After I finished demonstrating the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of my innovation tool earlier today, a potential pilot partner asked me to describe my development team. I responded, “Me.” The fact that someone without software development experience can now single-handedly build the MVP of a B2B SAAS platform has significant implications for the future of corporate innovation. Last spring, I built a slide deck to share my initial innovation tool vision with some friends. Several weeks into my co-creation conversations, I began to receive a lot of “Sounds great, but I need to see it working…” feedback. At that point, it was clear to me that I had to create something more than slides if I wanted to continue to validate the concept.
My immediate thought was to find a developer who could initially prototype the tool. I had used Elance (now Upwork) years ago to hire designers and developers and figured that would again be the best path forward. But then I wondered: Could I actually knit some web applications together to build the prototype myself?
After a few hours of searching, I decided to use Wix to build my website and then a combination of SurveyMonkey, Zapier and Google Sheets to prototype the tool. In a matter of hours – and for free - I created a basic assessment that exported data into a Google Sheet which then exported the modeled results into charts embedded within my Wix site. I could now ask a team to complete the assessment on their computers or on their phones and then show them the results real-time on either platform.
Through the summer, I demonstrated the prototype to a wide range of potential customers. As I began to hear certain pieces of feedback repeatedly, I tweaked the prototype and continued to “test & learn.” I built several different versions of the tool. I swapped web applications in and out. In early September, I began to have serious pilot conversations with innovation leaders.
I’ve now reached the point at which I’m earning revenue from the tool while also holding myself back by being a “one-man development team.” Last week, I began vetting a range of designers and developers on Upwork to further automate the tool so I can scale up my collaborations to generate more learning and additional revenue to reinvest.
There is no stronger validation of a new product or service than customers actually paying for that product or service (or, for an MVP as a proxy). In the past, innovation teams seeking to develop MVPs would need to outsource the required development and testing activities to third-parties. Our “no-code” world now makes it possible for innovation teams to preserve both speed and budget by keeping more of this work in-house.
If we stretch our minds further, I expect we’ll soon reach the day when innovation teams not only build and launch MVPs, but develop those MVPs into commercialized continuous betas and beyond. I can only imagine the “You launched what!?’ conversations that will then take place.