The concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) has time and again proven its validity. Popularized by Eric Ries and Steve Blank in the late 2000s, the idea of narrowing down early-stage product development to building core features remains a major guideline in the startup world.

It doesn’t matter exactly how you deliver on these key features, as long as they allow you to validate your product idea against the market and/or find a unique market fit. At this early stage, you may also want to use resources sparingly, because 90% of startups fail before they begin to generate revenue.

The following six MVP examples prove that you can operate with a low budget at first and reap extraordinary results later.

Robinhood

The Robinhood app made a splash in the fintech scene when it was launched in 2015. By offering zero-commission trading and simple access to financial markets, it directly challenged Wall Street’s big investment players. They had no choice but to eventually reduce commissions and innovate their services to appeal to millennials.

To launch a service like that, you need to get approval from financial authorities. And they will want to see some capital on your company’s balance sheet.

On the one hand, it’s a disadvantage: you have to raise capital before you build a product you can test on the market. On the other hand, investors understand that you have to meet the regulators’ requirements before you can launch an MVP.

So, you have a situation where a great product idea, not yet proven, can be enough for you to close the seed round. And we know now that Robinhood was an idea great enough to appeal to investors.

After the regulators approved Robinhood, Tenev and Bhatt put together a one-page website with a launch waitlist. The site contained nothing but a sign-up button for collecting emails and one line of text: “Commission-free trading, stop paying up to $10 per trade.”

The original Robinhood sign-up website

And that was enough. Around 10,000 people signed up on the first day. During the first week, the figure grew to 50,000 — just to hit a tad short of 1 million in the first year.

Problems it solved:

  • Expensive trading due to broker commissions
  • Long and complicated process of buying your first stock

Features built at the MVP stage:

  • A website inviting users to join the launch waitlist

Important features introduced after MVP validation:

  • The app itself
  • Fractional share trading
  • Crypto trading
  • IPO share trading

While waiting for regulatory approval, Robinhood founders created a couple of experimental apps and tried them out with users. Through that process, they made some of the most common founder mistakes, like offering too many features and addressing the wrong customer problems. So, when it came time to build the website, Tenev and Bhatt knew where to strike.

Robinhood is one of the greatest examples of an MVP. Many startups have followed suit, creating a sign-up page with a brief description first.

Uber

Uber is the embodiment of every entrepreneur’s dream. It’s an innovative service that has expanded to more than 60 countries, provides jobs for over 22,000 people worldwide, and generates ten figures in revenue. Today, the term “uber” is synonymous with aggregation, and is used to easily convey new product ideas based on this feature.

This is what the UberCab website looked like in 2009

Back in 2009, “UberCab” was founded by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick. It was a simple mobile interface used by its founders and their circle of friends. The UberCab iPhone app was launched citywide in San Francisco in 2010.

Problems it solved:

  • Difficulty finding a cab during peak travel times
  • The high cost of car services

Features built at the MVP stage:

  • An iOS app
  • Connecting commuters with drivers
  • Facilitating payments through a credit card system

Important features introduced after MVP validation:

  • Driver reviews
  • Fare splitting
  • Driver tracking live
  • Payment automation
  • Gamification elements

At its onset, UberCab enabled just two features that were enough to efficiently solve the problem. By the time the app went live, it already had several competitors like TaxiMagic and Cabulous (both now long gone). Who knows what fate Uber would have suffered if, instead of focusing on those two initial features, Kalanick and Camp had postponed the launch until every feature was built out?

Airbnb

Hotels hate Airbnb. This service provides a more affordable alternative to their potential customers. With more than $2 billion in revenue and over 12,700 employees globally, this 2008 startup stands on solid footing today.

It all began in 2007 with one of the funniest minimum viable product examples to date. The legend has it that co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia lived in San Francisco and lacked the money for rent and bills. That year, the Industrial Design Society of America Conference took place in the city — and there was a problem.

mvp examples

AirBed&Breakfast website in 2007

Local hotels couldn’t accommodate everyone seeking to attend the conference. Chesky and Gebbia set out to solve the problem: they bought some air mattresses and put them in their home. The entrepreneurs photographed the settings and uploaded those photos to a simple website, AirBed&Breakfast, offering accommodation to the attendees.

Three people soon booked the place, which meant that the MVP proved the concept viable.

