What is the Fastest and Cheapest Way to Make an MVP for Startups?
Every software development project proceeds differently, but you can guarantee that the vast majority of them will go through the stage of creating a minimum viable product (MVP). When making an MVP for startups, i.e. the very first version of a product, several goals are pursued at once to establish demand and viability of an idea. MVPs are incomplete but sufficient for initial users, and the features they showcase are geared towards testing the viability of a product under real conditions, receiving valuable feedback for further development, attracting the attention of the client audience and much more.
During this early phase, the priorities focus on the speed of release and low-cost affordability of MVP development for startups. Join us as we reveal all about this fundamental software development process.
Easing software development
Seeking to reduce risk when building an MVP for startups is crucial. At this stage, the ultimate competitive viability of the idea behind a product has not yet been proven, associated costs are particularly unpredictable, and the likelihood that these initial efforts will be in vain is quite high.
Of course, risk is not the bug but the feature to those involved in startups, a familiar foe, but for companies with existing products and projects it can be particularly disruptive if not planned for correctly. In any case, any concentration of significant amounts of resources on making an MVP will siphon those resources away from other areas of activity, and compromises will inevitably have to be made.
Yet there are specific methodologies that can be deployed to make this process as pain free as possible, designed to rapidly determine the viability of an innovative product. Lean startup, for example, combines a series of experiments to test business hypotheses and validate learnings, where highlights include iterative product releases and an increased focus on customer feedback. Its focus on applying common sense practical approaches to managing development time and budgets are also fundamental.
On the subject of costs, it should be noted that the development of IT products over the past 10 years has risen in price significantly. This was especially evident after the Covid-19 pandemic, when employers realized they could now go beyond the labor markets of the regions where they have offices and hire remotely. Specialists, in turn, have started to reach out for opportunities to work for any company in the world from home, significantly raising their baseline salary expectations.
That said, new technologies for automating software creation are fast-emerging, and more and more out-of-the-box products are being brought to market to help accelerate development. In some cases, development has already been replaced by the option of setting up a ready-made solution, and so the creation of IT products is becoming a more affordable proposition for many companies once again.
Of course, the most effective way to speed up and reduce the cost of development will be determined by the specifics of each individual case. However, there are some fundamental concepts that should always be borne in mind when planning how to get started. Let’s consider some cheap ways to build an MVP for startups.
Not all companies undertake fully-fledged discovery stages, but based on our own experiences we’ve learned that holding a rich and effective discovery stage is a fantastic way of establishing the ideal route forward for an entire software development process, saving on both time and budget way into the future.
Very often, a startup is born out of a founder’s great idea, a brainwave. But at the beginning there is little else: no terms of reference, no systematized requirements, no design, and no detail. At this point it is better to be patient, and not rush into beginning development in earnest. The project is still much too immature for this.
Instead, we advise that you go through a discovery stage, during which you will think through all of the relevant nuances alongside analysts and UX designers. In doing so, you will begin to gain an understanding of whether or not it could be possible to use ready-made solutions, and if so, which ones. Furthermore, you will receive initial estimates of project timings and budgets as well as an outline of the backlog and roadmap of the project at this stage.
The discovery stage can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete, but rest assured that it will help save you time throughout the later stages of development.
Depending on outcomes, the embryonic idea of a project is often transformed into something much more detailed as the discovery stage concludes. Initially after this, you may now have the opposite problem with perhaps too much superfluous detail, but gradually it becomes much easier to work with the idea as you begin conducting preliminary assessments. You will now be in a position, for sure, to decide whether you are going to be able to adopt a ready-made solution, or need to replace it with a custom one.
If we envisage a development project as a building, then the Discovery stage is the foundation of this building. Trusted relationships between a customer and their development team, which will facilitate further mutual understanding, are also usually established and built upon these foundations.
At SECL Group, our teams very often help startups grow from their very beginnings, when there is just an embryo of an idea to work with. Thanks to our experience, we firmly believe the Discovery phase is absolutely essential for finding MVP solutions for startups.
It cannot be denied that no-code solutions have become something of a trend in recent years, encompassing an array of customizable approaches and services that require next to no programming. You may well be familiar with Webflow, Airtable, Bubble, etc.
Such platforms are often used to integrate different platforms and services into your product. Let’s take the Zapier platform as a prime example, which in its own way specializes in integration solutions and offers a host of options across hundreds of services. It is particularly useful for its compatibility with and data exchange between trading and payment systems, CRM systems with messengers and social networks, and office programs with mail services.
