The Min. Viable Product

NYU Shanghai, Interactive Media Arts, Spring 2016


Christian Grewell


Course Introduction

Increasing possibilities brought about by emerging forms of technology and decreasing costs of connecting people to things have not only enabled innovative human-centered design, but also opened the door to new business models and products. Experimentation and calculated risk taking are keys to successfully harnessing the possibilities of today’s most cutting-edge technologies and innovative methods to first build, understand and then redefine how humans and products interact. In this 7 week course, student ‘co-founders’ will conceive of and produce a new media, physical or technology product designed to delight their customers while also allowing them to accelerate and validate a business model. Students will ‘get out of the classroom’ and put these products into potential customers’ hands. The course will touch upon topics such as how to design a minimum viable product, design a business model, talk and work with customers, and develop a product community.

Why create a minimum product?

We typically decided to create a product because they see an opportunity and have a desire to solve a specific problem, and, whether we realize it or not, a hypothesis about the best approach to do so. In the prehistoric times of your product, you should be refining your hypothesis through extensive testing, with the goal of producing something that is the first minimally viable product for consumption by your first customers (MVP). The MVP is a product that has the minimum feature set necessary to begin addressing the problem or seize an opportunity. Over time, further features can be added. This initial product is normally tested on a supportive, carefully selected group of influencers, who are willing to give feedback and see the bigger vision in the products early stages.

Course Design

I designed this course using the same framework that I’ll be teaching. It has what I believe to be the minimum features and frameworks that I think will get you on a path of creating things people want.

We will be using a product development cycle throughout the course to iterate on our ideas and products. This cycle was first put into practice in Japan, and is called Lean Manufacturing. In 2008, Eric Reis, in his book The Lean Startup, proposed applying the lean manufacturing model to startups.

The basic premise is that  the minimum viable product is the core output of an iterative, cyclical process of idea generation, prototyping, presentation, data collection, analysis and learning.

Course Plan

note: this schedule will change. Don’t get too attached to it!


Week 1: Ideation + Creativity


  • The ‘Lean’ startup movement and methods
  • Ideation techniques (scamper, questioning assumptions, worst idea, biomimicry)
  • Creativity + Innovation



  • Memo of Introduction
  • Sign up for Trello + Slack + Mailchimp + Squarespace + Wishpond
  • Post to the idea log

Week 2: Startups – Hype and History


  • The startup and entrepreneurship in an historical context
  • The current startup environment
  • Big problems and articulating your hypothesis


  • Co-founder speed-dating
  • Problem discovery


  • Customer problem presentation (over break)
  • Hypothesis statement & user stories (over break)
  • Conduct customer Interviews (over the break)


Week 3: Making Stuff


  • The Art and Science of Rapid Prototyping
  • Designing a minimal feature set


  • Create product artifacts (wireframes, visualizations, wizard of oz prototypes)
  • User Story Lab #1


  • Hypothesis + User Story presentations due

Week 4: Product / Market Fit + Customer Discovery and Validation


  • Basic Product Market Economics
  • Validating your assumptions
  • Validation Strategies


  • Customer Validation
  • Prototype Lab

Week 5: Business Models and Valuation


  • Foundations of Valuation + Methodologies
  • Business Models
  • The Dark Side of Venture Capital Valuation


  • Prototype #1 completed
  • Product Narration


Week 6: Launch!


  • Presentation
  • Marketing basics in the context of changing markets
  • Building a product community


  • Launch and promote your product

Week 7: Learn


  • Data analysis and drawing conclusions
  • Building good-looking
  • Demystifying the ‘pitch’


  • Final product presentations and discussion


Class Participation
  • contributions to discussion in class and questions
  • posts to the slack channel
  • overall engagement with the course and materials
Idea and Product Journal
  • how complete is your idea journal, including ethnographic and customer discussions associated with your product
  • [various assignments throughout the course]
Final Project
  • Landing page and explainer video