Testing Out your Idea: MVP vs PoC vs Prototype

Testing out an idea for a new product is always a challenge for companies and building an entire enterprise around that idea is tricky for startups.
But not every startup idea succeeds neither does every new product meet its starry expectations.
The reasons could be many- building something that wasn’t needed in the first place, not being able to emulate the vision into the product, or the idea did not flow correctly through the hierarchy.
To avoid such pitfalls and save themselves from erroneous decisions, businesses and startups employ testing measures for their ideas at different levels of the process like- MVP, PoC and Prototype.

The tech and entrepreneurial world are known for being obsessed with its jargon.
There are so many words that are a part of their everyday lives but might seem confusing to someone who is new to all this.

Similarly, Proof of Concept. Prototypes and MVP are different terms but sometimes used interchangeably, although wrongly.
Through this blog, I will attempt to clear the difference between these terms that can allow you to choose better when it comes to testing your idea.

Proof of Concept :

Proof of Concept is needed to judge the viability of the product/idea in clear terms.
At the end of the presentation of the PoC, the team should be on the same page about the doability of the project with a Yes or a No. Nothing in-between.

This is helpful in the very initial stages of the idea approval phase. It is generally used for businesses internally. Let me give you an example, you are working for a medium or large scale organization and have an idea for an app that could help scale up sales. To present the concept to your bosses, you can use the PoC method to get a Go-Ahead from them.

The PoC includes very naturally:

  • An identification of the existing problem
  • A business model/canvas that aims to solve it.
  • A clear answer to “Will this work?”

Typically, every business starts from a PoC. In terms of app development, mainly, PoC is not the raw model of your app it is preferably a validation of your idea.

The advantage this method gives is that you can have your PoC ready at a fraction of the cost from your MVP and way lower price than the actual app, at the same time giving a concrete structure to your idea. You can trust Applify to create a convincing PoC for your idea.



Image source: Mockplus

A prototype is the visual representation of the idea from where it goes into development. For tech products, it refers to how the app/website looks, feels and shows its primary functions without being able to perform them.

So, as you can guess, a prototype is a validating process during the initial stages of work on the project. It is a simulation.

The purpose of the prototype is to understand how the final product would look like and make amends to the features before it goes into the development phase. This proves to be highly helpful to incorporate early change requests, modify and resolve any discrepancies between the desired product and the actual one.

Minimum Viable Product:

Also called a pilot sometimes, the Minimum Viable Product, as the name suggests is a product and not representation. It can be released into the market and can be used by the customers. But it is built with just enough features which can be used to satisfy the earliest customers.

The purpose behind creating an MVP is to:

  • Gather feedback from the early adopters (end-users)
  • Reduce wastage of engineering hours
  • Build credibility of the creators
  • Understand the scope of the project

Some times, startups secure funding from venture capitalists for their ideas through their MVP. Their MVP may even succeed in garnering an early client base.

The idea behind MVP is that instead of spending years and a significant amount of money creating a vast project that might fail, build something smaller, with minimal functionality and show it to people and check its actual potential. Once it has a positive response, build on it with time.
But the purpose of an ideal MVP should not be to demonstrate mere basic functionality but to provide the overall feel of the product at a smaller level.

Jussi Pasanen’s MVP Pyramid Model beautifully illustrates this point.


On the left, we have the broad “many features, none of them good” approach. On the right, we have the “fewer features, all of them delightful” approach.

Do you always have to have a PoC or MVP?

Prototypes become a part of the design process pretty much as a necessity so no question about it. But will you compulsorily need a PoC and an MVP?
I’d say it depends.
For software ideas that are brand new and never heard of, testing them out before you go all in does become necessary if you want to take calculated risks.
We tend to become defensive about our ideas and look at it through rose-tinted glasses. Having a PoC will help other people come on board with confidence and an MVP’s success will validate it externally too.

But if you have something like an instant messaging app or an on-demand food delivery app- that has been seen and done you might want to skip having an MVP for it and would want to focus more on its marketing strategy and making it unique as to survive the intense competition.

All the three techniques are a small scale investment into the project, but the payoffs are enormous. Just knowing when to do what is the key.

Snigdha Sachar is an engineer by qualification, policy-enthu by passion and chai-advocate as a freelancer. She is a part of the Management team at Applify.

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