Have you ever thought about a lifesaving minimum viable product?

I know someone that not only thought about it, but successfully created and evolved a lifesaving minimum viable product (MVP).

On ScrumDayChile 2015 conference I had the pleasure to meet Eduardo Labarca and hear his mine robot MVP story.

Eduardo told me about his entrepreneur career, and how much the lean concepts (especially MVP) helped him on his latest success story.

A few years ago, Eduardo and his team were about to build a full-fledge product solution for a Chilean mine company. One of the mining company pain point was the danger some of its workers would face when entering some dangerous mine tunnels (underneath heavy stones and mine pillars) to investigate the situation.

Eduardo and his team had great knowledge on robotics and automation. Originally, they had thought about the creation of an autonomous robot that would enter the tunnel, collect the data (mostly photos and video) and return to a base.

Instead, they followed a lean MVP approach. Their first business hypothesis was if the miners would use a manual device to help them visualize stuff at dangerous tunnel spots.

MVP1 was a simple a stick with a camera attached to it. Its cost was 100 dollars, and it was built in less than a week. It was simple and effective for validating an important business hypothesis: yes, the mining workers would use a device to help them looking at tunnels.

MVP2 helped them validating the next business hypothesis: Miners would use a remote controlled vehicle to help them visualize the tunnels.

MVP2 was a simple kid’s remote control car (after removing the unnecessary parts) with a GoPro camera attached to it. The tunnel would be videotaped, and then miners would look at it afterwards, connecting the camera to a computer. An important learning was that miners wanted to see the video and photos real time. The idea of first collecting data, and then looking at it later did not prove itself. The learning: miners want to control the small vehicle and visualize photos and video real time.

On MVP3, a tablet device was used for real time visualization. Bingo! Miners loved it.


And just like that, from MVP to MVP, the product kept evolving via hypothesis validation.

Below is a photo of Eduardo holding MVP7.

mine robot MVP7

mine robot MVP7

On further conversations with Eduardo, he told me that their product is simple and effective. It is already profitable and saving lives at the Chilean miners. It is not what he and his team originally thought off. But it is what the miners needed.