Minimum Viable Category Design Part 3

Posted: 11 Jun 2019

A practical guide to help founders think product-first, not product-only

At the end of the two sessions of the workshop, you have identified a strong new category with large potential. You have found a compelling name and expressed it through a powerful Point Of View and mapped it out visually in the category ecosystem.

After the workshop

The last chapter of the design process is to verify your proof of category concept. I suggest using small exercises to test the category design with your product team, your customers, your investors. First, you check the fit with the product. Second, you reverse engineer the category concept with fake PR. Third, you build a category proof fundraising pitch.


The new category should feel like a liberating force. It should set a true north capable of inspiring new, wider and bold product developments. Or, instead, does it feel confining the scope to a niche proposition?

21. How does the new category drive future product vision?

22. What does the new category driven product roadmap look like?

23. What are the new product functionalities?


A lesson from Amazon’s product development teams:

Iterating on a press release is a lot quicker and less expensive than iterating on the product itself.

For new product development, there is an approach called “working backwards” that is widely used at Amazon. A product manager writes a “fake” internal press release announcing the finished product. We can apply this hack to new Category development. Here’s an example outline for the press release:

  • Heading — Name the Category in a way the reader (i.e. your target customers) will understand.
  • Sub-Heading — Describe who the Category is for and what benefit they get. One sentence only underneath the title.
  • Summary — Give a summary of the Category (category= defining different solution) and the benefit. Assume the reader will not read anything else so make this paragraph super good.
  • Problem — Describe the problem your product solves.
  • Solution — Describe how your product uniquely solves the problem.
  • Quote from You — A quote from the founder CEO.
  • How to Get Started — Describe how easy it is to get started.
  • Customer Quote — Provide a quote from a hypothetical customer that describes how they experienced the benefit.
  • Closing and Call to Action — Wrap it up and give pointers where the reader should go next.

You can then test the reception of these key messages with prospective customers by sending the PR to them, or by running a focus group or through a micro ad campaign on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Different approaches to test the new category narrative I saw successfully implemented are:

  • a blog post which summarises the Point Of View
  • create a Facebook ad

Rinse and repeat.


Review your last fundraising pitch under the lens of Category Design. Turn the traditional pitch strategy into a Category Design strategy. Run through it with your team first, then with a fellow founder and with your existing VC.

Wrap up

The MVCD canvass.

Once you are confident of these category tests, summarise the minimum viable category design outputs in the MVCD canvass.

Category design at scale.

Once the category has gained momentum inside the company and the initial customers, then it is ready for a deeper execution.

This involves the product and marketing teams and results in an action plan made of marketing activities (lightning strikes) to condition the industry about the new category. The nature of these actions depends on the type of business. A fitness consumer company will plan for different lightning strikes compared to a SaaS fintech company. The magnitude of the strikes depends on the stages and the resources of the company.

Now the category journey is ongoing and the category flywheel will spin. The best team for the advanced stage “at scale” is the CEO and their leadership team supported by a best-in-class category design consultant and advisors for guiding and coaching.

That’s is it!

Enjoy MVCDing and good luck! 👊

Thanks to the awesome founders of EduMe, Our Path and Settled for experimenting with me on the minimum viable workshop and for providing insightful feedback.

Thanks to Team Connect for pushing me to finally blog this out. And for helping me through multiple reviews to improve concepts, fluidity and grammar (OK, I confess, not the goofy images. These are 100% my choice).