Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb, Uber — these and other great products didn’t start off as the fully-fledged platforms we know today. Instead, they embarked on their journeys as MVPs.
An MVP, or a minimum viable product, is the version of a new product with just enough features to satisfy the initial market demand and user expectations. Its aim is to validate the concept and generate feedback for further development.
Let’s take Instagram, for example. Before it became a global hub uniting millions of people, businesses, creators, and many more, it started as a simple photo-sharing app. The MVP version allowed users to snap photos, apply filters, and share experiences with friends. It was a focused offering that resonated with users who wanted a sleek and intuitive way to share visuals. Over time, Instagram’s creators expanded the platform, adding features like direct messaging, video sharing, and advanced editing tools.
This example proves: starting with a version of a product that has just the right amount of features to catch early adopters is faster, cheaper, and less risky than developing a full-blown solution.
But how much does it cost to build a working MVP?
Well, it depends. Based on the estimates from our MVP development portfolio, we could draw a range of $50,000 to $100,000 and more. Your specific numbers will most likely vary — depending on the number of factors, such as an area of usage, target industry, an intended platform, and more.
To learn more about MVP cost constituents and get familiar with the pricing of real-world MVP development projects from ITRex’s portfolio, carry on reading.
A quick intro: what’s the difference between an MVP, a prototype, and a PoC and what should you opt for?
An optimal path to take depends on your goals and where you find yourself on the product development timeline.
The goal of a PoC (Proof of Concept) is to demonstrate that a concept is technically or economically feasible. You usually build a PoC early in the project to determine whether you should pursue the idea further. You want to build a PoC if you’re hunting for initial investments to fund your startup or want to get a buy-in from enterprise executives.
A prototype, in turn, is a preliminary model of a product that is mainly used for demonstration purposes. It’s usually clickable but not functional. The focus is, thus, on testing out user flows and design choices.
The key function of an MVP, as said above, is to inform development and get the feedback from early adopters. An MVP is usually built later on the product development journey.
While these concepts aren’t mutually exclusive, they all play a role in influencing MVP cost. A software development project might involve creating all three, but at different stages of project planning, with each aspect having its impact on MVP pricing.
Why consider building an MVP?
Building an MVP instead of a full-blown product can let you achieve the following goals:
Build confidence in the product: Starting with an MVP, you can test the market and make an informed decision about whether to develop the product further considering MVP pricing.
Gather early feedback: You can use feedback from early adopters to refine the product and make it more appealing to the target audience.
Make the most of their time and resources: Building an MVP doesn’t require as much resources as a full-featured product, while it can start bringing ROI right away.
Attract investment: An MPV proves that you have a solid product concept and can execute on it, which makes it more likely to win investments.
If you want to learn more about what makes a successful MVP and how you build one, continue your research by reading this article.
What factors make up the total MVP cost?
We have identified eight factors that influence the final MVP pricing.
Factor 1: Product audience
The cost of development for B2B and B2C software can vary significantly.
B2B solutions, like CRM, ERP, or financial management systems, are usually intended for a smaller and more specialized target audience. But don’t let this fact trick you into thinking that it’s cheaper to craft a B2B product. B2B software solutions are usually more complex and boast a large number of specialized features, which often adds to the overall MVP cost.
Meanwhile, B2C software solutions, such as messaging apps, social media platforms or games, are aimed at a larger yet more general audience, which can help reduce the overall development costs. B2C solutions are usually simpler in terms of functionality, which makes them less expensive to develop.
Factor 2: The complexity of the solution you’re eyeing to create
The complexity of the envisioned solution impacts the price of an MVP, too. While the essence of developing an MVP boils down to keeping the set of features limited, the complexity of those features varies from solution to solution.
For a property booking website, for example, you would probably concentrate on listing properties, enabling bookings, and managing user profiles. Given the straightforward nature of this idea, the cost of its MVP will probably stay within manageable boundaries.
