Categories: Product Marketing
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February 28, 2019

Nail Your MVP Like Dropbox, Airbnb and Hubspot

By Aggelos Mouzakitis

Are you looking for the best minimum viable product examples?

And, you want to save development time for you and your team?

Then, you are in the right place.

Because the truth is that having a product idea is not enough.  

You need to test this idea in the real world, having an agile behavior.

And, to do that, you need to build a minimum viable product (MVP).

But, before you do, you need to take a look at the following examples of minimum viable products.


What is a Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Product Examples

Last Thoughts

What is a Minimum Viable Product

Before diving into the MVP examples, let me share with you some basic information about minimum viable products.

If you happen to know all these and want to get straight to the examples. 

The concept of minimum viable products is well-known in the startup and development world.  

As Eric Ries, the author of the Lean Startup book defined it back in 2009:

“The minimum viable product 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.”

And, here is the original post from Monday, August 3, 2009:

Image Source: Startup Lessons Learned

Building an MVP doesn’t mean that you can get into product development for something that will offer a bad user experience when your early adopters get there.

It essentially means that you’ll build something that is as good as it can, so that people will find value in it, and will want to continue using it—and, of course, give you feedback on what they liked and what they didn’t like.

Before we delve any further, let me give you some ways you can test your MVP:

  1. Wizard of Oz MVP – Where you create the picture of a fully functional product while using human resources to deliver your product.
  2. Concierge MVP – Similar to the Wizard of Oz MVP, but without the use of technology.
  3. Piecemeal MVP – Where you use resources and tools you already have, to deliver your product.
  4. Explainer Video – Where you create a landing page to get on interviews with users or get them to use your MVP.
  5. Landing Page – Where you create a landing page to get on interviews with users or get them use your MVP.
  6. Blog – Where you test your idea through a WordPress blog, Medium blog or any other kind of blog.
  7. Social Media – Where you test your product idea, title or anything else using social media and social Ads.
  8. Crowdfunding Campaign – Where you test your MVP through a crowdfunding campaign.
  9. Sell Before you Build – Even though underestimated these days, direct sales can be a great way to test your MVP.
  10. Single Feature MVP – Where you essentially launch something that only has one feature and minimal functionality.

The reason why I’ve included those MVP types is that they will help you better understand the examples I am going to cover in the following chapter.

Last but not least, the type of the minimum viable product you are going to use is heavily based on:

  • Your business model,
  • Your industry,
  • The channels that have worked well for you in the past.

Let’s move on to the next chapter.

Minimum Viable Product Examples

1) Dropbox

This is the first minimum viable product example I have for you.

I am sure that you’ve heard of Dropbox again in the past.

According to Wikipedia, Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers:

  • Cloud storage
  • File synchronisation
  • Personal cloud
  • Client software
Image Source: Dropbox

Dropbox is a public company, that was launched back in 2007 by Co-founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi.

It serves more than 500 million users worldwide, 12.3 of which are paying customers.

How this San Francisco based startup managed to kick things off in the first place?

The story is quite impressive.

What Co-founder, Drew Houston did was that he created a demo video.

The video lasted 3 minutes, and was essentially describing how someone can use Dropbox, simply and plainly:

Image Source: YouTube

The best part?

That until this time there was no product whatsoever.

Simply put, the “user experience” that Houston was demonstrating didn’t exist at that time.

Did that simple tactic help Dropbox?

Well, according to Houston himself:

“It drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website. Our beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight. It totally blew us away.”

Not bad for an MVP, right?

Moreover, keep in mind that all that Dropbox managed to do all that with little-to-no budget.

It is one of the brightest MVPs ever launched.

Minimum Viable Product Type: Explainer Video

Channel & Assets Used: Video, Digg

2) Groupon

Groupon is one of the most interesting minimum viable product examples in our list.

Groupon is a Chicago-based website offering user discounts on local businesses and scholarships.

According to Ahrefs, Groupon has more than 28.3 million visitors every month:

Image Source: Ahrefs

Now, that’s many website visitors; don’t you think?

However, Groupon wasn’t always a high-traffic website, with millions of users worldwide.

