By Waker Team, 7/1/2022

Overthinking your MVP? What you actually need to raise funds - a guide.

The early growth phase of a company often finds founders and creators in a catch-22: Developing something strong enough to earn capital funding, as well as simultaneously proving to investors that you’ve got something great. What a potential investor needs to see is a proof of concept, and your ability to execute and commit to proving product-market fit, rather than just preaching your big idea. The earlier you are, the more important it is to show that you have shipped something real.

Without the early commitment to designing your offering around your prospective user, and developing a prototype that represents your company’s intent and potential, it’s near impossible to raise funds. The shortcut (yes a shortcut, since the opportunity cost can be a lot more expensive) is to build a minimum viable product (MVP) so you can prove your idea affordably right now, land growth funding, iterate on early feedback, and be on your way to a fully-fledged offering while the market is still ripe.

Fear not. You don’t need a fully functioning App or hundreds of user sign ups to make a statement. You’ll need an MVP. An MVP can be as simple as a demo of screen mockups, or a working prototype with functionality and UX at the cornerstone of design. How you get there is the fun part, and the trick is to not over-complicate. They say a picture is worth a thousand words – well, an MVP to demo your product is absolutely priceless. To help you get started, we’ve put together a guide to developing a lean, but impressive MVP.

Concept, Target Users, Intent.

This stage is all about taking the big-picture idea and distilling it down to its core benefits and end users. Float your idea to friends, family, and target users - tearing it down and rebuilding it until it’s strong enough to begin mapping out on paper. This is the most difficult part, but the key is to avoid assumptions.

Clearly defined features and benefits lay the foundation for designing an MVP that truly demonstrates potential.

First, Start on Paper.

The first iteration of your MVP should be on paper, the figurative “napkin” all great origin stories start with. It requires 0 capital, allows you to organize your thoughts, and test alternatives quickly so you don’t waste any future design or development dollars. We like to start with a sketch and a list of feature benefits.

Prioritize Core Features. Spare the Details.

This is important. Investors and new users alike are most interested in the core features of your service or product and the problems you’re solving.

Be sure to specifically capture the differentiators vs the rest of your competition out there.

Putting this down on paper first guides the way forward in your design and development. It also proves your offering will bring real value. We can hold off on granular design details like brand colors, typography, and UX. Instead, get grounded on the essentials that will prove you have what it takes to break through the ceiling your competition can’t. This will bring your vision to reality, and establish the confidence needed to get you ready to create.

Explore UX Prototypes.

You’ve now come beyond the paper stages and have identified the core features and benefits that will actually bring value to your end users. This is the time to start incorporating some of that Brand Identity, lay out the user flow, and map out the different elements of your MVP. There are a ton of tools available to design your first MVP:

  • LucidSpark - A simple “whiteboard” interface that lets you drag and drop elements into a 2D visual. Great for early ideation and sketches, but limited to that.
  • Sketch - A very popular tool in creating some early concepts and putting some color to your vision. Intuitive and easy to use, with plenty of design tools at your fingertips. It does get limited when it comes to collaboration and quick iterations, however.
  • inVision - For the more ambitious designer with little to no coding experience - because it isn’t required. Develop click-through prototypes on their platform and invite others to collaborate.
  • Figma - A crowd favorite. Use their platform to generate your own code and live collaborate with your team of developers, designing in real time.

You can’t go wrong starting with any of the above tools. But if you’d rather keep your head focused on the vision and features, you could also partner with a design and development agency like Waker.

We consider ourselves partners to our clients, because we understand the Brand, product, and end user, and are able to refine the exploratory journey into an MVP.

Incorporate Design.

This is where we start building in the design elements that will truly make your end users and investors swoon. These elements supplement the core features of the MVP, but bring home the Brand’s representation, spirit, and intended experience. Your MVP could be demonstrated in a product mockup or coded to be a tangible experience ready to have people engage with. We recommend designing a couple iterations, to maximize in-market learning and ideal user experience (UX) behind your idea – helping you get to the final product that much quicker.

Having this tangible product visual will serve as the main tool in your arsenal for growth in this phase.

Use Feedback Loops.

You’ve got a viable MVP now. Put it out there, and start driving traffic to it. Don’t let the word traffic scare you though. Follow the same exercise you did at the start of this journey, and share your MVP with friends, family, potential users, and industry peers. Use this as a feedback loop that identifies problems and opportunities as they arise. We like to go as deep as split-testing specific features, but high-level iterations can also go a long way too.

This demonstrates a couple things to the world – you’re a real builder that has done the leg work to prove product-market fit, and you’re capable of taking and building feedback into your business and offering.

What the Investor Sees.

When it comes time to pitching your breakthrough idea, your potential Investors won’t have to wonder how you got there, and whether or not you fully understand your market. When you develop an MVP in this way, the ideation, market research, design, and iteration are all evidence of your intent and promise. It also makes obvious the iterative design thinking you’re capable of, adding confidence in your ability to deliver something disruptive.

Be clear with your investors about what your MVP is capable of doing and not doing, and remind them that an MVP doesn’t equal the final product. Keep their expectations in line with your current reality, which is proof of concept and early engagement in order to iterate. We also recommend recording a video of your MVP to make your pitch smooth and demo easy to share after you meet with the investor.

Final Thoughts.

We hope this guide has helped settle some of the analysis paralysis that often comes with MVP development and fundraising. The truth is, it all starts with putting your idea and core features down on paper, and then slowly building in the design elements that will guarantee adoption. Still, easier said than done right?

That’s why we at Waker, would love to not only guide you through this process, but develop a lean and functional MVP that will be sure to secure your next round of fundraising or user adoption. This is the part of the design and development process we love the most. And selfishly, it allows us to help early on with some of the best ideas out there.

If a partner is what you’re looking for, be sure to book our free 1 hour “Napkin to MVP” session with one of our experts.

We’ll get you to a place of clear problem definition and a blueprint to your MVP, that you can keep for free.

You know what to do next. Let’s build something!

What Waker does?

Waker is a top-rated UX/UI and software development company consistently improving ourselves to help our clietns with what we do best. Our clients trust us to strategize digital products, design the user experience, and use cutting-edge software development to bring it all to life. Clients appreciate our hands-on, partnership-style process. Our services include Minimum Viable Products (MVP) & Prototypes, Web Apps, SaaS, Venture Development, and Innovation. We work with clients nationwide and have offices located in Columbus (Ohio), Atlanta (Georgia), and Wilmington (Delaware).

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