Take Control! End to End MVP Development

by Rob Uhlemann

Would the original Nintendo Entertainment System been as successful if Nintendo hadn’t produced the ideal controller for that little plumber? Would you trust half your customer experience in the hands of another company? While MVP has focused thus far on software, more product driven companies need to take a page from Apple and Nintendo and push for end to end software and hardware integration to provide customers with the best experience and the MVP framework needs to be tweaked to account for hardware integration. MVP for end-to-end integration needs to focus even more attention on the initial vision of the team, funding & forecasting resources, and seeking out hardware relevant network effects.

Map out the Future! – The founder’s initial vision is even more critical when an integrated product is being developed. Initially the founder needs to recruit a software and a hardware team and provide both with a cohesive vision of how they need to combine for an optimal user experience. The founder will also need an in-depth understanding of what minimum software and hardware specifications are needed to provide the desired customer experience. It may be helpful for the founder to layout a 5 year product roadmap to push towards the MVP and incorporate required team learning into future product iterations. The iPhone wasn’t created overnight. The team started with numerous iPod evolutions before integrating a cellular network, touch screen, and the App store.

Funding, Forecasting, & Cost Analysis oh my! – No getting around it, hardware costs money! A hardware MVP can only survive a short time on smoke tests and prototypes, and eventually the team will need to invest in designers, tooling, and production equipment that may be bear significant costs. The founder should do an early cost analysis (LTV and CAC) to determine the sales price, predicted costs, and worst-case sales volume to verify that the product will be profitable. If not initially profitable, the founder should have a vision on generating additional profit through software or necessary hardware cost reductions required to make the product profitable.

Get Sticky! Building in Network Effects – Think Blackberry Messenger with hardware network wide free messaging or Xbox Live with hardware network wide friend gaming, both provide owners of the hardware with valuable tools that make leaving the ecosystem socially isolating and costly. The founder should spend a significant portion of their time brainstorming network effects and evaluating if they are truly effective. The stickiness will only be in place as long as the entire ecosystem has an advantage. BBM was eclipsed by superior Apple and Android ecosystems, while Microsoft Live has maintained an advantage over competing Sony and Nintendo game networks by providing relevant updates and superior social content such as the Halo series.

While much of the MVP mentality can be transferred to hardware and software integration, the founder should spend more time solidifying their vision, drilling down meticulously on LTV and CAC, and brainstorming unique hardware based network effects.