MVP Development for Startups: Top 10 Dos and Don’ts

For startups, the MVP journey can be make or break. Understand the essentials, dodge the common missteps and set out with a clear roadmap from concept to market-leading company.

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by Matias Emiliano Alvarez Duran


How do you transition from an idea scribbled on a napkin to a tangible product that can be presented to users and investors? The answer, quite often, lies in crafting a Minimal Viable Product (MVP).

But what exactly is an MVP, especially when compared to a POC or a Prototype? And more importantly, how do you ensure that your MVP isn’t just a half-baked idea but a strategic stepping stone to your startup's success?

In this article, we'll lean on decades of experience within the NaNLABS team to navigate the world of MVP development for startups. We'll explore the benefits, challenges, real-world success stories, and actionable insights to set your MVP off on the right track. Ready? Let's go.

Table of contents

That sketch sitting in your library? It’s time to share it with the world. From idea to launch, we can design, architect and code your MVP vision into reality in 3 months or less.

MVP vs. POC vs. Prototype: What’s the difference?

During the first leg of the startup journey, you’re likely to come across three key terms: MVP (Minimum Viable Product), POC (Proof of Concept), and Prototype. Each holds its significance, but there can be a blur in understanding, especially when their meanings can alter depending on the context and industry.

Let's get one thing straight: while all three are developmental stage tools to test a business idea, they're not the same thing.

Proof of Concept (POC) and Prototypes

These sit on the exploratory end of the scale. Both are variations of a simple implementation, with an aim to verify a particular concept or idea within the project. It may be a product stripped to its bones or it may be just the design concepts — visual blueprints, if you will — which are used to evaluate the product's viability and user experience. It may also be a technical POC, used to validate the technical feasibility of a product; and a prototype in particular may not see the light of day outside the organization.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

On the other hand, an MVP, in the context of this article and as championed by NaNLABS, signifies a user-facing, professional product, designed, built, and launched to the market.

The beauty of an MVP is that it provides a holistic experience on a smaller scale. Instead of overwhelming users with numerous features, the MVP zeroes in on the core, delivering what's absolutely crucial. Typically, this is the result of a 3-month collaboration where the goal is to provide startups with a springboard, allowing them to test waters, acquire feedback, and iterate. It's a functional, albeit lean, version of your envisioned product.

The MVP development roadmap

Whether you're funded by investors or using your own reserves, understanding the MVP development process ensures you're confidently moving in the right direction.

Step 1: Conduct market research

Lay the groundwork by identifying your audience and market gaps using tools like surveys and competitor analysis.

Step 2: Define your value proposition

Articulate the unique benefit your product promises. It's the beacon guiding your MVP's development.

Step 3: Find the right development partner

Beyond skill, choose partners who think alongside you. NaNLABS, for example, places emphasis on long-term collaboration and big-picture thinking.

Step 4: Design your MVP

Sketch your MVP's blueprint, focusing on essential features that resonate with its core value. Remember, 'minimal' is the key.

Step 5: MVP Launch & Testing

Release your MVP, set performance metrics, gather user feedback, and prioritize collecting actionable data.

Step 6: Iterate Based on Feedback

Now is your chance to learn and adapt. Listen directly to your users, make necessary tweaks, and continually refine to edge closer to a product-market fit that speaks to your target audience. Whether scaling up or pivoting, let market insights guide your next steps, always aligning with your budget and risk perspective.

The benefits: Why startups swear by MVPs

Risk reduction

Jump into the startup waters with a safety net. Starting small lets startups trial their concepts with minimal outlay, curtailing hefty losses if the venture doesn’t quite work out.


An MVP offers the best bang for your buck. Instead of splurging on a fully-loaded product, MVPs economize on time, funds, and assets, achieving the same core goal.

Faster time-to-market

Time waits for no one, especially not in the startup world. MVPs equip startups with the agility to beat rivals to the market, carving out their niche swiftly and efficiently.

Feedback gathering & validation

With an MVP, you're not shooting in the dark. Launching an MVP throws open the doors to genuine user feedback - a treasure trove for product refinement.

User engagement

Spark a relationship early on. Engage your early birds with an MVP, and watch them evolve into your brand's vocal champions.


The world of startups is ever-shifting. MVPs grant you the flexibility to pivot based on real-world responses, sparing you the ordeal of revamping a full-scale product.

Investor attraction

An MVP is a magnet for investors. By showcasing keen user interest and your business’ ability to execute, MVPs up the ante, drawing in investors and unlocking funding avenues.

The challenges: Common hurdles for startups

Setting clear boundaries

It's tempting to overextend, adding "just one more" feature. Startups often grapple with defining what's "minimum", potentially bloating the MVP and diluting its primary focus.

Defining success metrics

Delineating what constitutes success for an MVP – be it user engagement, feedback quantity, initial sales, or another metric – requires clarity and consensus.

Managing expectations

Ensuring that stakeholders, especially early adopters, understand the MVP's intent can be tricky. There's a balance to strike between showcasing potential and overselling.

Resource constraints

Startups, especially bootstrapped ones, may find themselves constrained by budgets, making it challenging to keep up with MVP costs and to allocate funds efficiently across MVP development phases. 

Choosing the RIGHT features

Balancing functionality vs. design when creating an MVP ensures it looks professional while performing as the user expects. But it can be a tightrope walk, especially when resources are limited.

Finding the right development partner

Not all development teams understand the challenges and opportunities within MVP development. Partnering with a team that doesn't have the relevant experience or isn't in sync with the startup's vision can lead to misaligned outcomes and potential rework.

