To expand on the Minimum Viable Product theme we started discussing here earlier, I’d like to share a few examples of MVP stories.
MVP is a state of mind that is all about acting before you have all the answers, about taking chances, stumbling a bit, getting up and running. Consider Jeff Bezos’s story about how he launched internet’s first multi-billion dollar business literally on the run.
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In 1994, he came across a startling statistic that the annual growth rate of web would ramp up to 2300%. To tap such an explosive growth, he hurriedly made a list of things he could sell online – from music to clothing before settling on books. Within weeks, he quit his Wall Street job, and had his things packed in a van without knowing where exactly he was going. He had Boulder, Portland, and Lake Tahoe in mind. Unable to decide, he instructed the moving van to simply head west. He called the driver next day and asked him to go to Seattle.
Bezos was doing exactly what innovators do: breaking a problem down into parts, taking on-the-fly decisions in parallel. How could a moving van begin its journey without knowing a state, let alone an address? The reasonable thing to do would have been to first decide the destination. But Bezos gained a day of internet time by launching his ship before he had charted his New World. As his moving van traveled westward from New York, Bezos flew to Texas from where his wife drove the family to Seattle while he sat in the passenger seat carving out a business plan.
Think about it: nothing on paper, no fixed place to start his imagined company, yet he was already moving firmly towards his destiny. While on the way, he even took a detour through North California to interview potential vice presidents of development.
Once he started operations, the same principles continued to apply – get it up, get it out was the motto. Function preceded style and editorial content. Low on graphics and animation, the site loaded fast and excelled at the basics – making it easy to search and buy books.