The story of an MVP in less than 100 hours of work
One of our latest MVP (minimum viable product) that came out of our product design consultancy consisted of an Uber-like system for veterinary emergency services (Note that the actual project goes far beyond that simple idea). Initial capital was remarkably restricted, under 100 development hours, so we decided to invest them into getting validation proof to raise more money for future development.
100 hours of development hours to create a collaborative economy solution, even when is a barebone one, seems insane. On top of this, we had to create a brand and the UI for the application. I have to praise Vanessa Guillen -@vnesita- for making all the graphics work in under 40 hours!
How do you program a system that gets a call, collects its location, coordinates with the providers, select one, confirms the service and charges the user in under 60 hours? You don’t.
The trick behind taking this project into completion was not to develop anything that wasn't essential for the end-user. The end user application has a register form, email confirmation, a request button and a way of receiving request status changes. Nothing more. I used Unity3d for this, the drag and drop UI editor makes it straightforward, and since I have lots of experience with it, I found it to be a perfect fit.
Invoicing the users is done manually using a third-party service, knowingly accepting the possibility of a few losses due to payments not being fulfilled during this first phase. So, no need to code a payment gateway nor directly deal with all that bureaucracy.
The chatbot? The chatbot deals with the rest. Using Node.js, I made a small server that connects to a Firebase database, the same utilized by the end user app that receives the user’s requests. It uses hangupjs to host a chatbot on hangouts that deals with the providers and administration tasks. The chatbot notifies all connected providers (less than 20 veterinarians on this first stage) of the new request, and it’s up to them to decide if it’s relevant for each one of them.
The bot manages the flow of the call and keeps the user informed of the status, as well of the rest of the providers when a request is filled. It shows the information on a need to know basis, so only the provider that took the call will know any sensitive data. To finalize the service it requires the provider to declare the end cost (that is variable) and to fill a form in Google forms. Having no user interface made the development of this server/bot a simple task, the whole code is under 600 lines.
How can you create an MVP in under 100 hours?
- Move all the intelligence of the system to the providers that are behind the scene
- Take advantage of 3rd party services that can be set up independently (billing and forms)
- Invest no time in administration UI that 99% of the users won't see.
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