Problems it solved:

  • Expensive stay at hotels
  • Not enough hotel rooms to host everyone

Features built at the MVP stage:

  • A simple showcase website
  • A photo gallery

Important features introduced after MVP validation:

  • Search
  • Host and guest profiles
  • Reviews
  • Special offers
  • Craigslist platform integration
  • Smart pricing

…and many more.

A clean website with photos was enough to validate the idea. In addition, designers Chesky and Gebbia knew many people who wanted to be at the conference. They tapped into their network before advertising to the unaware – and created one of the most successful MVP cases many founders have tried to replicate since.

Day One Credit

The MVP model is not only applicable to starting a brand new company. You can also use it to build a product as part of a corporate software family.

In this case, you know your market very well, but you still cannot be sure that your customers will like the idea. Similarly to developing a startup, you might want to test the waters before you shell out tons of money on a dysfunctional tool.

That is how our client, the Californian car dealer Autocity, tackled its sales problem.

Autocity spotted a bottleneck in sales: some people couldn’t buy a car because they were going through bankruptcy and regular loans weren’t available to them. The company set out to fix that by building a car loan management system, Day One Credit.

minimum viable product examples

The system would provide an easy financing service for bankrupt customers. They would apply at Day One Credit and, if they qualified, get a loan to buy a car from Autocity.

We began by setting up the basic version of the website. During the first month after launch, it helped the company sell 20 cars. This proved the concept right and we moved on towards building further features.

Problems it solved:

  • Many people going through bankruptcy can’t buy a car because traditional loans are not available to them

Features built at the MVP stage:

  • A simple website
  • An online application form

Important features introduced after MVP validation:

  • Bankruptcy attorney profiles
  • Advanced service options
  • SMS and email notifications
  • Blog

The Day One Credit MVP example shows that a simple website with a feedback form can be enough to validate your idea.

Dropbox

Storing files in the cloud is synonymous with Dropbox. One of Y Combinator’s most successful investments ever, it boasts more than 500 million users globally and over $1.1 billion in annual revenue.

But how did it all begin?

Drew Houston, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 2000s, often forgot to take his USB flash drive to class with him. He wanted to solve that problem by accessing his files remotely from anywhere.

Services that allowed people to do that “… suffered problems with Internet latency, large files, bugs, or just made me think too much,” he claimed. He began to work on his own app for personal use — the future Dropbox.

Houston soon realized that the idea was worth sharing with the world. In 2008, before actually developing the product, he uploaded a three-minute explainer video, showcasing how Dropbox would work.

In just one day, Houston and co-founder Arash Ferdowsi had about 75,000 beta sign-ups; this propelled them to proceed toward product release.

The original Dropbox explainer video

Problems it solved:

  • The need to carry a data storage device in order to access files

Features built at the MVP stage:

  • A product concept
  • An explainer video

Important features introduced after MVP validation:

  • The product itself!
  • Automatic organization and backup
  • Accessibility across various platforms
  • Link sharing
  • Uploading videos and photos from a smartphone
  • The “Dropbox for Business” version

The Dropbox founders didn’t even bother to build the product until they knew that people would want to use it. Instead, they took the time to explain the concept — which appeared to be enough to create one of the classic startup MVP examples.

Full Kitchen

Even a seemingly oversaturated industry like food delivery may have room for original approaches. Our client, the founder of FullKitchen, set out to prove that.

The entrepreneur spotted a problem with current services: customers couldn’t combine food from different providers. To solve that problem, they came up with the idea for the FullKitchen app.

We designed the app’s interface and set up critical infrastructure. This is usually enough for software to go live. But before launching an MVP, you also need to configure analytics to be able to check how the market responds to the idea. The analytics toolset we put together for FullKitchen includes software like Segment, Mixpanel and Facebook AppsFlyer.

In two months, the founder received a functional early product that could be tested against the market. Later on, we introduced the option of grabbing your orders from the nearest pickup point to cut the wait time to under 15 minutes.

Problems it solved:

  • Users couldn’t combine food from different restaurants, ghost kitchens and stores in one order

Features built at the MVP stage:

  • Customer app.
  • An analytics-powered CRM for administering the service.
  • Preordering takeouts.

