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A Review Of The Minimum Viable Product Approach

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By Maksym Babych, founder and CEO of SpdLoad, the software development company for startups.

Using a minimum viable product (MVP) to test a business model is probably the most popular startup launch scheme. World-famous Uber, Dropbox, Figma and Slack started their way to unicorn status with MVPs.

In this article, we’ll refresh your memory on MVPs, look at alternatives to MVPs and delve into new options for finding and validating business ideas.

The Basic Concept: The Minimum Viable Product

“Minimum viable product” is a term coined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Eric Ries, founder of the Lean Startup methodology. According to Ries, an MVP is the version of a new product that allows the team to gather the maximum amount of proven customer knowledge with the least amount of effort.

In reality, the idea of an MVP has little to do with development. Founders and many developers often confuse the concepts of an MVP and a technological prototype. 

An MVP is not a technology prototype but a way to validate its sale. It may not be based on a prototype but a landing page with a “Buy” button.

The primary purpose is to test a business idea at minimal cost to find a response from the target audience and determine further iterations to enhance the value development. 

The variety of interpretations has created several alternatives for the MVP approach. Let’s take a look at them.

The Existing Alternatives To An MVP Approach

As the startup community evolves, the term “MVP” takes on new shapes and definitions. 

Some define an MVP as “the first version of a product,” others as “a stripped-down version of a product,” while others deny the idea of an MVP altogether and develop “a full-scale but simple product.”

It happens due to increased customer expectations based on the proliferation and adaptation of complex technologies and technology-based products.

So what questions have the startup market prepared to answer?

• Minimum Lovable Product

“Minimum lovable product” is a term coined by Brian de Haaff, founder of the road map software Aha! 

While many companies create MVPs to get a product up and running quickly with basic functionality, few consider it can leave customers frustrated and cause them to look for alternative solutions.

The MLP is about creating enough functionality so that customers will adore the product immediately after launch, not just tolerate it.

The obvious disadvantages are the unnecessary increase in the cost of development. But it’s worth noting right away that development tools also allow you to create a convenient and attractive product out of the box.

• Minimum Marketable Product

“Minimum marketable product” is a term coined by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang in their 2003 book Software by Numbers.

An MMP approach is about creating a minimum set of features to test a feasible business model for marketing.

So, MMP brings together minimum viable and loveable products. Starting with an MMP implies that you’ve already established your target users and market and you have a solid understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve with a product.

The alternatives listed above are also quite studied and well-known models. I propose to talk about not-so-obvious ways to find and test business hypotheses, which can compete with the MVP, MLP and MMP.

The New Alternatives To An MVP, MLP Or MMP Approach

The lean startup approach is based on interaction with the end-users: the famous build-measure-learn feedback loop.

The MVP and its counterparts were created as tools to implement this framework. On the other hand, there are new, original solutions for validating the business idea and startup model.

• Minimum Catchy Offer

A minimum catchy offer is an alternative to a minimum viable product. When “product” means something complex, the request is about something quick, clear and understandable.

​​A minimum catchy offer can be one sentence. Remember Travis Kalanick’s phrase about Uber: “You push a button, and in five minutes, a Mercedes S-Class or Town Car comes and picks you up and takes you where you want to go.”

This approach is an excellent example if you are faced with whether or not to invest in developing an MVP.

• Black Hole Strategy

The black hole strategy is opposite to the blue ocean strategy. The blue ocean strategy is about finding a new market and creating new demand. 

In contrast, the strategy of the black hole is about finding hidden opportunities to change behavioral patterns of people who are used to doing things in a particular way or not doing them at all. Let’s consider an example.

According to the latest Stack Overflow research, a large percentage of developers learned to code on their own, and only about 40% cited online courses as the learning method. What will be the most prominent educational platform? The one that will stop selling online courses and make a platform that helps self-education.

• Lean Investor

The key to this model is to first attract an investor. If you cannot attract an investor, why waste time and money on such a project? 

As you can see, the startup world is full of both established and new ways to create the next billion-dollar startup. The truth is, there are no rules. But by applying at least some of the rules, you can accelerate your entrepreneurial spirit.

