If you're a founder of a startup or product manager, you know that the odds are stacked against you. Over 90% of startups fail, and money doesn’t always solve the problem - even 75% of venture-backed startups fail. The reality is that when you build a new product, you’re making a bet.
Creating a minimum viable product (MVP) is a great way to validate your bet with a much smaller financial investment and a lot less time. But what does a successful MVP look like?
In this article, we'll show you 7 minimum viable product examples that have gone on to be massive successes. We'll also show you how you can use MVPs to validate your own business idea.
So if you're looking for inspiration or just want to see what's possible, read on.
What is a minimum viable product?
Although originally coined by Frank Robinson in 2001, the term was brought to the mainstream by Eric Ries in his popular book “The Lean Startup” released in 2011. In short, a minimum viable product (MVP) is defined as a product with just enough features to be usable by real end-users.
Typically, a minimum viable product builds on the development work done during prototyping. The idea is to build a version of the product with all of the basic functionality, release it into the market and use real customer feedback to inform later versions of the product.
MVP examples show us that utilizing a minimum viable product is one way of embracing validated learning in the development process. As you learn more about what the early adopters within your target audience like and don't like, what works and what doesn’t, you can adjust your product to better align to the market. Essentially, an MVP is one way to test business hypotheses directly in the market.
Why build a minimum viable product?
So, what’s the purpose of minimum viable product development? Why would you spend your budget on MVP development services? In short, it allows you to more quickly enter the market, get real user feedback, and improve your product iteratively. We’ll see this demonstrated over and over again with the minimum viable product examples later in this article!
The alternative to building a minimum viable product is typically investing in more software development cycles and releasing the product into the market later. While many companies still use this business model, an MVP is a great option to help you time the market better, draw up some initial demand (i.e generate initial clients), and take cues for future development from the product’s initial customers - all without having to build in all the features you intend to have long term.
Building a minimum viable product is a great option for many early startups and new businesses. A few key benefits you might see include:
- Get useful feedback from your target audience on the product’s basic features.
- Attract early adopters who will likely be your greatest advocates long term.
- Test the waters before committing (time and budget) to a complex future product.
- Focus on developing the core features really well rather than
- Embrace validated learning from the very beginning of the product development lifecycle.
- Attract investors who prefer to see a shipping product instead of just business ideas.
Your custom MVP development project might not reap all of these benefits, but even a few can help to reduce overall product development costs (you focus solely on the product’s core features!) and get your product to market faster (who doesn’t want to see revenue faster?). For these reasons, embracing the MVP development process is a no-brainer for most startups.
But wait… are you sure you need a minimum viable product? Maybe you’re actually in need of a proof of concept (PoC) or prototype…
MVP vs proof of concept vs prototype
An MVP is sometimes conflated with a prototype or proof of concept. This leaves room for a lot of confusion, so let’s be really clear before we proceed.
A proof of concept (PoC) is built very early in the product life cycle, often before any investment is raised, a full team is formed, or a formal business concept is established. It is used to prove if a project is feasible or not and if it’s worth further investment. This validation stage is critical as it can help to justify costly design and development work that comes later.
Some teams intend to use their minimum viable product to “prove” viability, and while this is certainly possible, you might consider a low-cost PoC before kicking off minimum viable product work. Common PoCs are a landing page, email campaign, or Kickstarter campaign.
A prototype is typically where your product becomes tangible for the first time. It’s meant to give teams an idea of what they are going to build - a way to visualize things for the first time. The level of detail of a prototype can vary significantly.
The lowest budget software prototypes would be a sketch of a design with pen and paper. More advanced software prototypes are digital, created in tools such as Figma or Adobe XD. A prototype, while often tested by real users, is not released into the market as a product. A prototype is typically something you build on the way to building a minimum viable product.
In summary, these three things, while in some ways similar, are each distinct phases of the product development lifecycle. If you’re ready to move forward with a minimum viable product (MVP), we need to start with defining your product’s value proposition.
Types of minimum viable products
As we have seen, a minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with the minimum core features necessary to launch it to the market and start gathering feedback from users. An MVP is not a prototype or a finished product; it is a product with just enough features to validate a concept or business idea.
Deciding you want to build a minimum viable product is the first step. Next is deciding what type of minimum viable product you want to build (we’ll look at all types of minimum viable product examples below!).
There are several different types of MVPs:
- Single Feature MVP: This type of MVP focuses on delivering a single core feature (or small set of features) to users.
- Concierge MVP: This type of MVP involves manually delivering the product or service to users by having real humans replicate what the final software product will do automatically.
- Piecemeal MVP: This type of MVP is created by piecing together existing components or functions, often from third-party software.