In turn, crafting a mobile app for pet owners seeking reliable sitters involves a more specialized need. Its MVP revolved around user profiles, search filters, establishing a secure communication channel, and initiating pet sitting requests. In this case, MVP development might involve a bit more intricate functionality to ensure a smooth user experience.
Here’s another example to top it off. Crafting an MVP of an AI-powered mirror that replaces a personal coach like we did at ITRex is not merely a software endeavor. The MVP still called for implementing custom software and underlying infrastructure. Consequently, the MVP costs for such an innovative solution can be significantly higher due to the complex requirements.
Factor 3: Intended platforms
Generally, developing a mobile application is more expensive compared to a web application. It is usually due to the fact that mobile platforms call for more intricate features and have to meet higher safety and security requirements to be approved by app stores. Moreover, mobile developers have to balance functionality against the limited capabilities of mobile devices, which might call for more specialized developer skills.
Web apps, in turn, can be built using content management systems and web application builders even without much technical expertise.
When it comes to developing embedded applications, their MVP costs tend to be higher as the total cost of developing such an app is additionally affected by the cost of hardware and firmware, as well as more complex customization and integration.
Factor 4: Technologies applied
The choice of technology for front-end and back-end development, as well as for database development, will impact the final MVP price, too, as different technologies have different levels of complexity and call for different skill sets.
This way, for example, resorting to a popular, well-documented front-end framework, say, React or Vue.js, is likely to be less expensive compared to a less common or a more complex one. The same goes for back-end and database development. Similarly, customizing existing technologies or developing custom solutions from scratch gets more expensive than relying on off-the-shelf technologies.
Infrastructure costs are a substantial component of MVP pricing, too. Server, storage, bandwidth, scaling — these and other costs have to be accounted for when estimating MVP pricing. To put it into perspective, IoT solutions typically rely on cloud infrastructures. Such solutions generate a considerable volume of data that needs to be processed, stored, and managed — often in real time, which can turn out to be quite pricey. To optimize MVP development costs, it is essential to set up the infrastructure in an optimal way, say, adjusting the number of server calls and configuring data caching.
Needless to say that developing an innovative solution featuring AI, IoT, RPA, or other modern tech requires more investments than crafting, say, a messaging app — calling for a noticeable increase in MVP pricing.
Factor 5: Target industry
Certain industries, like healthcare or banking, have specific compliance requirements that any software must meet in order to be approved for use in that sector.
It translates into a more extensive planning phase, often with external subject matter experts involved. Additionally, software solutions for regulated industries require special approaches to data management and call for fail-proof security. Consequently, the cost of developing an MVP for a regulated industry is more expensive compared to crafting a solution for the general use.
Certification is also considered a major factor behind the cost of industry-specific software. The numbers might get even higher for devices. For example, as we’ve pointed out in our article shedding light on the costs of IoT, the price of a certificate for a simple electronic gadget (including devices that rely on wireless connectivity) starts from $10,000.
Similarly, developing an MVP for a highly competitive industry, will end up being more expensive due to the need for more research and development resources required to stand out in a saturated market.
Factor 6: Project size
Software development projects fall into several categories depending on the planned scope of work, which influences MVP pricing, too:
Small projects. Limited in scope and complexity, small-scale projects are usually of short duration and do not take up more than three months. These projects do not require learning new technology and in practice are often limited to tweaking and tuning an existing solution.
Medium projects. Typically lasting from three to six months, medium-sized projects usually feature a set of well-defined deliverables and presuppose building a standalone solution, rather than introducing tweaks. Some unfamiliar work might be involved.
Large or enterprise-grade projects. Taking up from six months to several years, these projects typically presuppose building solutions that require integration with multiple systems and have security and database components. They often call for more rigorous security, error handling, and logging features. Project risks are medium to high.
Factor 7: Team composition, skill level, and hourly rates
MVP development cost depends on the size and composition of the software development team, as well as the rates of the team members.