Whilst we recognize that many startup ideas could be fully or almost completely implemented using no-code solutions, in reality, this is not so easy. More likely, you will require the input of a specialist who knows and appreciates the capabilities of such platforms and will tell you exactly what can be done without code.
Furthermore, it should be understood that most no-code solutions are typically auxiliary tools that save resources on creating separate functions that are impractical to develop on their own. Yet keep in mind that it is difficult to craft an entire product based solely on such solutions, and results may well end up being disappointing where this occurs.
An example of out-of-the-box tools might be platforms for creating thematic communities or even social networks. Such solutions are widely available, but their quality and customization are difficult to verify in advance. These tools are good when no major customization is needed, but very often the cost of improving out-of-the-box software will exceed the cost of creating desired functionality from scratch.
There are numerous website and online store builders to be found among this branch of software, and many of the global software giants you’ll no doubt be familiar with have a presence in this market segment. Salesforce, Amazon Web Services/AWS, Microsoft, Adobe, SAP, and Oracle all offer large-scale universal solutions featuring significant support. Their use makes it easier for traditional corporations to expand their activities and reach on the Internet.
The major downside of adopting this approach refers to the fact that they are not at all geared towards customization, and any non-standard operations and processes remain beyond the scope of such systems.
As an evolved compromise on this theme, to a certain extent it is possible to consider platforms which focus on specific industries. For example, there is the FMG Suite website builder for financial consultants, or Kentico solutions for realtors. In cases like this, such resources implement desirable functions that are in demand amongst businesses of a certain type.
We can safely assume that SaaS solutions will be very widely developed in the next 10-15 years, and it is easy to envisage that almost any narrow-profile business will be able to find an online product to suit its purposes. SaaS will continue to be the best way to solve common problems, but, most likely, applying tailored customization beyond built-in functionality will remain a challenge.
Taking a combined approach might also be quite realistic, i.e. starting a project on a SaaS solution, and then developing your own product from scratch when the functionality of the vendor platform ceases to suit you. However, in doing this, wider commercial risks and the unpredictability of user reactions to such sudden transformations must also be taken into account.
Without doubt, the expertise and creativity of project team members will always help customers save time and money. There are many teams on the market and each has something useful to bring to the table.
Using a specialized team can significantly speed up a project’s development. In teams like this, it is not usually so important as to which technologies of interest team members are specialized in, but more their experience and expertise of working within the target industry or on projects of a specific type. In these cases, customers can rely on a contractor to utilize their wealth of experience of working with proven methods, and help ensure that product development doesn’t hit a brick wall.
Be mindful that whilst merely replicating proven successful solutions saves effort, it is by no means a straightforward task to find such commands and involve them in MVP creation services for startups. In addition, repeating past successful developments might not be the best way forward as both the business environment at-large and IT technologies are constantly evolving. Therefore, a new project may well not be best served by being a duplicate of a previous one.
Custom development of MVP for startups
Suppose you have already formed and honed your vision for your product; you have studied the software market and have heeded the advice we’ve provided in this article. Now you find that you are now ready to answer an important question: “Can we deliver all of the necessary features of our intended product via the purchasing of an out-of-the-box tool, or by having access to a SaaS platform?” If the answer to both of these propositions is “no”, then you will likely now need to look at options for creating a custom product from scratch instead.
This prospect may scare you. However, your custom project doesn’t have to be either time-consuming or expensive, especially when you proceed using the best practices when creating MVP for startups. There are many hints from within the IT sphere that can speed up and reduce any costs of development, and we will gladly share them with you. We recommend that you:
- Use appropriate technology. A well-chosen technology stack determines a great deal for both the product in general and for its minimum viable version. Be sure to use appropriate architectural solutions and modern programming languages suitable for rapid development. For popular languages, you can always find functional and well-established frameworks.
Technologies are evolving constantly and with speed, so don’t be tempted to choose Java just because Amazon was once written in that language. That was decades ago, and Amazon didn’t have much of a choice back then. There are already many new, proven and more efficient technologies that can be tailored to the requirements of any particular project.
For example, at SECL Group, when one of our teams begins work on a project, they will explore which technologies are best suited in this particular case. After that, we are able to offer our clients a range of suitable technology stack options and provide technical justifications for each of them, helping clients make informed decisions
- Research and design everything in detail during the initial stage of the project. Good decisions made at this point will minimize the need for further rework. You can learn more about designing a major project by reading our article on this
- Limit MVP functionality to a set of only the most basic features. This may seem counterintuitive, but in fact this is very much in line with the main principle of creating an MVP for startups. Remember that we are talking about the minimum product. Too often, project participants try to incorporate all of the proposed functions into this first, in actual fact, test version of a product. It is absolutely not necessary to do this.
