Two Design Tips from Sequoia: The MVP is not always right and Uberise your Story
Sequoia are a well-known VC firm operating in the valley and as I was trawling through the website today for money raising nuggets I came across two ideas that really resonated. You can read them here or allow me to summarise
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept is a great way to get a product built on the skin of an oily rag and then get some early customer feedback. Based on building the core of your idea out in a minimal way and quickly getting it into the hands of your customers, it’s a well-trodden path today for start-ups, or anyone born or compelled to be lean, to get the product out and figure out where the pivots are. The MVP exists to validate that your product fits your market, aka you’re solving stuff they want solved.
But what if you have a stronger sense of purpose or have got beyond validation and you want to knock it out of the park? Is there money or room for your crazy plan? At Sequoia, they think that not only may there be room for your more grandiose plan but in fact such thinking is a must to be successful and differentiate between why some startups reach market leadership while others never get off the ground. Rather than build an MVP, Sequoia recommend investigating a Sales Ready product (SRP) which is pitched at converting prospects into customers in the moment through its nailing of the issue. If you can get here, whilst it will lengthen your initial research and development cycle it will shorten your sales cycle, ramp your revenue and point you towards market leadership. The approach takes a unified engineering, product, design and sales team as that up front learning gained from the sales teams must be verbose and understood by the whole team to help create the product that will nail it, understanding what matters most to the customers and what you can ignore. This is timely input for Moroku as we are in the middle of a couple of product development cycles. Sure we want to bring the customers in early in the cycle to ensure we know and test what they want and validate that the problem we’re trying to solve is the right one and one that they really do want solving. At the same time we know that people are incredibly fickle.
In his Design in Tech Report for 2015, John Maeda revealed that people in the US check their phones about 150 times a day. That calculates out to be about once every 5.6 minutes. With that frequency, people will give up on an app if it takes just a few more milliseconds to load or isn’t right, not because we’re impatient, but because a little friction really adds up when it’s multiplied 150x. If we launch something too early that is not our A game then we risk losing them maybe for ever and certainly our brand will be tainted unless we set the expectations up front very well. It helps us frame not only what the MVP is to get through that initial validation phase but now importantly we can begin framing what your SRP is so we really can target success as well as the ever present failure feedback loop. Long live the SRP!
The other design concept is the Story Driven Design. Whilst Jira is full of user stories I sometimes wonder if everyone gets the point. Everyone on the team needs to know of and think of the experience the customer is getting: sales, engineering, product, support and finance. This is the concept of the story map, a design document that shows the big idea of your product experience at a glance, with your customer or user at the centre. A good one will unify the team, secure company-wide support, and help navigate to a successful shipment. It does not explicitly spell out the final design, UI or in-the-weeds UX logic. It does, however, hold the product vision and works as a rubric against which the team can make better and faster decisions. Some of the newer team have embarked on our new savings product so I thought I’d try the story map out to trial it. It’s rough but it took just 5 minutes together to get across the core of what we’ll be doing. I’ll be using it over the coming days to check in to see that we get it and can measure progress – Will let you know how we get on