"The minimum viable product or MVP is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”- Eric Ries, The Lean Startup
I am Stu Shapiro, and I am the CEO and product manager of pwrPARK Ltd. Working alongside me for prototype development is Jeremy Hassan, CTO.
This is the journey...
Reaching the finish line is notably rewarding, but it's in these moments we should not neglect to take the opportunity to reflect and absorb the vast learnings the process has to offer. Recognising the errors and how we could have actioned things differently, perhaps better, is as valuable as the achievement.
Your first year in Business and Entrepreneurship has a strong focus around MVP's of a venture. This focus stands to good reason and should not be taken lightly. Our venture, pwrPARK Ltd, was incubated on the grass at the Reichman University as a friend, and I brainstormed ideas for the first semester's venture project. We recognised a problem, the need, and then explored solutions.
PwrPARK is a parking station to charge and lock electric scooters. We offer power and security while helping organise spaces from micro-mobility clutter. We increase uptime and lower the operational and maintenance costs for the rideshare industry.
Our initial market research in the form of surveys, interviews, social media polls and google, validated the initial need. With the following validation of the need, the product design phases started:
- Students riders park scooters in micro dormitory bathrooms to charge and prevent dirt in the units.
- Riders run out of battery while out, or carry a scooter charger with them
- Riders are scared of theft.
Scooters are cluttering office spaces.
- The Rideshare industry consumes 41% of revenue on Juicers, staff collecting and charging scooters.
- The Rideshare industry consumes 16% of revenue on maintenance if scooters.
- The rideshare industry suffers from scooter damage and short life span.
Phase 01: Exploring the technical viability of the product:
We initially explored wireless charging as the solution, found a supplier in Germany and initiated the contact.
If you’re asking yourself “Can we talk to the supplier about our idea, what if they steal it? Yes, don't be scared to talk to people about your idea when you're in the early stages, the people you speak to are generally not in the business of doing what you do and won't steal your idea.
One of the initial issues we faced was solving how to fit a receiver onto a scooter for it to charge, using only what we know? We thought about the early 2000s before an iPhone had wireless charging built-in, one could buy a sticker that allowed the iPhone to receive a charge; this seemed like a solution and is an example of taking something we had seen in the world to adapt it to our needs. With no knowledge of wireless induction charging, there was a lot to learn. Our research indicated that wireless charging would be slow, costly, unstable and non-durable.
Phase 02: Back to the drawing board:
We then spent countless hours discussing the issues that we might face. Every detail was important. We started to think about the effects of the weather on electronics, along with what materials and component we should choose. We also tried to look for flaws in our current model to improve it. For example, we asked ourselves, “Is our product durable? What would happen if someone sat on it?”
Then we thought of the scooter itself. How can we make a bracket that would fit various models, shapes and sizes? The power required for each scooter was also our concern. The most fascinating part was to think about less obvious details, like the angle a scooter approaches the stations and the effect of vibration of on an item that would be fixed on the handle bar.
What could go wrong was a primary influence in the designs.
Phase 03: Back to the drawing board, again.
This happened many times over, as we found faults with the design we would need to either adapt the design or explore different technologies and components and redesign around those components. We moved towards creating an adapter which would secure on a scooter and allow it to make direct contact with a docking station; this would facilitate the scooter to receive a charge.
Phase 04: How do you start designing a product?
With all the potential issues laid out, we set out to design the product beyond sketches on paper. With my background in 3D animation, I sourced an easy to use free online 3D software and sent Jeremy, CTO, a demo of how to use it. The learning curve is straightforward, and I encourage you not to let your lack of knowledge prevent you from finding a solution or external resource to getting a task done.
Phase 05: MVP 3D Printing
The physical act of holding your MVP gives new perceptive. I reached out on Facebook to ask for someone to 3D print our design and had it created for $50. Holding the MVP gave us so much insight into the weakness and strengths of the current design.
Phase 06: MVP 3D Renders
Many of the designs incorporated components that we had seen in everyday life. Being curious and aware of how day to day things work is a powerful toolset to problem solve functional and technical design-related issues.
Electronic magnets (doors),
Spring connectors with magnets (inside your mac charger)
High voltage connectors (electric car and caravan charging sockets)
Other various technical components.
Phase 07: MVP Final
Once the design was finalised, we set out on the long task of sourcing all our suppliers for the electrical components. We acquired three quotes from each supplier:
1- 10 pieces for the initial prototype
10 - 30 pieces for the pilot program rollout
100+ pieces for large scale production, this is used in the financial forecasting spreadsheet
With the process behind us and the product ready for its launch, the words and lessons of professor Gali Einav come back to me, "MVP and validation." In hindsight, I would have run a pilot program using a cheap and far from a complete product. I would have built a product out of wood and readily available products, ignoring many of the features and functionality to see how our target market would react to the idea. It's one thing doing market research and validation through polls, surveys, conversations, but the true market validation comes from a pilot program. How many potential customers use it? What percentage is that? What is the retention, how many of the consumers return and continue using the service, for how long? How much are they willing to pay? There are many KPI's (key performance indicators) that are needed to truly validate a business idea before you go too far down the road and build it.