- Single Market MVP: This type of MVP focuses on providing a product to one core market group, such as a single city.
- Internal-First MVP: This type of MVP is launched first to an internal group of users.
We’re going to walk through a variety of minimum viable product examples, so you can decide what type of MVP product development and MVP concept is right for your business, startup, or organization.
Single Feature MVP
First up is the single feature MVP. This kind of minimum viable product is focused around a single feature or perhaps a single set of features. The idea here is that you center your MVP concept around one specific thing - something that is at the heart of your value proposition.
By default, this is the model that many businesses will use to build their minimum viable product. If you look around for minimum viable product examples, a great majority of them will be single-feature MVPs. And it’s for good reason! With this model, your product’s initial version can remain very close to the heart of the problem you are solving for people without the need to have every feature be completely functional.
To come up with a clear MVP concept, you should take a look at your business or product’s define value proposition, and ask yourself some questions:
- What core feature (or set of features) will best solve the main problem I want to solve for potential users?
- What core feature (or set of features) will best resolve the main pain point that my users have?
- What feature (or set of features) will help me test market viability for future versions of my product?
Once you have given this some thought, you should arrive at the single feature (or set of features) you want your minimum viable product to focus on. Now the hard part comes where you cut out all of the other potential features or enhancements you have on your long list.
Doing this allows you to keep your focus clear: develop a minimal viable product with just the core components. This strategy, which you will see in the MVP examples below, will save you significant time and money compared to developing a full product or even an MVP product with more features. However, one of the greatest benefits is that your product will be easy to understand and (hopefully) easy to use by its first customers. Win, win!
- Time-to-market is fast
- Lower financial investment required
- Easy for users to understand
- Practical usability may be lower
- Risk market rejection due to limited functionality
Pinterest: single feature minimum viable product example
Launched into the market under the name Tote, Pinterest’s MVP product was a simple app designed to help women visually bookmark their interests. This single-feature minimum viable product example was built around the “pin button.” If you’re familiar with Pinterest today, you’ll know that the pin button is still at its core.
Focusing their minimum viable product around the pin button helped Pinterest (then Tote) test the market’s reaction to this new type of virtual interaction. No other app at the time was using this kind of feature, so it was critical for Pinterest to see if it was even viable before building out a more robust feature set.
Doing so not only helped them validate that their users embraced this pin button functionality but also helped to give them a name in the market as a digital bookmarking site. Their MVP was a success!
Instagram: single feature minimum viable product example
It’s hard to imagine Instagram without reels and stories, but not that long ago, it was something much more simple. Instagram launched its minimum viable product into the market as an app that simply allowed users to upload a photo, add a filter, and share it with their friends.
While it’s technically not just one feature, it is one set of features. This clear focus on one set of features helped clarify the social media app’s purpose to users and test how users interacted with it in real life. This is proof that even the most well-funded startups rely on a strong minimum viable product strategy for success. In fact, it’s one of the most successful minimum viable product examples out there!
A concierge MVP, or sometimes called a “wizard of oz” MVP, involves manually delivering the product or service to users instead of delivering it via fully developed software. Sometimes, users will be aware that they are interacting with a human who is delivering the service to them. In other cases, users will not be aware and the human-provided service is hidden behind a virtual “wall.”
Either way, the main purpose of a concierge MVP is to test your product’s core functionality in the market faster than you could if you invested in complete software development. It’s important to note that this MVP example is not necessarily used to save costs, as you will need to hire staff to do all of the manual work. The main draw is its ability to speed up your time to market.
To know if a concierge MVP is right for you, consider the following questions:
- How important is time to market? If it’s very important, a concierge might be the right fit.
- How easy (or hard) would it be to staff real people to fulfill user requests or provide the service I’m selling? Are special or expert skills that are required?
- What’s the cost difference between staffing a concierge MVP and developing the full software solution?
- Accelerated time to market
- Deep insight into user experience
- Difficult to replicate automated experience
- User experience is not consistent
- High cost to staff real people
Wealthfront: concierge minimum viable product example
While there are many minimum viable product examples that use this model, Wealthfront is perhaps one of the best. Wealthfront’s early investment and financial service platform is a classic concierge minimum viable product example. They staffed experts who provided wealth management advice to customers directly. In this case, it was clear to the users that they were interacting with a real person (as opposed to hiding the human element behind a virtual wall).
This strategy worked well for Wealthfront as they were able to grow their customer base, see what real people were interested in, and then build an automated platform around what they learned. For this type of high-cost and high-risk service, consumers may be hesitant to use an automated platform built by an unknown player in the market. But, this minimum viable product example shows the power of building brand trust though a concierge system, then going to market with a fully automated platform.
