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POC vs. MVP vs. Prototype: The Strategy Closest to Product Market Fit

By Prateek Saxena
September 16, 2019 8. min read
Last update on: June 30, 2021

Product Market Fit – the term coined by Marc Andreessen and popularized by Sean Ellis is a marketing concept that has grown to be applied by a number of startups, globally.

The most no-nonsense way to understand its meaning is that if a product is being liked by a market which is demanding the product heavily, the product’s parent company has achieved a product market fit. 

While the definition paints a picture of nothing less than a utopia, the reality is that there are very limited ways to achieve this utopia. And the ways come packed with confusions. 

The three confusion-clouded ways that help entrepreneurs reach the product market fit are: Proof Of Concept, Prototype, and Minimum Viable Product. 

The major confusion that surrounds these three app viability check strategies is what separates them from each other and which one would get them closest to achieving the product market fit utopia before their competitors act on the idea. 

The intent of this article is to solve the confusion and help you decide which strategy to go with to achieve a product market fit in your app industry. 

But before you even get to the point of making a decision between POC vs minimum viable product vs prototype, there are a few things that you should keep into consideration:

  1. Who is your target audience?
  2. What are you trying to validate?

POC vs. MVP vs. Prototype: The Concept 

POC (Proof of Concept)

As the name denotes, POC (Proof of Concept) is an approach which businesses use to validate the idea or the feasibility of the concept. The stage comes into existence way before the mobile app development process starts. Here a small project is implemented for verifying if a concept can be implemented on the technical capability and business model grounds. 

A mobile app POC is not usually shown to the public or the customers for the main idea behind it is to simply check if the idea is workable or not. 

Prototype

Prototype focuses entirely on showing how an app will flow from one screen to another and how it’d look to the end users. Building a mobile app prototype is one of the most important processes of app development for it uses tools to help with understanding how the app flows, what would be its usability, and what all features must be added in the application.

Minimum Viable Product

What is Minimum Viable Product? MVP is a functional app that comes loaded with the prime features that best represent the application. 

The MVP development process helps in verifying the app feasibility, teams’ assumptions about the application, and its probable usability along with the market demand. When you build a minimum viable product, it ultimately helps in developing an application which is prepared to gather the end-user feedback.

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POC vs MVP vs. Prototype: How to Choose The Best Approach?

The question: which is the best strategy out of the three, in itself is wrong. 

In order to truly achieve a product fit, entrepreneurs cannot choose between the strategies. They will have to either choose one of the strategies, depending on the stage of their application or would have to see them as steps. 

Let us explain both the points in detail. 

Scenario 1: When you are yet to enter the idea validation stage

When you haven’t started with the development of either of the strategies, you are at a stage, which we deem ideal. A stage where you have the time to chart the app validation lifecycle. 

When you are yet to enter the idea validation stage

The benefits of investing in the lifecycle that starts from POC then reaches Prototype before getting to the MVP stage are manifold. 

  1. Rightful Testing of the Concept: The point of developing an application starting with the POC stage and then moving to prototype and MVP is to help check the viability of the idea. It helps entrepreneurs adjust their initial idea on the basis of how their audience reacts. 
  2. Speedy Development: When you go with this approach, your partnered mobile app development agency work with limited features – one which have been market tested. Meaning, there is a lot to profit from in a very little time. 
  3. Low Investment Risk: When you develop an application that has been tested at three stages, you give the investors an assurance that it is risk free. This, in turn, translates to greater investments. 

Scenario 2: When you have entered the idea validation stage 

When you have already entered the idea validation phase, the probability is very less for you to follow a step-by-step process in order to reach product market fit phase. Under this scenario, you will have to make a choice between POC vs Prototype vs MVP.

And the choice will depend on several factors – ones that are enough to be converted into IFTTT scenarios. 

Here are some scenarios to help you make the choice –

Choose MVP When:

  1. When you have to show the customers a working app
  2. When you have to make money out of the application
  3. When you need a bug-free app ready to be used by the world
  4. When you need higher retention at low cost
  5. When you wish to know the market perception to improvise the application

Choose POC When:

  1. When you need seed-stage funding
  2. When you have to check if the idea works, technically
  3. When you are aiming to share internal knowledge among team 
  4. When you want to assess project or the features’ success

Choose Prototype When:

  1. When you want a visualization of how the app would function
  2. When you have limited money and time but you want to show the application to stakeholders
  3. When there is very limited technical availability
  4. When you need an instant look and feel of the application. 

FAQs About POC vs. MVP vs. Prototype

Q. What is the difference between Prototype and MVP?

The primal difference a prototype and an MVP is that the latter is a ready to publish publicly version of an application, while the former is more of a version that is there to test the idea within the internal stakeholders of a company.

Q. What is the difference between a Prototype and a Proof of Concept?

Proof of concept vs Prototype is a comparison of two very different concepts. While POC is merely a set of documents or basic level software used to check the workability of an idea, Prototype is the clickable version software that give stakeholders peek into how the user would move inside an application. 

Q. When to consider building a MVP app?

There are different instances where the MVP development method makes more sense compared to creation of POC or Prototype:

  • When you have to show the customers a working application
  • When you have to make money out of your app
  • When you need a bug-free app ready to be used by the world
  • When you need higher retention at low cost
  • When you wish to know the market perception to improvise the application

Q. What is the difference between POC and MVP?

POC vs MVP is a comparison between a concept and an application that is ready to be published in the stores. While the intent between both the concept is the same – to validate an app idea, the stages in which they make an appearance are very different. 

A proof of concept methodology is the first stage of idea validation – a stage where a small project is implemented for verifying if a concept can be implemented on the technical capability and business model grounds. 

Minimum Viable Product approach, on the other hand, is a functional app that comes loaded with the prime features that best represent the application. This is the major difference between POC and MVP.

Final Note

Product development is like experimenting with a vision in mind. The process starts with placing the foundation right to create a POC and Prototype, supported by MVP. As discussed above, we have tried to erase the thin line between minimum viable product vs proof of concept vs Prototype and their role in validating a product. 

The POC helps clear your doubts about the feasibility of the idea. Prototype clears the doubts about the UX design and look of the product. And, minimum viable product helps gain continuous user feedback that forms the foundation for the full product.

You can choose one or even the combination of three to beat the odds of product development failure! If you have any further inquiries related to POC, Prototype and MVP development services, you can contact MVP app development company to get started. 

Prateek Saxena
Prateek Saxena
DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER
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