What are Early Adopters and How They Are Critical In Successful MVP Cases

December 28, 2020

Early adopters using a Minimum Viable Product app.
Early adopters using a Minimum Viable Product app.

If you’re a startup developing an MVP or Minimum Viable Product, finding the right early adopters is vital in collecting relevant, real-market user feedback. That has certainly been true for many successful MVP cases.

Early adopters allow your startup to validate your product and business model.

In most cases, a successful MVP is enough for investors to feel secure.

Early Adopters: Who and What They Are?

Early adopters are individuals, groups, and /or businesses that are early users of a product, service, or technology.

They use the product ahead of others and are often considered trendsetters.

Their primary goal is to test and offer feedback to developers.

Early adopters focus on a product’s functionality and the level of satisfaction it gives.

Any information that helps businesses identify marketability and revenue potential is valuable.

For some, early adopters are more than just customers who like to be the first to try new technologies or gadgets.

Businesses that value early adopters believe that products and technologies are easier to market and sell if they need them.

An MVP minimum viable product can be used for more than just music streaming

How Can Early Adopters Help Your Startup’s Minimum Viable Product?

As a startup, your minimum viable product is crucial because it can make or break your company’s future.

This is why you need to invest in early adopters.

In some ways, early adopters are your MVP’s cheerleaders.

As first users of your product or technology, they provide you with the best feedback and information about your first venture.

Does it address their problems?

Does it give them a satisfying user experience?

Is the product engaging enough to make other individuals and businesses buy it?

These are just some of the questions that early adopters can provide answers for you.

In other words, they tell you whether or not your MVP is commercially feasible.

Moreover, early adopters will also help you determine which features and functions work best, which ones need improvements, and which ones have to go.

How valuable are early adopters to your MVP?

They are priceless.

In fact, some startups build the initial phase of the MVP around their targeted early adopters.

Once their product gets validation and traction from the first users, they can start improving and scaling up to cater to a wider market reach.

It’s practical because it saves money and time.

Test your idea with a minimum viable product mvp

How to Find the Right Early Adopters

There is no single, clear-cut way of identifying the right early adopters for your MVP.

There are several factors to consider, foremost among these are:

  • Recognizing the problems you want to solve and
  • Determining who is most affected by such problems.

You will also have to find a way to attract and engage early adopters.

How will you convince them to use a new, untested product or technology?

How can you spark an interest in them?

The best solution to this is to make them see and feel your aspiration in helping address their problems.

Empathize with them.

Lastly, consider these other aspects when looking for the right early adopters:

  • Awareness of the problem/s,
  • Have tried several solutions but failed, and
  • Have enough budget or willing to spend to solve the problem/s.

Using early adopters will help your MVP into the market limelight.

Furthermore, you are guaranteed you’ll bring the right product to the right customers at the right time.

When it comes to building an MVP and testing its features, early adopters are worth their weight in gold.

Examples include businesses like Dropbox

Early Adopters And MVP Examples

When it comes to building an MVP and testing its features, early adopters are worth their weight in gold. Whether you’re trying to build a music streaming platform or a new type of social media, early adopters can tell you whether your idea is a home run or full of needless features. Early users can help test a platform and inform startups whether they should stick with their existing idea or pivot to something else.

Early users don’t necessarily have to be anonymous; friends and family can also play a part in minimum viable product development.

Now let’s look at examples of some of the more well-known MVPs that turned out to become fairly successful thanks to the impact of their early adopters.

A design conference can contain a million potential users

9 Cases of Successful Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Who Used Early Adopters

Airbnb MVP – Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia

Airbnb wasn’t always a $30 billion company. It didn’t always have a fully functioning site, a customer support team of over 100 people, or multiple mobile applications.

When we log on to Airbnb today and see the polished website landing page, the beautifully lit photos with orchestrated house and apartment listings, we see the product of thousands of iterations.

The story of Airbnb is a fantastic one. Founded by two product designers in 2007, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia had moved to San Francisco recently, but they needed help paying their rent.

Ever the disruptors and innovators, they noticed they had enough space in their living room for a couple of extra mattresses and thought that some people might be willing to pay to stay with them.

The two built on this idea and expanded to the first version of a web page where the idea was that the demand for affordable accommodation would be high in a city that hosted frequent and well-attended conferences.

And so they were right.

Chesky & Gebbia targeted conference attendees and used them as their early adopters to test their MVP to see if their customers would be willing to pay to stay in other people’s houses.

In the Airbnb MVP, there was no beautifully designed or robust website we see today. Product development consisted of a single featured MVP that target tech conference attendees at a single sold-out conference.

Your MVP does not need to be valued at a million dollars to succeed

In this case, the two didn’t need to provide reviews or a variety of options. They only needed to confirm that a sufficient number of people were willing to rent what they were offering. They ended up finding three, who each agreed to pay $80 per night.