We advise you to ask the following critical questions when considering including a function in an MVP: does this function relate to the product’s core idea? Can we get by without it for now? Of course, having a good product manager on the development team (or a skilled product owner in the case of Agile projects) can help you a lot here.
In general, the formation of an MVP’s functionality requires caution and balance. It is worth recalling the famous expression: «you will not get a second chance to make a first impression.»
- Use well-established third-party APIs where appropriate, especially for functions that are not related to the core workings of the product. For example, a mailing function can be done by yourself, or you could integrate Mailchimp or another provider. Good project team analysts will always offer API options, thus allowing you to outsource any tasks of independent development.
In relation to the following two recommendations, we offer a cautionary note. Their use requires discretion and a sense of proportion. If you decide to take the steps below, it is important not to go too far and proceed in moderation.
- Temporarily offload testing. Similar to our recommendations on MVP functionality, consider performing only those tests which you cannot do without. For example, you may choose to remove unit tests. Again, we urge caution, and we do not recommend completely abandoning these types of tests throughout an entire project. This can seriously impair the quality of software development, which will cast doubt on the entire development of your project. Nevertheless, this can be adopted as a temporary measure under circumstances where a startup lacks sufficient funding. As an absolute last resort, and if the project is small, then you can do without autotests.
After the release of an MVP, we strongly advise that you return to using both unit tests and autotests on your project. After using your MVP to determine that your product is in demand, be sure to begin paying much closer attention to the quality of development. Practical tips on this topic are contained in our article on this
- Make savings on the project team. This is something that should only be resorted to in the most extreme cases, for instance where there is an acute lack of funding. After all, IT product development is dependent on people, their ideas, and their skills. First and foremost, the successful implementation of any project depends on the team working on it.
However, should circumstances develop in such a way that you are forced to look for a contractor based not on technical level but on cost, then be sure that this company has relevant experience and can handle your project. You should never rely on their time and budget estimates alone, especially if you don’t have a very detailed Terms of Reference (ToR) and hundreds of pages of other documentation. Read our article on choosing the right company for software development, and the criteria they must meet, to find out more.
By following the tips we have outlined, you will be able to reduce risks and prevent losses during MVP development for startups. At this important stage of software creation, you can also test hypotheses about the product and gain a good understanding of your project processes.
By gathering feedback from early adopters of your MVP, you can gauge how far you are from creating a minimum marketable product (MMP); a version of your product, which, while not yet possessing all the functionality you have planned, can be sold without loss. Even this variant of the product must provide clearly defined value in the eyes of customers.
It is important to note that prioritizing speed and economy during MVP development for startups is essential, as building an MVP quickly and cheaply is a must for your project to succeed. Racking up excessive costs at the MVP stage can sink an entire project before it even begins.
When presenting your MVP, you must be prepared to value the feedback of your target audience. It is very possible that users will perceive the software completely differently than you. Perhaps your highlights will not be appreciated, and conversely, minor features will be in demand. If some MVP features are not present in the final form of the software, then the costs directly associated with their development will have been incurred in vain. This can be avoided by choosing the right contractors and carefully preparing each important step with them.
In summary, it’s important to emphasize that there are many ways to reduce the cost of and speed up the development of an MVP. We have discussed the main ones in our article, and have provided practical advice. At SECL Group, we recommend that you act in a balanced and prudent manner since even good methods can be harmful if applied incorrectly.
MVP software engineering for startups requires managerial and technical expertise. A rational model is one in which the client focuses on generating the idea of the product, and its marketing and financial potential, but where development experts are involved in its implementation, helping to calculate and plan everything correctly.
At SECL Group, our team specializes in exactly these solutions and frequently provides MVP development services for startups. Having embarked on this journey with many clients, starting from scratch with an MVP through to delivering a profitable working product, we can show you where to save money, and, crucially, where imprudently made early savings can actually translate into much bigger costs in future. It is not for nothing that our regular customers call us “Brainy Developers!”.
Remember, at the beginning of a project, conditions are rarely ideal. Sometimes a lack of finance has to be made up for with experience and resourcefulness. Even if your budget is strictly limited, if you believe in your product and want to see it through to having a working version all within a reasonable time, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will endeavor to offer you suitable solutions.