Wizard of Oz - An MVP

Posted by Isabella Pedraza Pineros on November 02, 2022 · 2 mins read

Today’s lecture reminded me of a hilarious real-life experience of using the “Wizard of Oz” method.

I’ve worked with startups since my freshman year, having seen the process of seed funding, being in a Techstars incubator, Series A funding, and now, ramping up to Series B funding.

Some context: the startup I was working for at the time was in the midsts of the Techstars incubator and building out their MVP. However, in order to onboard industry experts to be interested in our product (and perhaps provide funding or advice), we needed to demo the functionality of our MVP without having fully implemented the backend yet.

This lead to one the most stressful, but also funniest, moments of my life in startups.

We were ramping up to perform a demo of the product, and somehow, I was assigned as the team lead for this “Wizard of Oz” moment. I ended up having to lead “practice rounds” with the entire team, having the founders “perform the demo,” and frantically putting together a result by hand with the rest of the team.

The way this would work would be:

  1. The user would submit a photo
  2. We would show a “Processing” screen in the meanwhile
  3. Our founders would distract the user with details about the MVP, potential use cases, etc.
  4. The rest of the team, including myself, would be performing manual analyses on this photo
  5. After a maximum of 5 minutes, we would return this result as a “automated” email to the user
  6. The user would review the results

As you can imagine, the logistics of this were a nightmare – but somehow, we pulled it off!

I remember the celebration we had after that demo – it was grand old time. We were all still forced to be virtual due to COVID restrictions, but I promise you, that Zoom was “lit.”

To summarize, the “Wizard of Oz” technique is actually more common than most people think, and its actually used in industry (especially with startups).

Just for Fun

Great song to go with this post: