to me - I wonder, how can you have an MVP if you've done no customer development?

If you still have some major assumptions to test about the customer segments you're targeting and the problem you're solving for them, your focus is "customer discovery." That is, your immediate goal should be to get that feedback. Trying to build any MVP at this stage is premature and puts all your effort at significant risk of not having market traction.

If you've reached the point where you and potential customers have isolated the problem and they have described ways they've tried, and failed, to solve this problem themselves, then you can start to look at validating your MVP.

I would test that small feature set as if it was your MVP. After all, your MVP will change as you learn. This will also give you base from which to test other MVPs.

Whether or not to charge is a separate issue, and your time will be better spent dealing with that when you are validating your MVP.

Hope this helps.


answered Feb 14 '10 at 23:07
Saint Sal
56 points
  • Sal, You are absolutely right. We certainly are in customer discovery stage. Your answer puts our thoughts and feelings into proper context. Thank you! Alex – Alex 14 years ago


I'd vote for releasing the small feature for free and getting some feedback as early in the process as possible.

answered Feb 14 '10 at 06:56
Dharmesh Shah
2,865 points
  • Thank you Dharmesh. This is encouragement we needed! – Alex 14 years ago
  • +1, it's a nice strategy to have something small and free generating traffic and feedback, but also have something for money which generates revenue. Many companies are successful this way, so if the technology and marketing happen to break along those lines anyway, go for it. – Jason 14 years ago


What about quick-and-dirty screenshots and "smoke and mirror" videos?

Depending on the application this could be a better way to express your ideas to potential customers and to gather feedback. While positive responses aren't really validation, you might get a lot of information of there's an unexpected level of disinterest.

answered Feb 14 '10 at 16:44
Greg Belote
798 points
  • Thank you, Greg. One of the key advertising points of this initial release is very high performance. And a friendly UI. It all is going to be lost on mocks. Also I wouldn't know how to engage potential customers into the mocks review. If we can hook them up with the working something, I hope we'll come to discussions. (Keep my fingers crossed :) ) – Alex 14 years ago
  • Curious, why you can't mock a friendly UI? – Jeff O 14 years ago
  • What about paper prototypes? It doesn't have to be a complete product simulation, in fact it might be desirable to start feature incomplete. Imagine if no one complains about a missing feature you assume is critical. – Greg Belote 14 years ago
  • @Jeff, you are right, we can mock UI of any level of friendliness. Many small things that differentiate a friendly UI from not so friendly is very difficult to come up with without playing with real UI. Reaction on user input, sequence of questions the system asks. Neither users nor us know upfront what is going to be convenient. To engage a reviewer into conversation we want to impress her and win her attention to the point, where she would be willing to give us feedback. This is very difficult with paper mocks, unless you got her attention already, which we don't. – Alex 14 years ago


Base it on how you came to the conclusion this service will be impressive. As a typical customer yourself, you may have been sold on the idea itself. It helps if you are knowledgable on the subject and can conceptualize the idea.

Did other people "get it" by hearing your story? Did you have to diagram it on a napkin or whiteboard? You could get away with a mockup.

If it didn't come together until someone wrote some code, you should think about the free release.

The second criteria is how long until you release the product itself? If you can get the free version going soon, then wait. Otherwise, you may want to do a mock up.

answered Feb 15 '10 at 00:33
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • We did not have many chances to discuss the idea with potential customers. Moreover, the one we've had ended up by "well, it's funny, but I wouldn't pay for that" reaction. I agree with Sal, releasing the product at this point of customer discovery would be premature. Thanks, Alex – Alex 14 years ago

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