After finding early-stage success with this first version of the product, Chesky & Gebbia continued to build out their product slowly but surely, targeting niche demographics. Expanding this way allowed the Airbnb co-founders to avoid building out a feature-rich and expensive product and focus on what works instead.

Test the market using only a few examples of an idea

However, in 1999, much like other businesses that started on the internet back then, it was risky since it was unclear whether or not customers would buy shoes online or whether e-commerce would take off. Jeff Bezos thought the same about books, and look where that got him.

Zappos MVP – Nick Swinmurn

Zappos is an online retailer that brings in a whopping $2bn in annual revenue in exchange for selling over 50,000 items of clothing online for those that don’t know. However, the company only came about after founder Nick Swinmurn got frustrated about finding proper pair of shoes to buy in his local mall.

However, in 1999, much like other businesses that started on the internet back then, it was risky since it was unclear whether or not customers would buy shoes online or whether e-commerce would take off.

Jeff Bezos thought the same about books, and look where that got him.

To skirt around this issue and avoid an expensive flop, Swinmurn created a simple MVP website, where he would post photos of shoes that he found in his local mall.

However, instead of heading to his local footlocker and buying all the pairs he could find, Swinmurn simply took photos of shoes he could find, posted them on his site, and then waited to see if someone would buy them to test his idea.

A good example of an MVP

If they did, he would head back out to the mall, buy the shoes and then ship them to the customer.

By taking this approach, Swinmurn was able to elicit valuable feedback from his customers through only this single feature.

If that’s not the rawest form of an MVP, then I don’t know what is.

Oh, and what happened to the little old website that was populated with pictures of shoes from the mall? It was sold to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2bn!

The minimum viable product of Zappos provides good examples of MVPs

The Groupon MVP – Andrew Mason

The early stages of Groupon are almost unrecognizable from the company that’s so well known today. Their MVP development is the stuff of legends, going from a simple website as a WordPress blog to a fully functioning successful platform, with a whole host of key features that make the website a success.

Andrew Mason started Groupon under a different name, known as “The Point,” where, in an interview with Mixergy, he revealed that the purpose of “The Point” was to bring people together to solve problems.

Product development, however, took off after the initial MVP minimum viable product. Instead of trying to bring people together to solve problems – something that Quora does exceptionally well today – Mason turned his blog into a place that offered daily deals.

This pivot proved successful for Mason as people flogged to his blogposts to snap up deals posted on Groupon daily.

Groupon is a classic MVP story. A company that grew from the bare basics to one that was turning down $6bn buyout offers from Google and going public at a valuation of $25bn.

Not bad for a guy with a WordPress blog.

A blog on WordPress turned started out as the Groupon MVP

The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

Taking a break from the case studies now, let’s turn our attention to the modern godfather of Minimum Viable Products.

In his groundbreaking book – The Lean Startup – Eric Ries champions the concept of building an MVP and discusses the key ideas behind MVP development.

Rather than making a mobile app or engaging in software development to create a fully-featured app, Ries discusses the idea of building MVPs first and using them as a platform to test ideas, concepts, and features to truly understand the behaviors of users.

This revolutionary idea has spawned and been responsible for the outrageous success and growth we’ve seen when considering other MVP examples.

This unique business model has allowed businesses, not just tech companies, to consider alternative ways to develop platforms, products, and services that have a data-driven roadmap for success, rather than praying that certain assumptions or heavy market research are the key features for business success.

For anyone reading this blog that is unsure about the minimum viable product development as a concept, The Lean Startup is an ideal place to begin.

This is a good example of product that can test the market

The Uber MVP – Garrett Camp & Travis Kalanick

Of all the MVPs on this list, Uber’s is probably the most basic minimum viable product we’ll see. In its early days, Uber did not have any of the features that we’re used to today. That means no fare splitting, gamification, no automatic payments, or live tracking of drivers; you couldn’t have multiple accounts or find cost predictions of fares. Nope

Its original design was simple.

Its market of potential users was small.

Yet, the company created a successful app where a user could find a driver that would take them from A-B. Who knew that this mobile app would lead the way in the none social media space for apps that would go on to achieve huge success.

The success of Uber’s MVP is something that we can all take a lot from. By taking a small section of early adopters, they implemented the MVP process to perfection. Taking an existing platform – private taxis – and putting it online, the company appealed to a user base looking for a more convenient way to solve an existing problem without bombarding them with features they might not have necessarily have wanted.

Uber's minimum viable product proved successful, a good example of a solid mvp

Dropbox MVP – Drew Houston

On a trip from Boston to New York, Dropbox founder Drew Houston noticed that he left his flash drive that contained work documents he needed for his trip at home. Frustrated with the inability to access his files remotely, Houston vowed to create a platform where you could do just that.

