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Maximum Viable Product - The Savanna Studio Story Part 1

Talk to any product person and they'll know what an MVP is - a Minimum Viable Product. Then they'll go on talking about the lean strategy and cite a few things from the much loved book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The basic premise is to build products iteratively by starting with a minimum set of features to deploy and then repeating cycles of building, measuring and learning. This strategy leads to minimum waste of budget & time, reduces risk and gets validated learning from real customers ASAP.

But how about situations where that just isn't quite possible - what do you do then?

A Minimum Viable Product Story

When I co-founded Shepper ( at the end of 2016, we started by focusing in on the original problem we were trying to solve:

"I'm an individual or business with single or multiple physical assets that are important to me and I need to know their condition when I'm unable to check myself."

Our MVP approach was:

  1. Find an individual or business with something that's important to them that they needed to check on and where time/distance/cost prevented them from doing just that.

  2. Find a (trusted) individual that was willing to go to that location and check on the asset - preferably nearby.

  3. Concoct some way of transferring that information over to the individual or business that made the request.

That was our value proposition in the most simplest terms. So how did we do our first job?

We asked family and friends if they had any items they needed checking on that were far away from them. My co-founder had a friend that was away on holiday and had parked his car somewhere in a car park in Birmingham. OK so we have the asset - Check!

In order to prove the model we couldn't do the job ourselves (as tempting as that would be) and we couldn't cut corners by asking friends, so we needed to find third party trusted individuals that would be willing to do that job for a small fee. We ended up finding a local taxi driver to head to that location, find the car in question and take a few photos that he forwarded to an email address we supplied. We paid him £5 via bank transfer. OK so we have the raw data - Check!

We could have stopped there and simply just forwarded on the photos, but it was important for us to give the optics of something a bit more packaged and representative of the trustworthy brand we were building. That's when I created the 'Shepper Report' - a nicely put together Shepper branded PDF personalised to the customer with photos, weather information, and of course a way of them to order their next check. The customer paid us £4.95 via bank transfer. OK so we made some revenue - Check!

Those of you with a keen eye may have noticed we lost £0.05 on that first job but so what!? We were stoked - we had revenue, we proved a need, found a system and delighted a customer.

We were then ready to embark the difficult journey of securing more jobs, building the brand, leading a team, growing a network of trusted individuals, and building a powerful platform that became the cogs and inner workings of the entire operation.

But we are here to talk about Maximum Viable Products.

When Minimum Just Isn't Enough

I teamed up with my father in mid 2021 to simplify "Smarter Working" - which is the practice of allowing people to work where and when is best as long as it delivers results, saves costs and respects our health and the planet. He's had a longstanding career in the ITC industry with top management positions at Nokia, Dell, Sony Ericsson, and Plantronics (Poly) where in the last 15 years he's really honed in on how technology, space, and the right people management can result in not only better business productivity but also happier and healthier employees.

After defining the EASI framework that simplifies Smarter Working, we decided that out of the three pillars of Technology, Space and Management - the space part needed the most attention.

We already understood for years that employee satisfaction results in Leesman surveys indicated without doubt that most employees suffer the consequences of bad spaces. We were fortunate enough to have access to the right research and experts in highly specialised fields such as acoustics, lighting and well-being and we blended all of that into our own recipe of how spaces should support users.

With our blueprint in hand we set out the difficult task of designing and developing such an individual work space. We knew that nobody had ever tried to do that and we were excited about being the first to do so.

When you are trying to create such a shift or in some ways really defining a new category - it simply isn't enough to take baby steps to reach your goals. We had think in bigger leaps rather than smaller ones because a large physical structure the size of a minibus isn't quite the same as a digital product that can be tweaked and re-shipped continuously.

Simply doing the minimum would give us no return of our investment - we had to take our concept to the very edge of what's possible today to craft "The perfect workspace".

I'd like to share that journey with you and in upcoming blog posts we'll take you through our first steps of building the Savanna Studio to where we are today.

Savanna offers modular Studios for work, play, and living.

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