Aardvark: concierge minimum viable product example
Aardvark was developed to connect users to their friends or friends-of-friends who could answer a question they had. The idea was to have Aardvark start up a conversation automatically with the most relevant person in your network when a user asked the app a question.
This MVP example was built around real people managing the search query results and conversations. This allowed the Aardvark team to test their assumptions about how people would interact with their product without needing to build a fully-automated platform.
In this case, a concierge MVP worked really well because building an automated platform was going to require significant development work, and there was minimal skill required by staff members who were providing the manual service. You may be able to take a page out of Aardvark’s book if you’re in need of an MVP solution that requires minimal software development.
A piecemeal MVP is a product that is built in a piecemeal fashion, with only the most essential features included. The idea is to build a solution using software and other tools that already exist. From a practical standpoint, this usually means using third-party software and applications to build a new, custom solution. Your MVP ends up being a frankenstein of different applications.
This approach allows for an MVP to be delivered faster and usually with less risk than a traditional MVP. It’s often a lot easier to connect various pieces together than it is to build something completely from scratch. For this reason, you may find many minimum viable product examples that use this model!
However, it’s not a good option for every team as you risk building something that can not easily be used when building the final product. Teams need to consider if the investment in a piecemeal MVP is going to pay off. If you’re going to have to end up tossing out your initial MVP and later building something from scratch, you may find that it wasn’t actually worth it at all to use this method. On the other hand, if the cost to build the MVP is somewhat low, maybe it is still worth it.
A piecemeal MVP is generally a good option if:
- You have a very tight budget and need an MVP to win over investors.
- You have limited technical resources and are unsure you can deliver a quality built-from-scratch solution.
- You are entering a very competitive market with many mature competitors.
If you are considering a piecemeal MVP solution, it also might be worth consulting a software outsourcing company, so you can compare the true cost of developing a more traditional MVP vs a piecemeal MVP.
- Speeds up time-to-market
- Minimal technical resources needed
- Not practical for complex products
- MVP may not be extensible for future versions
Groupon: piecemeal minimum viable product example
Groupon is a classic piecemeal MVP example. They had limited development resources at their disposal, so instead of building a platform from scratch they tested their idea with a bit of piecemeal ingenuity.
They used a WordPress blog to generate demand for t-shirts, marketed at a discounted “coupon only” rate. To get your hands on a t-shirt you had to send an email. The coupons were then generated by a third-party MacOS app called FileMaker and sent out to a mailing list via a script running on a local machine. In other words, they built a whole working service with very limited development work.
This solution helped drive up demand for, what was at the time called “The Point”, which Groupon later used to fund their more robust app that we know today.
A single-market MVP is a minimum viable product designed to focus on a single user group, demographic or market. Doing so can help keep development costs lower, but the real benefit is the savings on the customer service and maintenance side of things post-launch.
Often when a new product is released to the market, users will flood the startup with questions and feedback - not to mention a long list of bugs that will suddenly appear thanks to a much larger group of testers (i.e. real users). This feedback is great, but it can overwhelm a small startup.
Designing an MVP for a very specific, smaller user group can help to reduce all of this feedback overload. You’ll still see the benefit of validating your product idea, but now you’ll be able to watch the hype for your product grow while you make all of the needed adjustments on the backend at a reasonable pace. Take a look at the minimum viable product examples below for a taste of how to implement this type of MVP yourself!
- Early feedback is more manageable
- Can drive up hype for product
- Lower development costs
- MVP will be untested in other markets
- Potential to not have an initial “bang” in the market
Facebook (Meta): Single-market minimum viable product example
One of the most successful startups in history, Facebook (now known as Meta), had humble roots as a virtual directory of sorts for Harvard students. I’m sure you’ve heard the story before: Mark Zuckerberg built the site in his dorm room and in a short time, it was being expanded to other universities such as Stanford, Columbia, and Yale. Today, of course, Facebook is used by many more people than university students.
While it’s hard to know exactly what the intention was behind the very first version of Facebook, it’s clear with this minimum viable product example that releasing it to a single market (Harvard students) helped to build demand for the application and test its viability. There’s nothing more alluring than something you don’t have. So, when students at other colleges and universities were hearing about the app, they desperately wanted in.
It’s probably best not to build your entire business model around being the next Facebook, but you can learn a thing or two from this MVP example that by all accounts was a single-market MVP at its roots.
Uber: Single-market minimum viable product example
When Uber launched with its MVP product in 2010, it was focused on one single market: San Francisco. That’s a far cry from the other 80 countries that have Uber today. Uber took this approach with their MVP to help validate the product’s viability in a small market, who by all accounts, is more tech savvy and open to new tech that many other parts of the country.
