When my colleagues and I launched our business, we were quickly reminded of how easy it is to fail.
We were trying to launch a remote-server-admin service, and though our idea originally attracted a lot of attention, working on the project soon became similar to wading through knee-deep mud.
Ninety days later, the service had yet to take off, and we were having a hard time marketing it. All the technology in the world couldn’t change the cultural disconnect we were up against.
Although it was painful at first, dropping this idea was by far the best decision for the company. That specific project was simply a bad fit. Luckily, we’d chosen to develop a minimum viable product -- a scaled-down version of the offering with only the most essential features – so we suffered only a minor loss.
MVPs are fantastic because they allow entrepreneurs to take risks without needing substantial capital or manpower to bring a concept to market. They allow for mistakes and remove the pressure to produce a perfect product the first time.
So why doesn’t every entrepreneur launch an MVP? The likely culprit is fear.
Fear is the biggest barrier to entrepreneurial success, and it can manifest itself in a variety of ways. For example, many entrepreneurs get hung up on building the perfect team to launch their MVP, but this isn’t crucial to its development. Getting a concept to market only requires a few trustworthy people who can get the job done.
Entrepreneurs also worry about raising enough capital and getting their product in front of the right people, but there’s no need for significant capital when launching an MVP. In fact, having too much funding can be a detriment because it can complicate simple processes and increase internal pressure to avoid failure. Likewise, networking is important, but it’s better for entrepreneurs to focus on seeing an MVP through to completion and testing it on the market.
These so-called barriers are often just fear in disguise, and it’s fear that can suffocate and even kill a startup. Here are a few ways to keep these fears from taking over:
1. Accept the possibility of failure.
An MVP helps the entrepreneur prepare for failure -- especially since a product won’t damage the company if it doesn’t work out. Embracing failure as a possibility and even a learning tool can help ease the fear of it.
2. Establish clear goals for the MVP.
An MVP is essentially a way to test a hypothesis, so it’s best to have clear goals for what the company hopes to gain from the test. Ask questions such as, “What can this teach us about the market, potential customers and the supply chain?
3. Accept that you don’t need everything you want.
It’s not necessary to have high-profile contacts, investors or top talent to launch an MVP. Instead, start with current customers, and build a prototype that speaks to those needs. Everything else will fall into place.
4. Take action.
Simply doing the work is hands down the best way to conquer inhibitions. Break an idea into actionable steps, and focus on how the idea can make a difference.
We admit it: Our initial idea was a failure. But because it was an MVP, this small misstep didn’t cripple our company. In fact, it served as a powerful learning opportunity.
When you think the worst thing that can happen to you is failure, then that fear isn’t very powerful. Failure happens to everyone, and it’s a necessary part of the innovation process.