Important features introduced after MVP validation:

  • Pre-ordering food for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Picking food from the nearest pick-up point instead of waiting for delivery
  • Design customization from the admin panel

FullKitchen serves as a great example of how to build a food delivery app starting with an MVP: select a key feature and build upon it.

Snapchat

Since its launch in 2011, Snapchat has heralded a new era of social media built around visual experiences. The company behind it, Snap Inc., enjoys an annual revenue of more than $1.18 billion. Roughly 186 million smartphone owners have installed the app.

The story of Snapchat begins with the idea of an ephemeral messaging platform proposed by its co-founder Reggie Brown. The first product version was an iOS app called Picaboo. It allowed users to message photos to each other and set a viewing time limit before the photos expired.

successful mvp cases

Snapchat in 2011

Snapchat had its first 1000 users in six months. The founders toyed with the MVP to test various assumptions throughout that period. Eventually, they came up with the idea of self-destructing videos, which are now known as Stories. Once they rolled this feature out, the app began to gain traction.

Problems it solved:

  • Social media didn’t allow you to give your friends a glimpse of their life without leaving a trace

Features built at the MVP stage:

  • An iOS app
  • Photo sharing
  • Expiration timer

Important features introduced after MVP validation:

  • Stories
  • Poke
  • Replay
  • Geofilters
  • Face filters
  • Memories

Snapchat is one of the classic successful MVP cases where founders used the early product version to see what their market really wanted.

HubSpot

These days, you will hardly find a marketer who has never interacted with this brand. A family of powerful sales and marketing tools, HubSpot makes more than $500 million in revenue, employing over 3,200 people internationally.

Global professionals also recognize this name as a source of actionable marketing knowledge. Knowledge sharing is what it all began with for HubSpot when Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah started their blog in 2005.

When the founders studied at MIT, they originated the idea of inbound marketing. It was about “empowering businesses around the world to stop interrupting, start helping, and return their focus to the customer.” In 2005, they launched their blog on the topic, began writing profusely, and soon kicked off the software development.

The first product page of HubSpot

The team behind HubSpot learned more about the pains of marketing as it analyzed the audience’s response. Within nine month, they rolled out a product that helped solve those issues. A community of loyal early adopters was already in place at that point.

Problems it solved:

  • Lack of marketing knowledge

Features built at the MVP stage:

  • Website
  • Blog

Important features introduced after MVP validation:

  • Customized information portals
  • Collaborations through intranets and extranets
  • Website management
  • Client communications

The HubSpot blog helped its founders prove that people were interested in their idea and allowed them to learn from their audience. This saved them from building something that nobody wanted.

BONUS: How to Make a Small MVP Budget Work

The examples of MVPs in this article have hopefully given you an idea of what the early version of your product should look like. But there are practical steps you can take to make the most of your MVP budget.

First of all, you need to outline your startup idea to give the product a shape on paper. Use our set of templates to help you do that.

Once you have a clearer picture of the prospective product, you should convey it to your developer through a brief. And the best way to do so is by filling out this worksheet.

OK, you’ve sent your brief to the developer. Should you now just sit back and wait, hoping the estimates will fit in your MVP budget? Definitely not. While the programmers are estimating the cost of development, you can bone up on what costs what in a project. Later, this will help you look at the price tag intelligently.

Inspired by These MVP Examples?

Think about your own entrepreneurial journey based on these successful MVP examples. State the problem your product is aiming to solve in clear terms — or immediately start working on the problem, just like HubSpot did.

Understanding which features you should focus on will allow you to get the most out of working with your software development partner. Rubyroid Labs can help you build an innovative product around those features — just drop us a line.

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Business Development at Rubyroid Labs

8 Comments

    • Daria Stolyar Reply

      If you have a list of features, email us, and we will prepare an estimate for you.

  1. I want to add more examples of successful mvp – Zappos, Etsy, Zynga, Pebble, Buffer. Check their stories on Google; they'll inspire you.

    • Daria Stolyar Reply

      Day one credit and Airbnb are developed with Ruby on Rails. You'll find more Ruby on Rails apps here https://rubyroidlabs.com/blog/2019/10/9-industries-where-flagship-companies-choose-ruby-on-rails/

    • Daria Stolyar Reply

      There are Low-Fidelity MVPs and High-Fidelity MVPs to choose the right type, assess the risk, timescale and cost.

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