Depending on the project scope, the team for MVP development can span from the minimum of three people for small-scale projects to the optimum of six for medium-scale projects and even more for enterprise-grade implementations.
The experience and expertise of the team members is another factor contributing to the final MVP cost. Naturally, junior specialists with less than two years of experience are less costly to hire than mid- and senior-level specialists with up to five and more than five years of experience respectively.
The hiring model influences the cost of MVP as well. Assembling and sustaining in-house teams is typically more expensive than partnering with an MVP development services provider. Though the cost for the latter can vary, too, depending on the team’s location.
As we’ve shown in our blog post about estimating the cost of software development, the median developer hourly rates vary as follows depending on the region:
Factor 8: Integrations with third-party systems
It is rarely so that a software solution operates in isolation. Most likely, you will have to integrate your software with enterprise systems and third-party services. Take a delivery application. To offer a pleasant user experience, it would need to be synced with maps, an ecommerce store’s database, a payment system, and even a weather app. The number and complexity of the planned integrations will affect the cost of MVP development.
And while some services and systems provide convenient, easy to use APIs, others (say, legacy enterprise systems) require coming up with custom integration solutions that may take up more development effort and time.
So, how much does an MVP cost?
Take a peek at some projects from the ITRex portfolio.
Project 1. AI-powered litter box catering for cats’ health
Short description: The innovative solution helps pet lovers gain insight into their pets’ wellbeing by examining cats’ feces with customly trained AI algorithms.
The smart litter box is equipped with a proximity sensor and smart camera. The proximity sensor detects a cat in a box, while the smart camera records the defecation process and sends the footage to the cloud for further processing.
Cloud-based AI algorithms analyze the footage and make predictions about a cat’s health based on cat behavior, defecation time, as well as feces consistency and color. The information about a cat’s wellbeing, along with recommendations on improving its health, is then sent over to the cat owner’s mobile app.
Duration: 2,5 to 3 months
MVP cost: $84,270 – $104,105
Project 2. OCR solution for a logistics company automating document processing
Short description: The application allows the client’s employees to save time spent on manual document processing.
The goal of the project was to develop an optical character recognition (OCR) solution that would recognize and index batches of incoming documents and seamlessly integrate the solution into the customer’s existing document processing system.
Duration: 2 months
MVP cost: ~$82,000
Project 3. AI-powered art generator
Short description: The client, a renowned visual artist, approached ITRex to create a proof of concept for an AI solution capable of generating new paintings based on his existing works. The solution needed to be completed within a six-week timeframe — in time for an upcoming exhibition.
In the initial development phase, a team of two machine learning engineers and a full-stack engineer crafted a full-screen web application and integrated it with Midjourney, an AI service specializing in image generation. The solution had the ability to produce high-resolution, 1,024 x 1,024 visuals, all based on the input images fed into the underlying neural network.
Looking ahead, given that the proof of concept is well-received at the exhibition, we’re planning to further enhance the solution. This might involve architectural changes, such as transitioning from a locally deployed AI engine to a cloud-based infrastructure.
Duration: 1,5 months
MVP cost: ~$50,000
Project 4: Post-ambulatory care solution
Short description: A startup with the goal of becoming a leading middleware provider for post-clinical patient care across the USA approached ITRex to craft a solution that would improve post-ambulatory rehabilitation.
The solution is centered around receiving a patient’s electronic medical records from their care provider, conducting a comprehensive analysis, crafting an optimal post-discharge care plan, as well as coordinating appointments with relevant specialists.
The MVP version is designed for simplicity and does not yet include a back office. Consequently, such features as statistical analysis and settings are planned for further releases.
Duration: 2 months
MVP cost: ~$60-65 thousand
To sum it up
Determining MVP costs involves considering various factors, such as the project’s audience, intended platforms, technology choices, and more. However, the ultimate cost of developing an MVP is unique to each project.