3 signals your MVP is ready to become a startup

Not sure you’re ready to move past the MVP phase? These are some of the tell-tale signals to look for before taking the next step.

colourful apartments built very close together blue yellow and burgandy
colourful apartments built very close together blue yellow and burgandy

The value of building an MVP has been proven over and over through the years, with many of today’s biggest products and services starting as small, basic iterations of what they are today. 

The goal of an MVP is simple: To gauge your target audience’s response before investing in a solution that might not be profitable. In essence, MVPs enable you to partner with customers and use their feedback to fuel the development of new products or services. It’s a highly iterative process made up of various “build, measure, learn” loops in which you are continuously making improvements.

But how do you know when the MVP phase is over, and it’s time to take the next step? To help you navigate this tricky phase in the lifecycle of your startup, we’ve outlined three key signals you should look out for. 

Signal 1. It’s gone from MVP to MLP

Most MVPs have the functionality to engage early adopters, with just enough detail to show customers the value of buying. For example, Whatsapp was started with only the basic capability to show a user's status to a wider network of people, using push notifications (that was the MVP). 

It wasn’t long before users started speaking to each other via status updates, which gave co-founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum the idea for Whatsapp 2.0. The new version allowed users to:

  • Login with a phone number
  • Send messages to contacts
  • Use the internet instead of provider SMS plans

Another popular feature included the “double-check”, which let users know their message was received. The new features showed Whatsapp was well on its way to becoming an MLP.

The proof? In just a few months, the app boasted 250,000 users, leading to a seed funding investment of $250,000 - and just like that, Whatsapp went from being an MVP to being a minimum lovable product. A green light on its journey to becoming a startup.  

Signal 2. It’s scalable

Before your MVP can become a startup, you have to make sure it's scalable. In other words, you have to be able to meet your customer demand as it increases. For example, Adwords Express (now known as Adwords) started off with one core function: To generate ad copy for customers. 

Although the service seemed automated, in the beginning, the copy was actually being written up by students. It was only after initial testing that the automation process began, ensuring that the offering was scalable and could meet growing demand. A great sign that the service was well on its way to becoming a thriving startup. 

Signal 3. It’s reliable

Another great sign that your MVP is ready for the next phase is its ability to reliably delight and satisfy customers. To do this, your offering has to consistently deliver on its promise and do what it claims to do. 

When developing the MVP for Spotify, founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon had one main focus, to enable users to stream music faster and with higher quality. As explained by Ek:

“We spent an insane amount of time focusing on latency when no one cared because we were hell-bent on making it feel like you had all the world’s music on your hard drive. Obsessing over small details can sometimes make all the difference. That’s what I believe is the biggest misunderstanding about the minimum viable product concept. That is the V in the MVP.”

The focus on quality and customer satisfaction clearly paid off. The founders were able to ensure their offering delivered what it promised (i.e. high-quality streaming), enabling Spotify to grow into the company it is today. 

Final Thoughts

Transitioning past the MVP phase is a sensitive time in the life of a new startup. Moving forward too quickly can lead to the waste of valuable funds and resources, while moving forward too late can mean competitors beat you to punch. And the process is more of an art than a science, leaving many entrepreneurs struggling to find just the right time to take their next step.

While there are no real guarantees of success in the startup game, the three signals listed above are a good way to tell if your MVP is ready or close to ready to become a startup. They show that you have a strong customer base and that you have the capabilities to scale your product as your market grows - both vital factors in the long-term success of any business.      


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