This is how Groupon looked like back in 2010:

Image Source:

When Andrew Mason—the founder and former CEO of Groupon—launched the website back in November 2008, things were very different.

Mason had to post deals for a local pizza shop every day manually.

Then, he printed the incoming orders and manually having them sent to the pizza shop for delivery via Email.

Which means that his MVP was the outcome of manual work and technology.

Yes, that may not sound as scalable, but it allowed Mason to discover if there was potential in that website, and whether or not he should invest more time and resources on it.   

Minimum Viable Product Type: Wizard of Oz MVP

Channel & Assets Used: Website, Printer, Email

3) Buffer

This is one of the brightest minimum viable product examples.

Or, to be precise, it is one of the best MVP landing page examples.

You may not be familiar with Buffer—especially if you are not into social media and marketing—but, for those of you who are into marketing, I am sure you know it.

Buffer is a Social Media Management (SMM) platform that allows you to schedule your social posts in minutes.

It generates over $15 Million in ARR, and it’s users sent 325,279,525 posts through Buffer in 2017 (+24.4% than 2016), and it’s a perfect example of startup idea validation.

At this point, allow me to introduce you to Joel Gascoigne, Buffer founder, and CEO.

Image Source: Twitter

As Joel Gascoigne, Buffer CEO explains, validation played a crucial role in Buffer’s success.

In Joel’s words:

“My failure with the previous startup combined with the ideas around the Lean Startup gave me a key realisation: if I wanted this idea to be more than just a hobby and tool for just myself, I needed to test whether other people would find the idea useful.”

But, how did Buffer’s founder managed to validate his product idea and attain such exponential growth?

He built a 2-page website—basically, two different landing pages:

Image Source: MVP Workshop

He tweeted about it in his personal account (back then, organic reach was still a thing!), and got people to visit his landing page.

Some of these people signed up (through a simple signup form) for the product, even though up until that time, there wasn’t a product built.

When Joel validated his initial idea, he built a second landing page:

Image Source: MVP Workshop

And, asked people to revisit it via a tweet.

This time, he wanted to see if people would be willing to pay for the service he was about to build.

It turned out that people were ready to pay for his service, as they were choosing the paid plans on his landing page.

Keep in mind that Joel didn’t invest any time creating a product or any other assets whatsoever.

However, with this MVP, he managed to validate his idea and saw potential into his product.

Minimum Viable Product Type: Landing Page

Channel & Assets Used: Landing Page, Twitter, Teleconferencing Software for Interviews

4) Pebble Time

If you are interested in crowdfunding and crowdfunding campaigns, then you know Kickstarter.

Kickstarter’s mission statement is to:

“Help bring creative projects to life.”

If you visit Kickstarter’s “Discover” page and you sort results by “Most Funded”:

Image Source: Kickstarter

You’ll get the projects that managed to raise the most money from their crowdfunding campaign.

The most funded project ever is Pebble Time:

Image Source: Kickstarter

As you can see:

“78,471 backers pledged $20,338,986 to help bring this project to life.”

Astonishing, isn’t it?

Almost 80K people helped this product come to life, raising more than $20 million from a single crowdfunding campaign.

This is one of the brightest minimum viable product examples, for three main reasons:

  • It allows you to see how many people would be interested in your product,
  • It allows you to see how much money these people would be interested in spending money to buy your product,
  • It allows you to reach to these people directly when the product is ready.

It is without a doubt that crowdfunding campaigns are great as MVPs, especially if launched on a website like Kickstarter.

Minimum Viable Product Type: Crowdfunding Campaign

Channel & Assets Used: Kickstarter

5) Zappos

Zappos is an online shoe and clothing retail store, that was launched back in 2009 by Nick Swinmurn.

Amazon acquired it in July 2009 for $1.2 billion.

According to Ahrefs, Zappos has almost 7.9 million monthly visitors:

Image Source: Ahrefs

However, when it first started, Zappos was far from a billion dollar company.

Image Source: Zappos

What Nick Swinmurn did when Zappos took its first online steps was brilliant.

The company wanted to avoid spending thousands of dollars in inventory and thus tried something else:

Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn headed over to the local sports retailer and took a photo of the shoes that were sold there.

