POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP: What Suits Your Startup Most?

May 10, 2022
5 min

Tatsiana Kerimova

CEO & Co-founder

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Building successful digital products requires a mix of innovations and proven mobile app development methods. When researching a new startup idea, the first thing is to check its feasibility and estimate the budget. 

Many startup owners get confused when choosing the tools to test their ideas. A proof of concept (POC), a prototype, and a minimum viable product (MVP) all help assess the viability of the app idea before making a significant investment. Let’s explore the differences between a POC, a prototype, and an MVP. 

What Is Proof of Concept?

A proof of concept or POC is a business approach used for validating product assumptions and checking the technological feasibility of your future product. 

From the perspective of mobile app development, a proof of concept is the first step toward turning an idea into a successful product. The primary goal of a POC is to check if it’s possible to develop such a product and what resources it will require. 

With a POC, you can find out whether your app idea is viable or not. A negative reply will save you tons of time and prevent wasting your resources on a potentially unviable project. The POC’s results are intended for internal use; they aren’t meant to be shared with users. 

POCs are used to validate the core functionality of your software product. If an app is complex, there can be several POCs, each testing part of the functionality. While creating a POC, user experience is pushed aside since it takes lots of time and effort to build an optimal user experience. 

A POC can be organized in the form of a document, presentation, or demo. In most cases, it’s used to prove the viability of your solution to investors and to raise funds. As a rule, a POC contains at least the following information:

  • Business analysis
  • Projected financials
  • Competitor research 
  • Customer feedback
  • Go-to-market strategy

A POC is similar to a pitch, but it’s not that. Its primary goal is not to entice investors with all that marketing hype. On the contrary, it’s supposed to prove to investors that the market really needs the following product and that the idea will have positive ROI. 

Why Do You Need a POC?

A POC is an important part of the software development process and can help prevent your product from ending up in the dustbin. In the eagerness to go to market asap, many startups rush through the product discovery phase and skip the POC process. But that’s a big mistake. Here are a few reasons why you need a POC:

  • Attract investors. Investors tend to invest in proven ideas. A POC can show them that there is a market need for your product and that its ROI is positive.
  • Save time. A POC allows you to find out from a technical perspective whether your product can be implemented in a short period of time. 
  • Increase the chances of commercial success. A well-developed POC can help you come up with a unique feature that will revolutionize the market. You can also test various technologies and stay ahead of your competitors. 
  • Make the right choice. Developing a fully functioning product requires tons of time and financial resources. A POC allows for setting out the entire process in advance and helps you understand what development approach to leverage.  

What Is a Prototype?

A prototype is used to showcase your app flow from one screen to another and how it would look to users. 

A prototype is a visual representation of your future app. At this stage, product design begins to take shape. A prototype is not the same as a proof of concept. While a POC is about the technical side of the project, prototyping deals with UX/UI. The primary goal of a prototype is to show how the product will look and feel. Building a prototype helps designers, developers, and product owners align their vision for the design of the product. 

Prototypes help the team understand what UI elements should be added and how users are going to interact with the app. It’s an early model of a product that can be tested and reworked until the desired results are achieved. Prototypes can take different forms, from pen-and-paper wireframes to clickable digital versions. 

Why Do You Need a Prototype?

Prototyping can become extremely useful when project requirements still lack some details. Creating mockup screens allows you to see and feel what your product is going to look like. Here are some more benefits that a prototype can provide to your startup:

  • Raise funds. A prototype can help you convince investors to back your products. Instead of long speeches, prototypes can visualize your idea. 
  • Polish your app idea. Prototypes allow for running dozens of tests and making as many changes to your design and user experience as needed to get the desired results. 
  • Save time and money. Prototypes help you determine design flows before developing a fully functional app. They can prevent rework and unnecessary expense.
  • Early feedback. Since creating prototypes doesn’t require lots of time, you can test your idea with users faster and get feedback from real people. This allows you to identify the weak points, fix them, and continue with development. 

What Is a Minimum Viable Product?

