Build a MVP like an unicorn!

learn to "position" your features,
not just: "select" them

Little nightly thoughts
by Business Exploration

Dear Fellow Innovator,

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When I approach an MVP for industrial SMBs, Saas Startups and B2B Corporate labs,
there are three things I try to accomplish:

  1. Match the customer job to be done
  2. Address an untapped market
  3. Make life difficult to competition

You can make it using a bit of Blue Ocean Strategy methodology on top of the Minimum Viable Product approach.

  • First: your MVP shall be a functioning "embrio", not a piece of the puzzle
  • Second: an Artist's mindset will guide you on how to strip-down features
  • Third: the Blue Ocean "four actions" framework: (Reduce Create Raise Eliminate), will guide your features selection

Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you!

How to define your MVP features to become an Unicorn?

There is a missed piece of information into the Lean Startup methodology when it comes to defining the MVP (Minimum Viable Product).(1)

Unfortunatelly it's the one that will make a difference in putting you directly into experimenting fierce competition, or opening up a new market and become a unicorn.

How to eliminate unnecessary features from an MVP: "the Build-Up"

The Lean Startup has made a great job in letting us understand that an MVP is characterized by just the key features that are necessary to help a Customer make his "job to be done" (2)

This picture (3) makes wonders in explaining this core concept:

You must select the features to be included in your MVP so that the MVP in its simplest form is anyhow capable to "deliver" the job to be done.

How to build an MVP part 1: "the Strip-Down"

Reducing the features of the MVP to the key ones, it's more an art than a science. For this reason I find this sequence of Picasso's drawings particularly inspiring:

It's incredible to see how the bull image has been reduced to it's essential lines (8.5 lines, to be precise).

What this sequence teaches to me is that Picasso, at a certain point of his "strip down", decided to eliminate the bull's head.

It's a damn bold move.

This sequence of drawings teaches us to be bold in eliminating unnecessary features from our MVP.

This, however, will not make of your idea an unicorn.

Being able to reduce down to the minimum the MVP's attributes is not enough to help us in designing a solution capable to sell.

Till here we have only defined the features that enable our MVP to deliver the Job to be done.

But we have not made any effort to open a new market and to beat, or avoid, competition.

The Lean Startup methodology is a bit concentrated on making something really innovative, with the underlying assumption that the customer will love us (or not - in that case: "Pivot"), no matter what.

The reality is that we are not always inventing something really innovative ( whatever it is, it will have to beat the status quo, the alternative spending options and the copy-cat competitors ).

The real point is therefore:

Positioning our MVP to open a new market:

To do this, we cannot just assemble the MVP key features. We have to choose a set of features that will be appealing into a Blue Ocean of untapped Clients.

How to do so, is well described into the Blue Ocean Theory, so I will not tediate you with the details.

Just let me point you in the right direction through this chart, taken from a public presentation of Mr Kim and Ms Mauborgne:

It is not enough that your MVP is reduced down to the key features:

You must also be sure that it comprises features capable to target a new - untapped market.

You do this, re-thinking the features in a strategic way. Considering to position your solution to offer something that your customers are not used to get, packed into the product category your solution is going to cover.

Here is how Mr. Kim and Ms Mauborgne tell us to do:

Using this 4 actions framework will guide you in positioning (4) your MVP not only to do "what your customer wants" but also doing this for a customer segments that reshapes the product category you have identified as a solution.


  1. Actually Lean Startup is designed to bring Innovation to Market - so in theory there is no need to think strategically, because you are the "first" on a new market - or not? ;-)
  2. Tony Ulwick has definitivelly cleared out what is the pourpose of an MVP on his book "What Customer wants"
  3. Sorry, I do not remember where I "stolen with pride" this picture, If you are the author pls let me know if you want it removed or you want to be quoted.
  4. Selecting the right MVP features is a "positioning" move, not only an act of engineering. And will going to shape and size the market you address. Better take this into account from day one.

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  • You sweat to not to miss the window of opportunity
  • Cash runs out before completing a probing market test...

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