Never underestimate the power of an MVP

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The entrepreneurial start-up scene in South Africa is very exciting, and it is obvious that the country’s economic future depends on this space.

So it is disheartening to see the number of young entrepreneurs that come through our doors with the same story: “we’ve got an idea, we’ve done our research, we’ve identified our target market … but we can’t afford to build our platform”.

This problem is two-fold:

1. Local development is too expensive and out of the reach of many entrepreneurs. This often leads to people hiring freelancers or outsourcing the development to other countries. Not only is this a loss for the local development space, but it creates an “assassin for hire” relationship where a product is handed over, ties are severed and there’s no true partnership to support the product from a technical standpoint.

2. Entrepreneurs don’t always understand the value of a minimum viable product (MVP) and instead want to build every feature imaginable into their initial launch version, instead of focusing on core functionality.

Our corporate clients get it - they understand the value of an MVP, and we’ve been fortunate enough to build a number of them. While it is true that it’s easy for a large corporate to be able to afford to build an MVP, we shouldn’t discount the value placed upon it. Innovation teams know that executive committees are sick to death of listening to presentations and proposals. Even as a techie, I don’t want to hear about your fantastic idea. I want to see it, play around with it and experience it. After all, it was the founder of LinkedIn himself who said: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Nothing conveys the transformative power of your concept like a working prototype that everyone can experience. This is the route innovation teams in large organisations go to secure funding for their ideas. As developers in South Africa, we need to play a part in enabling local entrepreneurs in the same way.

Imagine the position an entrepreneur would find themselves in if, instead of taking a slide-deck around with them to secure funding, they could demo a functioning MVP of their concept. We’ve seen the power of this first-hand this year at Empire State, where a number of the MVPs we’ve worked on have helped entrepreneurs to obtain funding. This creates exciting technical partnerships and adds value in the long-term.

We’ve got the entrepreneurs in this country. The ideas exist. The technical skills are out there. It's our responsibility as developers to bring them together.

Originally published on LinkedIn by Ed Wrede