And so, Dropbox was born, and with it, the rest of the cloud-based file-sharing system. After rejecting buy-outs from Steve Jobs and fighting competition from Google Drive, Dropbox continued to grow, building a system piece by piece in order to attract a loyal user base, and build an app-based business out of a simple landing page and website with a simple narrated video embedded.

The video in question went viral, blowing up Dropbox’s waiting list from 5,000 to 75,000 people overnight.

In the Lean Startup, Eric Ries highlights Dropbox’s MVP “Drew [the Dropbox CEO] narrates the video personally, and as he’s narrating, the viewer is watching his screen. As he describes the kinds of files he’d like to synchronize; the viewer can watch his mouse manipulate his computer. Of course, if you’re paying attention, you start to notice that the files he’s moving around are full of in-jokes and humorous references that were appreciated by this community of early adopters.”

Sometimes the simplest ideas can prove to be the most effective.

a minimum viable product helps validate an idea, build your MVP today

Facebook MVP – Mark Zuckerberg

If you’ve ever watched the brilliant “The Social Network” movie, in which David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin showed the development of Facebook from its early beginnings to a company on the verge of conquering the world, then you’ll know that Facebook started out as something completely different.

Facebook’s minimum viable product was less of a social media platform and more a simple web page that showed Harvard students side by side and promoted users to choose the “hot” one.

Due to the rise in popularity of this idea, Zuckerberg then went on to develop Facebook, which served as a social network for Harvard students exclusively.

However, due to the increasing popularity of the platform, Zuckerberg decided to open it to other universities and, eventually, taking it global.

a minimum viable product helps validate an idea, build your MVP today

Twitter MVP

Like most of the businesses on this list, Twitter started out of something else before pivoting towards more likely what it represents today. Twitter began life as a podcasting company called Odeo.

However, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s current CEO, posed the idea of someone that can use SMS service in order to communicate directly with a small group of people.

And thus, Twitter (or twttr as its MVP was known) was born. It was initially only used as an internal platform for the employees of Odeo to communicate with each other.

Twitter's minimum viable product (mvp) was initially an internal SMs services

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey sent the first-ever Tweet “just setting up my twttr,” which was later sold to a Malaysian businessman in the form of an NFT for $2.9m. Since that first Tweet, Twitter regularly records around 6,000 tweets per second, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day, and around 200 billion tweets per year!

Thanks to Twitter’s early users, this idea has blown up to become one of the most successful companies ever. Changing the face of news, pop culture, marketing, and giving the public a chance to interact directly with celebrities, sports stars, and politicians something that unfortunately now has the power to influence elections.

Something I’m sure Dorsey didn’t predict when he sent that first Tweet.

this MVP eventually pivoted to Twitter

Buffer MVP – Joel Gascoigne

Buffer, the social media management app, was built to assist people in building their social media profiles. However, it all started out as a 2 page MVP. Gascoigne wanted to achieve validated learning before building out a fully-featured product. Gascoigne tweeted a link and asked people what they thought of his idea first to test his business idea.

After doing so, Gascoigne collected email addresses and used the feedback from email and Twitter to determine that there was a demand for this product.

As Gascoigne puts it, “I considered it “validated.” In the words of Eric Ries, I had my first “validated learning” about customers.”

As far as MVPs go, Gascoigne barely had a product to test his idea; he had a survey. If you think you need a feature-rich MVP to test your idea, think again.

The buffer MVP was barely even a product

Summary

Throughout this article, we’ve shown how important a minimum viable product is to validate an idea and test the market. The development of a feature-rich product is not only costly, but it’s unnecessary in the early stages of your startups.

Early adopters are paramount to startups, making sure that your business finds and uses them could be the difference between whether your MVP makes it or not.

The above cases show that not every idea has to be an immediate home run, nor does it have to stay true to its course. Part of the MVP process is finding out whether to stick or twist. Your business also does not have to be based in San Francisco or come with a co-founder attached. Some of the above examples can barely be called a business.

MVPs come in all shapes and sizes, from a simple website or landing page to a basic app, from one that tests whether the market has a viable user to one that attracts paying guests to establish validated learning.

One thing is for sure, early adopters are essential. When developing your MVP, make sure you know who and where your first users are and value them. They could just be the key to unlocking your business’s true potential.

Build your MVP first

About the author: Damien Bonnefoux - COO

Entrepreneur by heart, I'm passionate in helping companies to grow to a next level from aligning their business model, processes, tools and team. I also help startups, entrepreneurs in their digital transformation designing the best customer experience by getting in a deep dive on the most accurate value proposition and find the best balance between tech features and budget control. The goal is a quick go-to-market to achieve rapid revenue growth with their digital product. Pragmatic, agile and a go to action man, I stick on the "keep it simple" philosophy. View on Linkedin

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