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Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023

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Fighting Game fans are excited now that Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC on June 2, 2023. The game was initially announced in February 2022, but that reveal did not include a specific release date beyond 2023.

The trailer at The Game Awards focused on new mini games and the international setting. In addition to the 18 previously announced fighter, the trailer also confirms that several new fighters — Dee Jay, Manon, Marisa and JP — that will join the game’s roster.

Notably, the June 2 release date for Street Fighter 6 may be a strategic choice for Capcom. June is the very beginning of Q3.

The last installment of the franchise — Street Fighter V — released nearly seven years ago so fans have been eager for another installment. A day before The Game Awards, the game’s June release date was leaked via the PlayStation Store.

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5 Things to Do Now to Propel Your Business in 2023

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurship is a daily leap of faith. In times of economic uncertainty, that leap may feel like a dive off a cliff. We are in one of those times. It likely will take months to fully re-adjust to the forces that have pummeled the world’s economy, and to entrepreneurs, months can feel like years.

With the right playbook, entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in whatever economic scenario. Here are five things you can do to propel your business ahead now and through the difficulties of business cycles for years to come.

1. Learn the lessons of more challenging times

A rocky economy presents a unique opportunity to make tough decisions about the business plan. Everything is open to reexamination. How has the market changed? Are your customers facing challenges that create new opportunities for your solutions? How do new conditions change your assumptions, and what actions do you need to take in response?

Critically evaluate your product roadmap. Is this the time to pivot or become more aggressive with your current plans? Prioritize the highest margin features that are achievable in the next twelve months. Push out projects that don’t make that list, and re-assign resources accordingly. Re-assess pricing. Even as inflation tiptoes back from the highest levels in forty years, raw material and transportation costs remain way up. What will impact your customers if you adjust the pricing or add surcharges to offset these costs, at least temporarily?

It’s been a rough year for hiring. Many companies took the talent they could get. If there are employees or gig workers who would fare better in a different job, now is the time to let them go. Make tough-minded corrections that will pay off overall — corrections that might be avoidable in less challenging times.

Related: How to Turn Inflation and Recession into Your Largest Business Opportunity

2. Tighten your grip on cash

Venture capitalists are pulling back. In the third quarter, Crunchbase reported that funding for startups in U.S. and Canada fell 50% year-over-year. Valuations are down across the board. If you are fortunate enough to be a later-stage startup that benefited from VC largess in 2021, make your last raise last longer than intended.

Keep your dry powder dry, and put off going for another round until the markets even out. Reemphasize the basics for early-stage companies with less market validation and greater distance between now and a potential exit. Delay all capital expenditures. Leverage the hybrid work model if possible, to reduce rent and other office expenses. Continue with Zoom or Google Meet. Now is not the time to rack up travel costs. Re-negotiate fees and terms with service providers. Seek credit terms with key suppliers, in a word, bootstrap.

3. Talk to customers, in person. Now.

How have the business needs of your customers — whether paying or beta — changed over the last 18 months? Are there benefits to your solution that have more recognized value now? Nearly every business, for example, from corporates to startups, has been forced to re-learn the lessons of supply chain management. Startups that can help their customers make better business decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI), reduce costs by improving inventory management or protect against out-of-stock scenarios by identifying and building relationships with new, more local sources of supply will have an edge.

Related: Finding Validation in Serving Customers

4. Non-dilutive capital

According to PitchBook, venture capitalists are showing greater interest in portfolio companies “whose satellite, robotics and software tools can do double duty” in military and commercial markets. International conflicts are one reason, of course.

Another is that the defense and military security industries are generally viewed as recession-proof. Our firm routinely encourages portfolio companies to consider non-dilutive funding from the Small Business Administration — grants to support cutting-edge technologies range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

Navigating the application process isn’t for the faint of heart. A startup must be realistic about the work involved, but in many states, there are resources to help. Besides the funding, severe responses to agency requests for proposals are reviewed and evaluated by technologists. At a minimum, this can be terrific feedback and a great source of industry contacts.

5. Blue-chip cultures attract blue-chip talent

Company culture can be an asset or a liability. An inclusive, rich culture helps key hires say yes. Finding stakeholders that believe what you believe and are aligned with your team’s values significantly improves the odds that they will stick with you in good times or bad.