A minimum viable product (MVP) does not have a single definition. It can vary depending on the project. From the perspective of mobile app development, an MVP is a fully functioning app but with only the core functionality that can satisfy users’ needs. 

An MVP can help you check the user’s reactions, how they accept your product, what they like, and what they expect to get with future updates. The main goal of an MVP is to collect and analyze feedback and user-generated data. With every version of the MVP, you can study your users and further improve your solution. The iteration process leads to a full-fledged product that meets the users' needs and solves your audience’s pain points. 

If you launched your startup with a proof of concept and then created a prototype, building an MVP is your next step. Note, “minimal features” don’t mean simple or inferior. MVPs should be unique, high quality, and well performing in order to attract early adopters and satisfy their needs. 

Why Do You Need an MVP?

MVPs allow for launching a product with minimal features and iterating your product based on user feedback. They help map out your product fit. Here are some other benefits of MVPs:

  • Collect feedback from real users. They’re a great way to find out what users think about your product and to improve it based on real feedback. 
  • Get your first users. Though an MVP isn’t a full-fledged product, you can launch it and start acquiring your early paying users to support your further growth.
  • Save your resources. Building an MVP doesn’t require developing all of the features, so the development work is reduced. An MVP lets you introduce gradual product expansion. Moreover, the collected user feedback allows for building a clear product roadmap and development path.

POC vs Prototype vs MVP: How to Choose the Right Approach?

Every mobile app development project is unique and requires different approaches. There is no success formula that can suit every project. Some business ideas need to go through all three stages of idea development to ensure the desired results. 

POC vs Prototype vs MVP

Choosing the right approach to mobile app development depends on the development stage and the amount of data and resources you have. You can implement these approaches for various purposes at different stages of app development. Note that they aren’t interchangeable. A POC cannot substitute for a prototype, nor can an MVP. Here’s a short checklist to help you choose the most appropriate way to get your app developed:

When does your startup need a proof of concept?

You should build a proof of concept when you need to:

  • Check the feasibility of your business idea
  • Raise funds at the pre-seed stage
  • Map out the development plan 

When does your startup need a prototype?

You’ll know to do a prototype when you’re ready to:

  • Refine your design
  • Test user experience and app flows 
  • Attract Round A investors

When does your startup need an MVP?

Finally, an MVP is the way to go when it’s time to:

  • Get real feedback from early users 
  • Gauge the demand and market fit 
  • Attract first paying customers 

POC vs Prototype vs MVP: Key Differences

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:Answer the question|Purpose|Best to use|Implementation|Target audience|Time-effectiveness|Cost-effectiveness|Fund-raising level|Further use

POC:Is my app idea technically feasible?|Validating the technical feasibility of the product|When the concept is new to the market|Tech document|Internal use only|Several days to several weeks|Allows getting internal funding with a small budget|Pre-seed/seed|Can be used to build an MVP

Prototype:How will my product look like? How will users use it?|Narrow the design idea and find the optimal screen flow|When you need to find seed investors|Clickable prototype that doesn’t require coding|Stakeholders and/or investors|2 weeks to 1 month|Needs a minimum budget|Seed/Round A|Can be used for app design 

MVP:Will my product be viable?|Validate the market fit of the product|When you need to get to the market fast|A fully functioning app with core features|Potential customers and/or investors|2 months to 6 months|Needs an estimated budget and allows finding an investor|Round A+|Can serve as a basis for the full version of the product

1 ending table

Final Note 

Mobile app development is like an investigation with a vision in mind. It starts with laying down the foundation with a POC or a prototype that leads to an MVP and the full version of the product. Each stage has an important role in the process of app idea validation. 

A POC can help you understand the product’s technical feasibility. Prototypes provide a visual representation of your app idea and allow you to narrow your design concept and finalize the user flow. And an MVP lets you get to the market at lightning speed and test your app idea with real users. Early feedback can help you choose the right direction for your product and get a clear understanding of the market. 

Do you have an app idea but have no clue where and how to start? Contact us, and let’s build amazing apps together. 

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