If you are new to the world of startups, entrepreneurship and product creation, you are likely to come across terms such as proof of concept, prototype or minimum viable product (commonly referred to as MVP), which are often used interchangeably. This often leads to confusion and, if you are a rookie founder, it may also lead you to make the wrong decision as to where to start with your product. That is why we’ve crafted a handy guide to help you choose wisely.
Let’s jump right in by defining each term and its implications.
Proof of Concept (PoC)
A proof of concept is usually the right option if what is preventing you from moving forward with development are some technical assumptions. Let’s assume you want to check if a particular framework would work well in your product, or if a feature you want to include in the project is actually feasible from a technical standpoint.
You want to be able to validate this fast enough, and without necessarily having to commit to a big investment for this purpose. With this goal in mind, a PoC should be enough to provide the answers you are looking for. It will not be a scalable product, and it will certainly not be something you can release to the market, but it will help you validate your initial assumptions.
A PoC, while not a fully functional product, is something you could use for an initial fundraising stage. You will not show up empty-handed in front of investors, and you might just get the money you need to build the first version of your product.
If a PoC serves the purpose of validating a technical challenge, a prototype could be regarded as a draft of the final product you’re looking to build. By putting a bigger focus on UX/UI design, a prototype will give you a sense of what the actual product will be like, and it will give you the possibility to showcase it to potential users and investors alike in order to receive feedback.
While a prototype is not something you can take to market, it works well if your key goal is to have beta testers give a try and let you know their thoughts on it. This feedback comes in really handy before you begin building the product you will actually release in the market, and is likely to set you up for success if you’ve done your research right.
If we think of this in terms of a process, the minimum viable product could be regarded as stage zero. By now all you have done is prepare the ground, and you will now lay the foundations of your product.
Containing the minimum set of features needed to actually add value to potential users, the goal of an MVP is to create a fully functional product that is ready to go to market, all while keeping things as lean as possible, both in terms of time & budget.
We’re big fans of the MVP concept around here, but at the same time we understand it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. At this point you’re probably wondering which of these three options is best for you but, before you can answer that, there are other questions you need to ask yourself:
- Are there any technical challenges you must solve before you can begin with the full development process?
- Have you had positive feedback from potential users? Have you actually had people tell you their thoughts on your concept at all?
- Are you planning to meet potential investors before rolling out a full product?
Bottomline is, if you want to make sure you are 100% covered on the technical side, a PoC is the best option for you. If you want to work a bit more on the visuals and get feedback from potential users, a prototype might be a better option, whereas an MVP is the way to go if you are ready to hit the market.
Give this a good thought and define what the best option is for you at this point in time, and always remember: if you've got a solid idea, the time to bring it to life is now!