Start with MVS or MAS, not MVP

Ash Maurya of Austin, TX based “Lean Stack”, describes lean startup as occurring in three stages. The first is customer discovery where you are trying for problem/solution fit. “Is this a problem? Is this a solution for the problem?” The key question there is “Can you get people to act towards a suggested solution around a properly defined problem?” I think sign ups and click throughs and qualitative measures of interest are good indicators or metrics for this question.

The second is customer validation, in which you build a product and try to get customers to validate that that product actually brings the solution to the problem. This is the first time the product shows up. Product/Market fit.

The third is creating new customers. You’ve found the balance, now you have to go turn more people into customers and grow.

So, really the most important first step is to determine whether or not you’ve found an actual problem. There could be a lot of solutions for that. So, at this stage, it’s not all that important to pick the “right” solution. Really anything that realistically suggests it can solve the problem will do. Once you’ve been able to clearly define the problem and have some traction, then you can start tweaking the product and find the “best” solution.

So, if this is the case, then it makes sense to start out with the cheapest solution. Minimum Viable Product, at this point, doesn’t actually do the concept justice. It should be Minimum Viable Solution, or, to put it in terms of a bootstrapping company, Most Affordable Solution. MVP puts too much focus on product design, and not enough focus on problem discovery.

So, what do you think ?