How Do You Determine What To Include In Your MVP?


A member of the FounderSensei class asked me an important question about MVPs. I hope my answer is helpful to those in this situation.

Dave Linhardt

Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 11:45:24 PM

Subject: The problem with getting a mortgage

Hey Dave, great class today.  Going through the problem template was very helpful.

Anyway, I don't mean to take up too much of your time, but I just wanted to share this article (link below) with you because I think it embodies the essence of our concept.  The conclusion of the article is basically that many mortgage consumers do not shop around for the best mortgage loan and do not understand the products they are getting into.  As a result, these consumers end up unnecessarily paying higher costs.

These are issues we also discovered during our interviews and which we are working into our MVP, but maybe we need to be more explicit about them in our stated problem and proposed solution.  We may be too focused on the emotional aspects of mortgage shopping, and it could be useful to also emphasize the practical, economic consequences of not being adequately counseled when getting a mortgage.


Date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:58:07 PM
Subject: Re: The problem with getting a mortgage

Don't worry about taking up my time. It's an honor to serve you.

You are right to connect with the emotional aspects of your value proposition. In fact, it's absolutely necessary to connect with your customers and to move them to action.

Try this. 

Make a list of PAINS associated with the problem as stated in your problem hypothesis. The PAINS should be customer pains. Then, make a list of GAINS that the customer experiences if this problem is solved. PAINS and GAINS can be of any type, emotional, financial, etc. Use your past research and then verify these things with a few new customer interviews.

Once you've validated the problem for a specific customer segment, then you need to start mapping these problems to features of your service. is still a work in progress and we don't have it right yet. But, you can see the list of features on There are six of them. Each feature maps to a problem. I added you to my Trello board in case the attached file doesn't come through clearly. Look for Problem, Today's Solution, New Solution lists. As you know, these are the components of a Problem Template.

Building too many features is a problem. Building features that don't solve problems is a problem. Building features no one cares about is a problem.

The distilled down feature set is your MVP. Once you think you've got the feature set right, build your MVP. Don't build anything extra. Be minimalist with your MVP. If you're not sure to include it, then don't. The simpler the better. Your MVP will change so don't worry about being comprehensive at this time. Also, your first MVP should be a mockup or something that doesn't require a lot of code. It should not be a fully functional product.

Then, the questions to ask are…

Are you working on problems that your target customers care about?

Are they in the top 3 of their biggest problems in this area? If not, add the top 3 problems and drop the rest.

What features do you need to solve the problems?

How do your features address each of the problems?

If you are building features that don't solve problems that matter to your customers, then you need to stop and change what you are doing.

It's easy to fix this. Just pick problems that do matter and create features that solve them.

Dave Linhardt