With this MVP example, we can see that Uber chose to focus on the key problem they solved for their user group: to hire a taxi at the cheapest rate possible. It worked. Given their early adopters positive feedback, they then took their MVP product and scaled up dramatically into the app we know today.
The last MVP strategy we are going to discuss is that of building an internal-first MVP. The idea here is to build an MVP product that can be used internally - either within your startup itself or within a larger organization that you are a part of.
This is sometimes how startups are organically formed: someone has an idea for something that they think would be helpful to their small team or organization. Then, they build it and test it, not necessarily intending to ever launch it publicly. But, lo and behold, their idea takes off. A lot of people have the same problem they were trying to solve originally! The demand builds and then they end up launching a more formal version of the product externally much later.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes an internal-first MVP can be an intentional strategy all on its own. In the minimum viable product examples below, you will see that you can test an early version of your product (i.e. your MVP product) with an internal-only audience first. When you’re ready for a larger user group, you can launch it to your target audience.
- Can get feedback from trusted sources
- Accelerate time to market with quick iteration cycles
- Risk building a product that’s not suitable for an external audience
Slack: Internal-first minimum viable product example
Slack’s early team started working on the app at the end of 2012. By March 2013 they were actually using their own MVP product. This was a great way for the developers to see for themselves exactly what was and wasn’t working. Their early MVP product development paid off, and they were able to iteratively make adjustments and feature enhancements to this early product very quickly.
Slack was then able to take their product and test it with a larger group of people within other organizations. This tiered approach to MVP product development worked really well for them and it can be a great model to embrace as a new startup as well.
Twitter: Internal-first minimum viable product example
Twitter as we know it today is a far cry from the early version of the app that was first developed in 2006. At that time, a group of board members at Odeo, a podcasting company came up with an idea for an SMS app that would help them communicate within their own team and with other small groups of people.
It was really designed to be used internally at Odeo. It was never intended to be launched publicly, but after the positive feedback they received internally, the team decided to launch it publicly.
There are many other minimum viable product examples that similarly came out of an organic need. However, that doesn’t mean your organization can’t take inspiration from this and purposely build minimum viable products that can be tested internally first.
How to find MVP developers
After looking at all of those minimum viable product examples, you’ll probably be starting to think about how to actually get your own MVP built. There are many options available from working directly with freelance software developers to hiring a dedicated software development team and software product development services. Ideally you may want to focus on finding an experienced team with a track record of minimum viable product development.
Top tips for identifying potential partners to build out your MVP product idea include:
- Look for experience: You'll want a partner that has experience delivering MVP development services, specifically. They should understand the lean startup methodology and how to build a product with a minimal feature set. Don’t be afraid to ask for minimum viable product examples that they have worked on in the past!
- Look for a development team that understands your vision: It's important that you partner with a team that understands your vision for the product. They should be able to provide input and feedback during development.
- Look for a development team that is responsive and communicative: During development, there will be a lot of back-and-forth communication. You'll want to partner with a team that is responsive and communicative, so that you can get your MVP built as quickly as possible.
- Get referrals: One of the best ways to find a leading mvp development company is to get referrals from other entrepreneurs who have developed MVPs. Ask them who they used and if they were happy with the results.
How to build a successful MVP
Establishing a substantive value proposition is critical if you want to take your business idea and turn it into a successful product. In its simplest terms, a minimum viable product should be taken as “Minimum Value Proposition.”
Many teams just straight into hiring a software development company, but successful development of your minimum viable product concept must be preceded with a critical look at your product idea to ensure you’re building something that has real market value and will yield a high degree of customer satisfaction.
A good starting point for this is developing a statement that explains what benefit you provide for who and how you do it.
In brief, the 5 steps to building an MVP are:
- Define the customer’s problem
- Find a gap in the market
- Measure the gain/pain ratio
- Build the value proposition
- Find the simplest way to solve the problem
Conclusion - Minimum viable product examples
As you know, investing in a new product is risky. As a startup founder or product manager, you should look at ways to de-risk as much as possible, and one of the best ways to do that is to build an MVP.
Instead of building a full product right out the gate, you build a minimally viable product that contains only the most critical features to be usable by customers. In this way, you can minimize your upfront investment and test the waters with customers before investing further.
In this article we looked at 7 MVP examples to help get you thinking about your own MVP. These MVP examples varied in complexity and upfront investment, but each unique MVP example we covered went on to become a successful product! We hope you found this list inspiring as you kick off your own MVP development!