Building a startup from scratch is a complex and labor-intensive process. From coming up with the right idea to bringing the concept to life and attracting users, there are many aspects to consider and pitfalls to navigate before you can present your product to the world.
The execution strategy, namely the product definition stage, is often overlooked by first-time apptrepreneurs. They rush into the development without full understanding of the possible consequences that can arise from poor implementation.
Having worked with startups for the last 7 years, we at Eastern Peak have helped create a number of products from scratch. This helped us better understand the process itself and have come up with proven strategies and practices for building successful startups.
One of such practices is building a proof of concept or prototype before getting down to the development. What does each of these concepts mean and how do you choose the right approach for your startup? Let’s start with the definitions.
Proof of concept vs. prototype: How to differentiate?
What is a POC?
A proof of concept (POC) is a small project used to verify if a certain concept can be implemented (both in terms of a business model and technical capabilities). This proof of concept definition clearly states the purpose of such projects as well as hints for possible use cases.
For example, POC development can be useful if you want to build your app around an innovative technology or integrate it with a certain third-party tool/system and need to make sure the technologies are actually capable of doing what you expect them to do. So, you can develop a POC with a generic design (basically without the design) just to verify your assumption. This application is often referred to as a proof of technology.
Another common use case for POC development is through business model testing by using existing tools or by processing and executing requests manually. For example, before you build a mobile app or website, you can roll out a pilot that offers on-demand services via SMS or by using available chat platforms. By processing and executing requests manually, and using available tools and resources, you better understand which users need your product, and how to best implement it.
Thus, a POC project can be based on simple research and data analysis, and can rely more on hands-on activities (surveys and polls, development efforts, building a new business model around the existing tools, or operating it manually).
Interactive visual prototype
Interactive visual prototype is a clickable model of the end product, visualizing the app design and user flow of the app rather than actual features. In other words, you can see and interact with a prototype on a basic level and understand how your product will look from an end users perspective without the need to write a single line of code.
Interactive prototype is usually created at the end of the product definition stage, before implementation. This allows a client to actually try an app out, and for you to gather initial feedback (usually involving friends and family, not a general audience). Thus, you can polish the concept and finalize the implementation requirements before making any substantial investments.
There are many tools that allow you to upload designed app screens, add interactions, and see how the app will look and feel on a device. Probably, the most popular of them is InVision app.
At Eastern Peak, we usually include visual prototype as integral part of the product definition stage.
3 reasons why a startup should develop a prototype
- Get feedback early. An interactive prototype is a vivid representation of what the future product will be. You can test your product internally and get valuable insights on usability and features (risk-free and on budget!).
- Identify and avoid possible mistakes in development. A prototype can help you visualize your concept and mold the scope and functionality of your product before any of the features are implemented in the code. It’s a perfect chance to pinpoint potential design issues and to make sure the final result will meet your expectations.
- Get your startup funded. By adding a visual prototype to your startup pitch, you increase your chances for success: It is always better to show rather than to tell. This is how investors can really get a good feel for how your app will look, while also providing them with the opportunity to try it for themselves. Moreover, when compared to an MVP, a prototype is a much more affordable option for a startup in the pre-seed stage.
MVP vs. prototype: from concept to implementation
Minimum viable product (MVP) is a fully functional product that has enough features for it to be shipped to its first users.
While the prototype is typically created at the project definition stage, an MVP takes your product from concept to reality. Despite being the bare-bones version of your product, it still requires some development effort and investment. It is used to represent a basic version of the product to a small number of early adopters, gather their feedback, and further improve the product.
Read more on how to create an MVP that can get your startup funded.
As one of the basic concepts of the Lean philosophy, MVP development offers a number of benefits and these include
- Reasonable investment. Having limited functionality, MVP development is reasonably priced.
- Fast time to market. MVP development requires significantly less time than building a full-featured app.
- Reduced risks. An MVP is initially released to a limited number of users (usually, closed beta). Even if the product fails, you can simply start over, taking the previous mistakes into account in order to improve the next one.
- Increased flexibility. It is relatively easy to scale an MVP, introduce enhancements, or pivot and change your initial concept completely if the pilot project fails.
What are the most common mistakes startups make when building an MVP and how to avoid them? Find the answers here.
Where to start?
While the listed strategies serve a similar purpose, i.e. validating your concept before you go all in on the development, the use cases and possible results bear a unique value.
A POC verifies that your product can possibly be built.
A prototype shows how it should be built.
An MVP proves that the final product should be built (it has the market viability and will be actually valuable for users).
That is why the best strategy would be to combine all of the listed approaches, applying them at different stages of the process.
Thus, you will be able to increase your chances for success, as well as improve the transparency within your team: The developers, your internal team, and the stakeholders will all be in-sync, tracking the progress, taking part in the development process, and contributing to the product’s success.
Combining unique business expertise and some of the best engineering talent, we at Eastern Peak have helped a number of global startups successfully launch their products. Contact us now to receive a personal consultation and have our dedicated team build your product from the ground up.