After months of “great resignation” fever, the over-heated demand for talent may be cooling off. Maybe offers aren’t as fast or grand as they were a year ago. Maybe Twitter won’t be the only advanced technology business to let people go. Regardless, the search for great talent isn’t a faucet that a young company turns off and on. A startup might modulate the timing or the number of hires but stand at the ready to recruit and filter for culture fit.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in the War for Talent

With the right mindset and intentional approach, an entrepreneur can make 2023 a year to strive and thrive. As Yogi Berra, my favorite baseball player of all time, said, “Swing at the strikes.” In business, like baseball, the right swing can turn even the most challenging pitch into a hit.

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Akros Technologies, an AI-powered asset management platform, raises funding from Z Holdings • TechCrunch

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Artificial intelligence is taking over almost every industry. The investment and finance industry is no exception. In Deloitte’s 2019 report, the firm reveals that AI is transforming the financial ecosystem to reduce costs and make operations more efficient by providing automated insights and alternative data, analysis and risk management.

Technology such as AI has digitized the finance sector, ranging from payments and remittances to lending. However, asset management is still in the nascent stage of digitization, according to the chief strategy officer and co-founder of Akros Technologies, Jin Chung.

Akros Technologies wants to disrupt the current asset management industry via its AI-driven asset management software platform that mines market data for stocks. Akros just raised $2.3 million from Z Venture Capital, the corporate venture capital wholly owned by Z Holdings, which also owns the Japanese messaging app Line and internet portal Yahoo Japan.

Akros intends to strengthen strategic ties with Z Holdings via strategic investment, the startup said. The latest funding, which brings Akros’s total amount raised to $6.1 million since its 2021 inception, will help Akros to scale its software platform and asset management products and ramp up its users, including local and global financial institutions and fintech companies.

The outfit is already in discussions with potential partners to expand its AI-powered product called portfolio management as a service, or PMaaS, an all-in-one operating system for portfolio management. Chung explained to TechCrunch that PMaaS “enables B2B clients such as financial institutions, fintech startups and robot-advisors to launch their own exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without having to set up ETF teams and infrastructure.”

He added that it expects to secure more than five B2B clients in the first quarter of 2023.

The startup claims that its AI-powered portfolio management platform can reduce “the overall cost structure [of] the traditional fund development,” including management fees and unnecessary fees involved in the investment process, by more than 80%. The outfit aims to maximize the finance management performance of data-driven ETFs and offer a portfolio management solution via the PMaaS for Akros’s users to help them compete with global ETF institutions like Vanguard or JPMorgan.

In August, Contents Technologies launched Korean pop music, also known as K-pop, and Korea Entertainment ETF, on the NYSE Arca Exchange under the ticker KPOP, using Akros’s PMaaS solution to develop the ETFs. In addition, Akros listed an AI-driven target income ETF, called Akros Monthly Payout ETF (ticker: MPAY), on the NYSE in May with monthly distributions at an annualized target rate of 7%, according to the startup.

To build a slew of investment strategies that lower the cost of portfolio modeling and generate scores of investment portfolios, Akros applies a generative AI model based on a decision transformer, which predicts future actions through the sequencing model, Chung said, adding the company also employs GPT-3 natural language processing (NLP) to analyze unstructured language data.

Akros plans continuously to enhance its engineering technology by bolstering its business to disrupt the asset management market and attract new partners across the globe, including Japan, Singapore and the U.S., co-founder and chief executive officer Kyle Moon said in a statement.

Founded by CEO Moon, CSO Jin and chief marketing officer Justin Gim, Akros employs seven people.

Co-founders of Akros Technologies: (Left to right) Justin Gim, Kyle Moon and Jin Chung. Image Credits: Akros Technologies

Moon previously worked for Qraft Technologies as head of AI research and CSO and had experience listing four ETFs on NYSE. Before co-founding Akros, Gim had more than nine years of experience in the asset management industry; Chung did research work for Bayesian deep learning in autonomous driving cars at Oxford Robotics Institute.

In March, Akros raised $3.75 million in funding from PeopleFund, a South Korean peer-to-peer lending platform. The company declined to provide its valuation when asked.

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