How to transform your business idea into a minimum viable product
So, you have a game-changing business idea, and now you’re ready to develop it so it’s ready for the real world. Or are you? At Ericsson ONE, our experienced innovation coaches hear thousands of business ideas every year. Here, they share what makes some of them sink, and some of them soar.
Every year, intrapreneurs across Ericsson submit thousands of new business ideas for review, and normally only 10 make it to the stage where they receive funding to build their minimum viable product (MVP).
There are many reasons projects stumble at this stage, even if the idea itself is strong. Our intrapreneurs undergo a rigorous selection process– and there’s a lot they need to prove to win investment to develop their MVPs. However, one of the main benefits of being an intrapreneur is that you rarely have to go it alone.
At Ericsson, we have a dedicated team of innovation coaches whose main goal is to set intrapreneurs up for success. As successful entrepreneurs and innovators themselves, they draw on years of personal experience and knowledge to inspire intrapreneurs and give them all the hands-on support they need.
Here, they share what it takes to transform an innovative business idea into a reality.
Define what problem your product is solving
You must be able to explain what problem your idea solves with a clear, simple definition – no matter how technical it is.
Salman Taj, Vice President of Innovation for Ericsson ONE US, explains: “If there’s one thing I want our intrapreneurs to obsess over, it’s the problem. They have to understand it really well, know how big the problem is, and most importantly – be able to summarize it with a sharp, crisp problem statement.”
Serdar Sahin, Director of Product Management for Ericsson and Business Coach at Ericsson ONE, agrees: “It’s impossible to spend too much time defining the problem. If you can’t communicate it clearly, your idea may not be feasible, even if the product itself has potential.”
Have a clear MVP definition to match it
In order to win over investors and ensure the development stage is successful, intrapreneurs – or entrepreneurs – must also be frugal with their MVP definition. People are often able to define product roadmaps and discuss multiple features, but at the MVP stage, the focus should be on outlining the basic minimum features needed to take the product to market.
Hanieh Chaichi, Business Coach at Ericsson ONE Sweden, says: “An important thing to remember here is that the MVP must be built with the customers’ needs in mind, and the minimum features must also match the customer requirements identified in the initial ideation stages.”
Let your potential customers do the talking for you
Demonstrating desirability is a hugely important factor when moving an idea forward into the MVP development phase. At Ericsson ONE, if our intrapreneurs can’t demonstrate that there’s a customer demand for their product, their idea will fall flat.
There are multiple ways you can demonstrate desirability and prove customer interest.
Hanieh explains: “We always aim to secure a written expression of interest from prospective customers, and some of them do sign early adopter agreements. However, in a pitch scenario, written quotes are still a powerful tool for proving desirability and validating the idea.”
Ericsson ONE’s business coaches guide intrapreneurs through this process, helping them engage with prospective customers, conduct interviews, questionnaires and research – all of which can help demonstrate desirability.
The bottom line: the more written or verbal validation you get from prospective customers, the better your chances of success.
Start thinking like a CEO
When ideas start moving towards the MVP phase, a mindset shift often has to happen.
“At this stage, we want people to start thinking like a business owner – and move from discussing products, software and solutions, to thinking about the bigger picture. How will your product make money, and how will you take it to market? If you can answer these questions, your chances of succeeding are much higher,” says Sonny Wang, Business Coach for Ericsson ONE Beijing.
One key thing to consider is exactly who your customer will be, and how you will approach them.
“It’s very hard to build a new product and create new sales channels at the same time. We strongly encourage our intrapreneurs to leverage existing relationships with current customers and tap into channels already available to them,” says Serdar.
Our Ericsson ONE business coaches help idea owners develop clear business models that communicate their vision. These models also outline cost structures, for example, will your product be subscription based, or per transaction?
Providing this information will increase your likelihood of securing investment.
Get the right people onboard
Developing an MVP is a team effort, and you need the right people behind you.
“Our intrapreneurs are often engineers with strong technical abilities, but they need support with the business side of things. On the flip side, we also meet people who have strong commercial minds but need help on the technical side. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses in teams and creating a good balance is a big part of our role,” says Salman.
However, it’s not just about finding people with the right competencies.
“The team you build must be passionate and inherently motivated to work on your innovation project. Everyone has to put their hearts into it, and work well together. If your team isn’t passionate, the likelihood of your success will significantly decrease,” adds Serdar.
As an idea owner, you also need to consider if you have the necessary leadership skills to be a CEO (or CTO or COO). If you don’t, you may have to delegate leadership responsibilities to someone else. For example, if you’re not good at presenting or marketing, perhaps you need to find a co-founder who’s willing to take care of these crucial tasks.
At this stage ideas are rarely perfect, and successful innovators must remain open-minded. In the past, our business coaches have actually nixed viable products because idea owners were unwilling to take feedback onboard.
“My main piece of advice for people looking to develop an MVP would be ‘always be open-minded,’” says Hanieh.
“We make a lot of our decisions based on observations, and one important factor for us is personality. Idea owners should be coachable, open to suggestions and willing to work as a team. You can have the best idea in the world, but you need to be able to work with other people to make it happen,” she explains.
Would you like to start innovating with Ericsson ONE? We’d love to hear from you.
Read about how to create a fair intrapreneurship process, authored by the founder and head of Ericsson ONE.
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Find out more about intrapreneurship.