Nokia Startups Mistake #7 – Minimum Viable Product

“A minimum viable product that is anything but minimum.” 

This is part of my Nokia Startups Mistakes series. For a backgrounder, please read the introduction. This post is directly related to previous posts about the culture, the high burn rate, and being close to the customer.

For engineers with Nokia background, it seems customary to build gigantic minimum viable products (“MVP”). Nokia is not known for its agile software development practices. On the contrary, according to many Nokia alumni, it always took a hundred engineers to build anything at Nokia – no matter how small.

It takes a lot of product vision to define a meaningful MVP, and not being close to the customer makes it even more difficult.

How to keep the product minimum?

  1. Avoid excess funding,
  2. Slideware, paper prototypes, UI sketches are an excellent way to test market.
  3. Start with a small nimble software team comprising one to five people. If you need a bigger team, it is unlikely that you are building the minimum.
  4. Use agile and iterative software development practices.
  5. Get out of the room and establish a feedback loop with a few lead customers early on.

It is much easier to work with the problem definition and play with various paper prototypes etc. longer when there is only you and perhaps your co-founder. The whole situation changes mentally when you have even a small software team in place, and guess what they start to do?

Yeah, right – they start to code while it in many cases would be much wiser to keep working with the problem definition and cheap paper prototypes.

I hope you will enjoy this series, the thoughts it provokes, and the discussion it triggers. Please do participate to the discussion by sharing your own angle and experiences on this topic.

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2 thoughts on “Nokia Startups Mistake #7 – Minimum Viable Product

  1. Pingback: Introduction: Top Ten Mistakes of Startups Rising from Nokia’s Ashes | The Tough Love Angel

  2. Harri Kiljander

    Good, thought-provoking post, again. The MVP concept is spot-on, but I don’t completely agree with this generalization: “Nokia is not known for its agile software development practices.” There’s absolutely world-class agile software development practices in the S40 unit of Nokia, and at some point, there was good momentum in the Symbian unit towards this direction, no matter how strange this may sound. Please note that product creation is not only software development but there’s also also product management, design, hardware development, and various other contributors to the product, including supporting activities like hiring and people management, or software strategy. This may sound like big corporation BS but it does not have to be that way. You can even do hardware design in an iterative and lean manner, to some extent.


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