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a student affairs entrepreneur who hates the word entrepreneur

Hamilton’s Minimum Viable Product

I didn't want to write this. I figured some other startup hipster would have already written it. I Googled for 10 minutes and found nothing. Sigh. I guess I will have to be the startup hipster who writes this.

Since its inception in New York, Hamilton has done a #Ham4Ham lottery for each show. If you're one of the 20 or so lottery winners, you only pay $10 for a seat in the first few rows. You pay a Hamilton to see Hamilton. For a few months, my wife and I tried to win lottery tickets to the Chicago production, and last week we finally won!

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It was a great show and I now understand the fanaticism surrounding Hamilton. Out of curiosity, I investigated Lin-Manuel Miranda's process of creating the musical.

In the world of entrepreneurship, people who want to start a new business ideally create a "Minimum Viable Product", or an MVP. An MVP is the smallest version of a product that can still provide value. We did this in our first year at Roompact with Roommate Agreements. Roommate Agreements used to be our only feature, but now that feature only represents about 5% of what our entire software suite does.

It's smart to start with an MVP. It would be hasty to invest a lot of time and money in a big product. You don't even know if people are interested yet. So the first step is to see if they want a small part of the big vision. It's a way of testing the market while keeping your risk as low as possible.

Lin did this with Hamilton. In the Summer of 2009, he performed one simple song called "Alexander Hamilton" at The White House:

After the event, the YouTube video went viral. Millions of people viewed it. Many of them talked about it on social media. People were hooked on the little bit of Hamilton that they saw. Lin knew he was on to something.

Over the next six years, he and his team contributed tens of thousands of hours and $12.5 million dollars into producing a full-fledged musical that hit Broadway in the summer of 2015.

Hamilton has been a wild success. I'm sure that deep down, Lin isn't too surprised. He tested the market. He knew people would say yes to this musical. While spending so much time and money on something is always risky, Lin reduced much of that risk by releasing a Minimum Viable Product.

Matt Unger

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Chicago

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