He uploaded to the website, and every time there was an order, he headed over to the local retailer to buy the shoes and fulfil the order.

This might seem crazy today, but back then it was an ingenious way of launching and testing his minimum viable product in a risk-free way.

Minimum Viable Product Type: Wizard of Oz

Channel & Assets Used: Website, Local Shoe Store

6) Airbnb

This is how Airbnb’s website looked like back in 2010:

Image Source:

Right now, Airbnb’s valuation is more than $35 billion.

But, the beginning for Airbnb back in 2007 was quite humble.

Co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were in San Francisco back then, trying to start a business.

At the same time, they were looking for ways to pay for their rent and utility bills.

There was a conference in town, and soon enough there were no rooms available in local hotels.

Thus, Chesky and Gebbia decided to:

  • Take photos of their apartment,
  • List their own apartment, and
  • Wait for their guests.

Soon, they had three paying guests who would attend the conference and live their house.

That was a proof of concept for their MVP; and, the rest, of course, is history.

Would the founders of Airbnb be happy about their MVP today?

Probably not, but as LinkedIn’s Co-Founder Reid Hoffman put it:

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Minimum Viable Product Type: Wizard of Oz MVP/ Concierge MVP/ Piecemeal MVP

Channel & Assets Used: Website, Apartment

7) Hubspot

Hubspot is an amazing software.

If you are into marketing for a while now, you’ve definitely:

  • Read one of Hubspot’s blog posts
  • Downloaded an eBook or any other piece of content
  • Used one of Hubspot’s products

Nowadays, Hubspot has more than 48,000 customers in 100+ countries and 1,960 employees on its premises.

Even though you know all these things, I am sure that what you don’t know is that Hubspot started as a blog.

That’s right.

Long before Hubspot (as a product) was built, co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah had a blog that discusses things like inbound marketing and content.  

Here is how Hubspot website looked like back in 2005:

Image Source:

After seeing that there is an audience that is interested in the content that the Hubspot blog was publishing, Halligan and Shah decided to build an actual.

This means, of course, that their MVP was a blog, which—up until that day—is one of the most essential assets of the company.

Minimum Viable Product Type: Blog

Channel & Assets Used: Blog, Content

8) Foursquare

This is the last MVP examples I have for you.

According to its website, Foursquare is a:

“Trusted Location Data & Intelligence Company.”

Even though nowadays Foursquare offers a wide variety of products:

  • Pinpoint/ Audiences
  • Attribution
  • Pilgrim SDK
  • Places
  • Swarm
  • City Guide

When it first started, it started as a Single Feature MVP:

Image Source: TechCrunch

Foursquare—which was backed by VC funding—launched as a Single Feature MVP, that allowed users to check-in with their location, and earn gamification points and badges.

While doing that, they were continuously improving the user experience.

This way, co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai didn’t waste development time for something that wouldn’t have potential.

They tested their idea with a simple MVP, and built on the top of that, using user feedback.

Minimum Viable Product Type: Single Feature MVP

Channel & Assets Used: Mobile App

Last Thoughts

There you have it.

You’ve just learned some of the best minimum viable product examples.

As I hope it is evident—most of the times—you don’t need many things to get started.

A landing page, a simple signup form or a social media post may be enough.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the first version of your product shouldn’t be good.

After all, your early adopters will “judge” you based on that first user experience.

What I need you to keep is that you have to put the least effort into your product idea—but, to the point where it’s satisfying enough for the first users.

Now I want to hear it from you.

What is your favorite minimum viable product example, and, why? Are there any examples that we’ve missed to include? Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below!

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Aggelos Mouzakitis

Aggelos is the founder and Growth Product Manager of Growth Sandwich. He is among the first Customer-led experts in the world, leveraging advanced, Jobs-to-be-done customer research to orchestrate and guide Growth for B2B SaaS companies. A- and B- series SaaS are hiring him to organise, design and execute programs that infuse the whole company with qualitative data, empathy and the necessary knowledge to address any growth dilemma. In the last 4 years, he has worked with more than 100 SaaS companies and trained literally, thousands through my physical and online courses.