With NaNLABS, your team culture and big business goals are at the center of our MVP development services. We believe in not just delivering "great software", but in crafting successful solutions beyond the code.

Startup success stories

Businesses in their start-up stages are often filled with ideas. So many, in fact, that they have to be whittled down before working on the MVP. But launching with an MVP doesn't mean skimping on vision; it's about focusing on core functionalities and validating a concept. Don't believe us? Believe the industry leaders.

Airbnb: Built on a simple idea

Before becoming the global vacation rental marketplace, Airbnb started with a basic website created by its founders. The site listed their own loft as a makeshift bed and breakfast to earn extra cash during a design conference in San Francisco. There were no intricate algorithms, no global listings—just a simple platform with pictures of their home. Their MVP tested the waters, proving people were open to staying in strangers' homes rather than hotels. Today, Airbnb boasts over 7 million accommodations in more than 100,000 cities worldwide.

Zappos: Treading carefully with a photo business

Before becoming a major player in online shoe sales, Zappos started as a simple MVP. The founder, Nick Swinmurn, had a hypothesis: Would people buy shoes online? Instead of investing heavily in inventory, he took photos of shoes from local stores and posted them online. If someone ordered, he'd purchase the shoes from the store and ship them out. This method allowed Zappos to validate the market without huge upfront costs. Today, Zappos is worth billions and is a testament to the efficacy of a lean MVP approach.

Spotify: Listening to the market

While now a global name in music streaming, Spotify’s MVP approach was region-focused. Launching just in Sweden initially, the platform aimed to address piracy while ensuring artists got paid. By concentrating on one market and a core set of features, they could refine the product based on user feedback. Their success in Sweden set the stage for their global expansion.

These stories illustrate the power of MVPs. Airbnb, Zappos and Spotify all began with clear, concise offerings that addressed specific problems. By focusing on core functionalities and gathering initial feedback, they paved their way to massive scalability and market dominance.

TL;DR: With a clear vision, feedback-driven iterations, and the right market conditions, even a minimal product can evolve into a world-renowned brand.

NaNLABS’ top 10 dos and don’ts for startups developing an MVP

We’ve decoded the terminology, laid out the path, highlighted key benefits and challenges, and taken a look at the household name brands who have walked this road already.

Ready to get started on your MVP project? Here are NaNLABS’ top 10 MVP dos and don’ts for startups. 

Do: Identify the core problem

Always zero in on the main problem you're aiming to solve for your target audience. Every feature should align with this central mission.

Don't: Bypass market research

Never skip the crucial step of understanding your market. This foundation determines your MVP's relevance and potential success.

Market research is always step 1. Discover the other 8 things you need to know before building an MVP.

Do: Prioritize the discovery and scoping phase

A well-defined scope keeps your project on track and ensures your MVP truly resonates with its intended users.

Don't: Shift the scope midway

While agility is essential, avoid drastically changing the MVP's core direction in the midst of development.

Learn more about planning and scoping your MVP.

Do: Collaborate with experts

Never tread the MVP journey alone. Partnering with seasoned experts can offer invaluable insights and perspectives.

Don't: Assume you represent all users

Even if you're deeply acquainted with the problem, avoid assuming your perspective is universally shared. Seek diverse feedback!

From design to development, see things from every angle with an expert MVP development team or agency.

Do: Treat hypotheses as hypotheses

Until validated by willing-to-pay users, all assumptions remain just that: assumptions. Test, learn, and adapt.

Don't: Lose sight of prioritization

Remember, not all features are equally crucial. Discern the essentials from the nice-to-haves.

Whatever direction your product takes you, be ready with an agile MVP development team

Do: Launch fast, but test thoroughly

While speed is of the essence, ensuring a glitch-free user experience is paramount. Dedicate time for rigorous testing.

Don't: Forget continuous feedback

The MVP journey doesn't end at launch. Keep the feedback loop active and use it to guide your next iterations.

Understand the crucial trade-off between speed vs. quality when developing an MVP.

Getting your startup off the ground

MVPs offer startups a slew of benefits, from risk reduction and cost-effectiveness to rapid market entry and valuable feedback acquisition. Plus, they provide a flexible foundation for pivoting based on market responses and can be instrumental in attracting investors.

But the journey isn't without its hurdles. Whether it's managing expectations and resisting feature overload or addressing technical challenges, working with a team of seasoned experts like NaNLABS ensures you're prepared to tackle any issues head-on.

That sketch sitting in your library? It’s time to share it with the world. From idea to launch, we can design, architect and code your MVP vision into reality in 3 months or less.

FAQs Developing an MVP for a startup

  • What is an MVP for a startup?

    An MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, for a startup is a basic version of a product with essential features to solve a primary problem, enabling the startup to launch quickly, gather user feedback, and iterate.

  • How does an MVP help startups?

    MVPs assist startups by allowing them to test their business hypotheses with minimal investment, quickly gain market traction, and gather invaluable feedback for refining their product based on real-world user interactions.

  • Why outsource MVP development?

    Outsourcing MVP development provides startups with specialized expertise, access to a seasoned development team, and cost-effective solutions, enabling them to focus on core business aspects while ensuring a high-quality MVP launch.

  • What does MVP mean in lean startup?

    In the lean startup methodology, an MVP is a product version that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learnings about customers with the least amount of effort, facilitating rapid iterations and pivot decisions based on feedback.

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