Your Pre-MVP Checklist

Product & Service Development
DIY Tools & Templates

Do you have clarity on what to build, how to build, and what to test, before spending your first development dollar?

Getting from opportunities to MVP is like navigating from an open sea of possibilities to picking the “right” stream that leads to the promised land. Many companies stumble here, assuming that they can build an MVP and then iterate their way out of their mistakes. While that approach can work, we’ve seen too many corporate innovation teams launch an MVP that doesn’t get traction, which causes them to lose funding, and leaves what was a compelling opportunity on the cutting room floor.


When you are moving from opportunities to MVP, there are nearly limitless ways that opportunities could manifest and there are faster and more affordable ways to get clarity early-on than spinning up an MVP. The below activities help you greatly reduce your unknowns, so you can have confidence in your build and a laser focus on which outstanding questions are most important to knock out next.

In short, before you make a choice to invest in building an MVP, you need to know:

  1. what to build (and what can wait)
  2. how to build for MVP
  3. and what you need to test first

As we help our clients consider if they’re ready for an MVP, here’s what we’ve found helpful as a thought exercise and checklist.

At the highest level, you’ve addressed desirability, feasibility, and viability:

  1. Desirability: You’re pretty confident that there’s a need and a use case(s) in the market for this.
  2. Feasibility: You don’t know yet exactly how the commercial version will come together (what to build vs buy vs partner), but you’re investigating in the background without letting it slow down your progress.
  3. Viability:You have a hypothesis of how this will create value for your organization in the long run, and there’s a profitable path ahead.

At a strategic level, you know what to build:

To move forward, you need clarity on the below items. Clarity means you have one strong hypothesis, with a few optionalities to still test in your back pocket.


MVP Feature Set (which should not equate to Commercial Feature Set)

Get there by: running an experience simulation interview (observe user interactions with a low fidelity prototype while they put their brain on speaker phone), followed by a reflection survey or a diary study to learn the most valuable components in the experience

The Value Proposition:

Get there by: running in-market value proposition tests like standing up Landing Pages, setting up Lemonade Stands, where you ask your research participants/potential users to articulate what value they would get from a potential offering (and why)

The Hook: how to entice:

Get there by: running in-market hook tests like Ads, Emails, in-person pitches, etc.

The Business Model: a hypothesis

Get there by: co-creation of options with potential customers, Landing Page tests, Reverse Income Statement analysis

The Who (to build for): an early adopter hypothesis

Get there by: personas from previous needs finding and co-creation research, sensemaking of segmentation data, user interviews of those with organic interest during in-market tests

At an executional level, you know how to build:


The "End-to-End (E2E) Experience" Front End

Your offering is more than just the value prop with key features. You’ve got clarity on the experiential components to the extent that your customers can articulatulate “A-HA, this is what’s in it for me” as well as their use case. It’s functional, feels and looks real, without having to be pixel perfect.

The Crux, detailed

The most important component of the experience is fully articulated, such that it can live in the wild and be observed over time. For example, if the most valuable part of your offering is the content, do you have clarity on the content topics, content structure, format, length, quantity, use case, etc.? Consider it a major operational layer to define, and get clarity on this ahead of the experience, so you’re not left trying to figure out what’s not working and how to evolve while running your MVP.

The "Lite" Back End

Consider what supporting layers need to exist in order to run the experience live. Can you fake it until you make it? At the MVP stage, keep the team light and nimble by wearing multiple hats while sprinting. You can Wizard-of-Oz at a manageable scale, then code whatever’s needed to make the frontend functional once the experience design has solidified.

Before going live, you know what to test:


Make-or-Break Assumptions

Start with the most important 5-8 assumptions to validate. Use these as your starting point to define the next step.

Test Plan

Given the key assumptions, how would you test them so you move closer to clarity? Keep in mind that testing does not have to start ‘in the wild’ in with a high number of users. Testing can start as a thought experiment or a simulation. The form of the test can evolve as your product evolves.

Actionable Data Capture

You’re not defining the product metrics at this stage. It’s more about metrics that prove you’re moving towards clarity. Our tip at this stage is to be listening and capturing as much as possible. Leverage tools for quantitative & behavioral data capture, so that you have bandwidth for qualitative data capture and user research.

What if you can’t check all these boxes?

  • Test & learn about the above specific components that you’re missing.
  • Consider your priorities, and then your capabilities. See if that seemingly important thing can wait. Maybe your offering is (fill in the blank) heavy and that part can become clear later.
  • Get us to help! We can sprint at answering multiple questions in a matter of weeks. If you want to discuss, we love to kick-the tires on product roadmaps.

Good luck!


Nalat Yulong

Vice President

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