The Perfect MVP: what's in the name?

The Perfect MVP is where Tobi Ogunnaike writes essays about building the future in a responsible way.

What’s in a name?

If you work in tech, you know the name “The Perfect MVP” is an oxymoron. MVPs are prototypes that are functional but far from production-ready. They give the builders an idea of how their product might interact in the real world. Is the idea feasible? Will customers use the thing? MVPs help answer these questions.

An MVP can’t be perfect because then it wouldn’t be a minimum viable product.

So why choose this name?

The current tech landscape is an MVP. There are many promising and productive parts but there are some serious limitations and usability concerns. We have a few massive monopolistic empires that choose when they want to act like governments and when to act like companies. We built engines that governments use to lie to their citizens at scale. We engineered recommendation engines that radicalise people until they become murderers.

But we also did amazing things. At a fingertip, we have access to an incredible array of online education and entertainment- the kind that Kings of yesteryear would have killed for. While we rightly lament Zoom fatigue, it is obviously a blessing that we’re able to video-call with anyone anywhere for free. And if you live in a big city in the Western world, Amazon, Doordash or UberEats will deliver anything legal to your doorstep.

The Perfect MVP is an intentional juxtaposition of two opposing attributes that are necessary. We need to be more “perfect” because the stakes are so high when our innovations shape our habits, public health and safety, what people perceive as truth, what people talk about and how people view themselves. The “move fast and break things” era is done. It turns out it’s not a good idea to leave broken shards of glass lying around the bare feet of society. Yet we need MVPs as the iterative product development cycle is so innate to innovation in tech. Small startups in particular need rapid feedback loops from customers, otherwise they can’t compete against the bigger tech companies who have infinitely more resources.

In this newsletter, I’ll talk about how we can make tech better so we have more of the good and less of the bad. I plan to publish every two weeks. Welcome, I hope you find my words useful.

Who is this Tobi? And why should you care what I say?

I’m a Software Engineer who did not study computer science. My journey into tech features pitstops - from working as a biotech lab researcher to being an engineer in a chocolate factory - that together have given me a unique perspective on what we call technology. From the lab to the factory to the terminal, I’ve been fortunate to see the development of technology across different scales, dimensions and on three different continents. (You get a prize for guessing which three).

Outside of work, I love to cook, play soccer and construct alliterative triads.

Ok. What are you up to these days?

In February 2021, I’ll be a Cohort Leader for this Stanford course for tech professionals. We’ll be discussing what can and should be done in response to ethical issues faced by tech companies from content moderation to the power of private platforms to algorithmic accountability and much more.

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