Bob Cavezza's Blog

The concierge mvp is an interesting concept because the lean startup method is all about eliminating waste and the concierge mvp seems wasteful from a distance.  To a software developer, it doesn’t make sense to manually perform a task when you can get a software program to do it for you.

Small Batches

concierge minimum viable product

concierge minimum viable product

In one of Eric Ries’ posts, he shows how small batches can actually help you become more efficient.  In the post, Eric tells the story of a father who has a content with this children to find the fastest way to mail a letter.  The children suggested folding all the letters first, then stuffing the envelopes first, then sealing the envelopes, and finally inserting a stamp.  The father suggested to mail each letter one at a time.  Ultimately, the father wins.  He wins because of the time it takes for the children to sort and stack after each step.  There is more explanation in Eric’s post.

Real World Implications of Small Batches

Besides a simple contest between a father and children, there are many real world implications for small batches.  When developing a business hypotheses, the successive steps are not always known.  It’s simple to fold a letter, but it’s difficult to build a software project.  For the first version of a software products, developers aren’t always sure of which feature should go next in a linear process.  They often use their experiences to guess what a user wants next.  But this is usually wrong.  Often, a step in a software product will be the equivalent of stuffing a cucumber into the envelope instead of a letter.  In hindsight, some software decisions are obviously wrong, but they don’t always have to be.  In order to understand how wrong certain products can be, you need to walk with your customer through the problem/solution stages.  There is no better way of doing this than using the concierge minimum viable product technique.

The Concierge Minimum Viable Product

If you’re unfamiliar with the concierge minimum product, your world is about to be turned upside down.  The concierge mvp is a minimum viable product where you manually guide your user through the solution to a problem.

An example would be an automatic couponing program.  Let’s say you want a software program that will automatically send a user coupons based on the food they buy each week and help them decide which grocery store they will shop at to save more money.  Instead of building software, first you would allow a user to tell you what they buy each week, maybe through an email or face to face, and then take the coupons and best grocery store to them each week.  Soon, you’ll find out if/when the user doesn’t go to the grocery store, if savings really affects which grocery store they choose, and if they care about certain brands, and if so, in which food categories.  You would learn a lot more by using this concierge mvp technique than by taking the enormous effort of building the web application.  This will allow you to decide which ideas work from your initial hypothesis, and which ideas need to be scrapped.

The  concierge minimum viable product is inefficient at solving a problem, but it’s not a long term solution for customers.  It’s a short term solution to help you learn how to solve customer’s problems.  The point of the concierge mvp, as the point with most mvp’s, is to maximize learning and mitigate risk of developing a crappy product.  The point is to use the concierge mvp so that you don’t try to stuff a cucumber into an envelope.

Food on the Table is the current known best example of following the concierge mvp technique.  Here’s a video of food on the table’s experiences.


§88 · January 4, 2012 · Lean Startups · · [Print]

20 Comments to “The Concierge Minimum Viable Product Maximizes Customer Learning”

  1. […] The Concierge Minimum Viable Product Maximizes Customer Learning Categories: Software Coupons Tags: software program, stack Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment Trackback […]

  2. […] “Training” pattern on the way to full flow pull mode. You can consider it a kind of “Concierge MVP” – the goal here is learning about what works and is viable as a flow model. It is not a viable […]

  3. […] efficient way to build a business.  So, at the cost of a few weeks, I’m going to run a Concierge MVP.  Specifically, I’m going to take all the features of WorkoutWakeup*, and maybe even add in […]

  4. […] to your project, then you can try it before wasting resources. Here is an article about it:…tomer-learning "The concierge mvp is a minimum viable product where you manually guide your user through the […]

  5. […] efficient way to build a business.  So, at the cost of a few weeks, I’m going to run a Concierge MVP.  Specifically, I’m going to take all the features of WOWU*, and maybe even add in a few […]

  6. […] For now , it is a low-investment part of our stack, and it requires little maintenance. It also fits the idea of “concierge MVP“. […]

  7. Quora says:

    How do I build an MVP for a product that needs to be complete to be successful?…

    Multiple ways of looking at it dependent on your exact situation. One answer could be that ‘Reasonably sure’ doesn’t quite cut it. Build the features iteratively that help move you from reasonably to definitely. Also, dependent on what kind of produ…

  8. […] Lastly and simply, great mentors are worth their weight in gold and more important that seed funding.  They’ll probably help you get your idea to a more advanced stage, in less time and for less money (perhaps for no money!) than what you’ll end up doing without them.  A practical example of how mentoring trumps seed funding is the concierge MVP which you can read about here. […]

  9. Mankind says:

    […] See full story on The Concierge Minimum Viable Product Maximizes Customer Learning | MVP Builders […]

  10. […] confirm this suspicion, a “concierge MVP” was created – with a small sample of existing customers. Professional photographers […]

  11. […] concierge minimum viable product is efficient at solving a problem, but it’s not a long term solution for customers.  It’s a […]

  12. […] concierge MVP – allow a real customer to use a prototype and implement the service yourself, manually […]

  13. […] approach for validating your product is the ‘concierge MVP‘. I love this! I first read about it in the book ‘Lean Customer Development’ by […]

  14. […] After five years at HotSchedules, I joined CAKE to become the Product Manager of Cake Connect, a early stage B2B web and mobile app providing restaurant operators a platform to advertise for and receive online food orders.   Following the advice outlined in Zero to One to dominate a niche market, we decided to pursue restaurant operators around the University of Texas in Austin since we knew students fondness of ordering online. My first objective was to have a means for operators to receive orders by our launch date and was able to lead the creation of an internal tool to do so months in advance by identifying some tasks that could be completed manually by me.  This approach allowed us to have a early launch of the tool and more time to gather insightful user feedback.  More about the Concierge MVP approach can be accessed here. […]

  15. […] concierge MVP – allow a real customer to use a prototype and implement the service yourself, manually […]

  16. […] build a concierge minimum viable product. Such early adopters are more forgiving of the quality of the product, and their feedback is useful […]

  17. John Campbell says:

    Identify the startup idea, the first thing you need is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to see if your product will actually succeed in the market. Some of the following points will help to build an mvp.
    – MVP vs Prototype
    – Types of MVP models
    – Questions to ask while building MVP
    – Factors to keep in while building MVP
    – MVP testing practices
    Quite interesting guide.

  18. […] Today’s aspiring entrepreneurs are, however, in luck. As Gascoigne notes: “It’s my belief that, especially today, you can create a fully working (albeit potentially somewhat manual) version of your startup without coding at all.” This approach is sometimes called manual-first startup or concierge MVP. […]

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