What comes after the MVP? It’s the MVM — Minimum Viable Magic

The bar is now so high that we are compelled to create things with the perfect product/user fit

Yonatan Raz-Fridman 14:0909.02.18
We – entrepreneurs, developers, designers, and makers – have all heard of the term MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Frank Robinson is who coined the term MVP, and Eric Ries popularized it. For additional context, I will refer to Eric Karjaluoto who proposed that “essentially, an MVP is the simplest version of a deployable product. By releasing early, you’re able to assess product/market fit. Doing so helps you minimize the risks of over-building in isolation. Put differently: an MVP helps you avoid making something people don’t want.” And just like Eric, I, too, am a firm believer that at its core, an MVP is simply part of the journey/process of building a desirable product or service.


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As I look back on our journey at Kano in which we have built and commercialized a system of computer kits that anyone can make, and as I am shaping the vision and plan for a new product platform in my new venture, it has become clear to me that an MVP is not only part of the development journey. Also, and perhaps more importantly, when building products that bring together software, hardware, content, and services, we simply do not have the luxury of relying on answers or validation which an MVP may provide. The capital requirements for building and commercializing a hardware-based product are enormous and the complexity of doing so successfully is greater than if one was to launch a software-only product or service. I am certain that none of this is new to either software or software and hardware companies.


A coworking space for startups (Illustrative). Photo: Orel Cohen A coworking space for startups (Illustrative). Photo: Orel Cohen
While thinking about the development journey of a new product with my colleagues, it dawned on me that although MVP is a key building block in the process, it is nonetheless not a strong enough indicator. Why? In building a hardware-based consumer product we simply do not have the luxury of not getting the right reaction. In the past 15 years, Apple has “trained” all of us (including a whole new generation of consumers/users) to believe that products should not only be beautiful but they should also be (truly) simple to use, i.e. exceptional, and thus, Apple has created a baseline for what to expect from a new consumer product.


Now, there is simply no other alternative — new products from new or existing brands/companies must “wow” their customers/users, from the outset. The founder of Lego once said, “only the best is good enough,” which became a key principle for the company. Well, we now live in a reality where this is the new baseline, i.e. “only the best is good enough” is simply about having the opportunity to be on the playing field and have a chance at accomplishing massive success.


After thinking about the this interpretation of reality, I had to create a stronger conviction, for myself and for our team and lay a foundational hypothesis that will enable us to create the right product and the right experience and ensure that it outperforms people’s expectations — to create something that is sublime.


Here Comes the MVM — Minimum Viable Magic.


Wait, what? The MVM is a really simple term which helps me and our team understand and define what success looks like when launching the first version of a product. Essentially, the MVM is a compass that helps us define where we really want to be, what emotion we really want to empower, and what response we really want to activate. If a successful MVP gives you the confidence that you are on the right track for a product-market fit, then the MVM gives you the confidence that you are on the right track for achieving the ultimate fit — a product/user fit.


This is where your product receives a “wow” reaction from a user. A reaction that makes you see, hear, know and feel that your product has touched a serious nerve, evoking a powerful reaction from a single user. It doesn’t guarantee your product and company any long-term success, but it does give you the confidence that you have just witnessed a moment of magic.


How do you know you’ve got an MVM?


My friend and colleague, Jens Peter de Pedro, suggested few ways of looking at it. In a nonfiction experience, you can look at a MVP as a reference for functionality (the knife cuts the pizza; the website gets you the food order; the phone sends the text message). It may not be magical, but it gets the job done. An MVM, on the other hand, happens when something that you did not imagined could become a reality, actually happens — the first time you hail a cab with your iPhone and the driver appears within minutes knowing your name; or when you drive a Tesla electric car without remembering what it was like before Tesla was born; or when you open up the Kano computer kit and it smiles at you right out of the box.


At the absolute point of a MVM, the service requires no cognitive effort, working solely on intuition. You don’t know exactly how but it feels like you are flying. With minimum effort you have maximum superpowers.


In a fictional experience, the point of MVM happens much more often. It’s when you forget fiction is not made up and you fully penetrate the imagined word. You don’t hear the writers discussing which joke to pick; you don’t analyze how the game designers made that non-playable character appear right as you turned a te corner.


In a human performance experience, the point of MVM happens when you do work that is at the level of genius. If we take sports as an analogy, then it would look as follows:


Competent  -  Can play soccer on the expected level of his position. This would be anyone on a professional team. This level would be the equivalent of MVP.

Talented  -  Can reliably hit balls no other players can (e.g. David Beckham). This would be the equivalent of USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

Genius  -  Can kick the ball in ways that seemed impossible before the player showed it could be done (e.g. Diego Maradona, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Leo Messi). This would be the equivalent of MVM.


At Kano, we had the privilege to encounter both the MVP and the MVM at the same time when in May 2013, during a workshop in London with twenty 9-year old children, after giving them the alpha-version (our MVP) of the now category-defining and market leading Kano computer kit, one of the kids, Khalid, stood up and said, “adults treat us like we’re incapable because we’re young, but today we made a computer, so we’re like super children.”


Go create some Magic!


Yonatan Raz-Fridman is CEO and founder of Sosu Inc., a stealth-mode consumer electronics startup. Previously he founded Kano, creative computing company that makes DIY computer and coding kits.
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