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How much will building and taking your MVP to market cost?

Updated: Feb 18

In this guide we'll show you the following techniques to figure out how much your MVP will cost.

Build your MVP to test your product's viability with minimal investment in time and resources.

An MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, is the simplest version of your product that can be released to the market and used by early customers to provide feedback for future product development.

Your final product will have a complete set of features; your MVP will focus on core functionality that fulfills the primary needs of your target audience.

These are common reasons startups fail. An MVP allows you to address these challenges before you invest time, money, and effort in the wrong area.

Create clear and detailed requirements.

This is the first and most critical step in organizing a team to deliver your MVP

Create clear and detailed requirements to get the most accurate estimates possible from your team and to manage costs while you’re building your MVP.

Clarity helps

  • Prevent wildy incorrect estimates based on assumptions and misunderstood requirements

  • Prevent scope creep

  • Ensure aligned stakeholders expectations regarding functionality and objectives.

Clear and detailed requirements documents streamline communication, eliminating the need to rexplain every project detail to every new party involved.

  • Gather diverse planning feedback by using your requriements document to enhance initial project planning conversations

  • Prevent your tech team from building features you don't need

Budget for more than just development

Resource allocation involves budgeting for development costs and considering marketing, user support, and operational costs.

Here is a list of common costs that founders forget to consider when budgeting for their MVP.

  1. Market Research: Before development begins, ensure your MVP meets real user needs.

  2. Design and User Experience (UX): Good design can significantly impact user adoption.

  3. Testing and Quality Assurance (QA): Thorough testing and QA help identify and fix bugs before launch, ensuring a smoother user experience.

  4. Infrastructure and Hosting Costs: including servers, databases, and potentially, costs for scaling the infrastructure as user numbers grow.

  5. Security: Ensuring the product is secure against potential threats lowers your liability as you are entrusted with others information.

  6. Marketing and Launch Activities: Essential to reach your target audience.

  7. Maintenance and Operations: Your MVP will require ongoing maintenance, updates, and support to remain functional, relevant, and secure.

  8. Project Management and Administration: Project management and administrative support are vital to keep the project on track, manage timelines, and ensure communication between team members and stakeholders.

Select only minimum required features.

The scope of your MVP directly impacts its cost. A broader scope with more features will require more resources, increasing development costs.

Solve the simplest problem for your users that will deliver value to them.

At this stage, understanding your audience and identifying the minimum core features that will keep users engaged with your SaaS product is key.

Create a Figma prototype.

UX designers utilize Figma, one of the most widely used design tools for rapid prototyping, streamlining the transition from design to development at a lower cost.

  • Quick Prototyping: Faster and more cost-effective than coding interfaces.

  • Real Product Blueprint: Enhances written requirements and reduces costly misunderstandings and revisions.

  • Efficient Development: Facilitates collaboration and informed decision-making, ensuring the UI meets user expectations.

Choose cloud hosting.

Choose the option that best matches your MVP's requirements and team's expertise.

Choose a cloud hosting model, unless you know you can't.

Cloud providers offer free entry level service and credits to start, like Azure which offers popular SaaS infrastructure services for free for 12 months.

Each hosting option has unique cost implications, and the choice depends on the specific needs of the SaaS web application, including its size, complexity, and growth trajectory.

  • The Cloud hosting pricing models allow for cost control based on actual usage, allow for rapid adjustment of resources without significant upfront investment, but without careful management can quickly escalate costs due to ease of scaling up services

  • Nocode platforms reduce initial development expenses when using existing features, limited features my require building expensive custom solutions, continuous fees can surpass custom development costs

  • Managed hosting providers reduce the need for in-house IT staff, have higher upfront costs for setup & maintenance, scaling up or down quickly is more expensive and less flexible than the cloud

Choose the least complicated technology.

As with most technology choices, the best option depends on your requirements and your team’s expertise.

Use Vanilla JS and jQuery, which are the most straightforward libraries to build with and validate your MVP.

For applications with complex interactions, use a technology like ReactJS or VueJS or you may end up rebuilding functionality already available in those libraries.

Use server-side libraries like ASP.NET or Ruby on Rails to build server infrastructure, APIs, and integrations.

The ability to generate UI code on the server side is less complicated than using front-end technology.

You’ll be changing features quite often during your MVP phase. If a feature will be retired, make the code you get rid of less expensive by sticking with the simplest solution.

Hire a team with all the skills you need

Running a technology project requires

  • Experience managing project scope

  • Experience coordinating tech teams

  • Expertise with various technologies

  • Expertise building software

  • A good grasp of software development costs

If you hire a single developer you may end up paying for a lot of code you didn’t ask for.

Hiring a single developer may seem less expensive initially. Still, you may end up paying for alot of code you didn't ask for if the developer focuses more on writing code than

  • Understanding business requirements

  • Managing the product roadmap

  • Effectively eliciting requirements

  • Validating their own assumptions with project stakeholders before coding

Hiring an agency that understands MVP strategy provides

  • A comprehensive team of specialists

  • Eliminates the need for extensive project management on your part

  • Brings efficiency and expertise to the project from start to finish

Building an MVP is different than building an enterprise app.

The same strategy used for building corporate apps, like for a large bank, will produce an enterprise price tag and leave you with

  • An application built with abstract programming strategies only costly senior engineers can understand

  • High maintenance costs, as any developer working on the app will spend more time on navigating and supporting general infrastructure than feature development

Create a technology strategy for how your MVP will be built.

If you've hired, contracted, or are still soliciting bids for your MVP, ensure that proposals include a documented technical plan.

Understanding the technologies used to achieve the MVP's goals will provide deeper insight into the construction of your MVP and help you comprehend both initial and ongoing costs.

This also enables your tech team to evaluate feature requirements within the context of the technology, leading to more accurate estimates.

Calculate the hours for all the tasks to build your MVP

Obtain hour-based estimates for the features and tasks assigned to each team member.

I always like to start estimates in weeks and hours per week.

Compile them in a spreadsheet

Calculate your cost using standard labor rates.

Finding labor rates can be challenging, as two contractors with the same skill set may have different rates.

You should feel comfortable asking any freelancer, contractor, or agency for hourly rates.

Here are some average rates you can start with

  • $30-$60/hr: Entry-level software developers

  • $60-$90/hr & above: Seasoned developers, with 5 or more years of experience

  • $80-$150/hr: Development agencies

  • $15-$25/hr: Offshore entry level developers

  • $40-$70/hr: Offshore senior software developers

  • $50-$100/hr: Offshore development agencies

Apply the correct labor rates to the estimated hours in your spreadsheet.

Accomodate a percentage buffer to account for

  • Missed requirement details

  • New requirements discovered during development

  • Necessary software library upgrades

  • Integration complexities

  • Offshore challenges: time zone & language differences

  • Contractor & Agency challenges: other development commitments

You now have a good idea of what your MVP will cost.

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