Franki Chamaki » Blog Archive » Using your minimal viable product (MVP) to test a set of hypotheses.
Using your minimal viable product (MVP) to test a set of hypotheses.

The process of turning guesses into fact –  the hammer, nail and wood story


So you have an idea that its been crowd sourced and people love it!   You have a business sponsor willing to take your idea but now your asking yourself – how on earth am I going to  implement it?  Would it work really?


I am a big believer of using Start up thinking in a corporate environment to move an idea into reality. At my work I often use frameworks advocated by Eric Ries in Lean Start up  –  which I often call the “nail”Steve Blank on customer discovery  –  which I like to call the “wood” and incorporate a little Alberto Savoia‘s pretotyping – which I call the “hammer“.  I know its stretched out analogy – but play along with me!  Does the “nail” (ie MVP) pass through the wool easily (ie be accepted by customers) when you are using the hammer (ie the process of conducting the test)? If so, keep progress, else pivot your approach and just another nail!


A minimal viable product (MVP) can be used against an agree set of hypotheses to validate whether an idea will work.  Now there are few ways to do this and depends on where you are at in your hypotheses.


Pretotyping is about testing whether an idea will actually solve a customer problem (ie will it be used) while Prototyping  tests whether one can actually can build the solution in viable way.




By testing I mean turning these those assumptions or “guesses” (i.e. your hypotheses) into real solid fact.


I like to talk about  three methods of test  – and this was posted on which provides a good practical summary:


1. Exploration Method


Based on ethnographic research techniques, this method is basically exploring the solution through conversation.  You need to first  ensure that the person you are interviewing fits your customer target  –  ideally early adopters of your solution who will help you validate  your assumptions.  Here are few statements to start with:


  • “Tell me about the last time you…”
  • “How are you currently solving [insert problem]?”
  • “How/where did you search for a solution?”
  • “If you could wave a magic wand and have anything you wanted, what would it look like?”

2. Pitch Method


This method is basically used to engage with your target customer  and try to see if they are willing “invest” in your solution by getting them to exchange some form of “currency” (eg an email, a tweet, an verbal agreement or even money).  Its also known as smoke testing.


Forms of Pitch
  • Landing Page –  I’ve used this and actually set up one using
  • Cold Email
  • Cold Call
  • Gimmick Sign
  • Fake Ad (ie gumtree, ebay)
  • Walking into a store and pitching the owner
  • Kickstarter
All of these forms can be considered “pretotyping” and you can use the following types of currency
  • Cash $$$
  • Letter of Intent
  • Email Addresses
  • Pay With a Tweet
  • Taking a Meeting
  • Time

3. Concierge Method


I love this method and I have personally used it to test some of my “start up” ideas. It is often referred as Wizard of Oz ie. faking the product with as little technology as possible.


If you go to Alberto Savoia’s around 16.42 minutes you see a classic example of this in action.
The goal of concierge is have your target customers engage with your product (ie use it) and see if would they buy it right now.
In the video example with IBM, initially people thought “speech-to-text” was a great idea, but after the people had the chance to actually “use it” , people didn’t like. Some said, their throat became sore or the office became be very noisy, others said it would be very difficult to dictate confidential memos.   Killing the idea completely but savings millions of dollars in the process!
Summary:  when you have an idea, you really have assumptions.  You need to turn those assumptions about your idea (ie features, target segment, price etc)  into fact.  These method help with this process.  Always ask yourself what is the most simplest possible way you can test your idea and turn any assumptions into fact and determine how and if your would actually idea work.  Use the Learn startup method, create a MVP, apply pretotyping methods and get out of the office!