What’s the difference: MVP vs PoC vs ProtoType

Posted - April 2, 2019
Developers brainstorming their next big thing

Startups face many challenges as they get closer to launching their final product. Building your vision from Mockups, wireframes to designing user experiences while staying within your budget are critical to getting your product out the door.  A critical next step prior to launch will be to decide on developing a Proof-of-Concept, Prototype, or Minimally Viable Product referred to as an MVP.

At Sparkfish, we have been working with startups across all industries and can guide you through making the right choice.  We will define each type and provide you with some insight as to the right application for each and how each differs. If you can’t decide which one to go with, we’re here to help make your investment a success.


Let’s start with the basic definition and differences of a Proof-of-Concept, PoC, verses a Minimally Viable Product, MVP.  These are two different methods to verify some market assumptions on the use and success of your final product. Each of these has a distinctly different purpose but both with the same intent to prevent costly mistakes or miscalculations.

Deciding on Proof of Concept or MVP or ProtoType

The MVP:

The MVP is the most basic version of your vision. It is meant to meet the business requirements well enough to be a viable product that consumers would use.  It is not packed with awesome features that make it stand out from the crowd yet. It is the first version released into the market and will provide you with confirmation of its value and a glimpse at demand.  

Once the MVP has stood up to the real world and confirmed market demand and value, you can easily seek funding. If you are already funded, you can immediately begin building out the features that will set you apart from your competition.  Many startups fail because they don’t take the time to measure the market and tweak their product respectively. The MVP is a proven way to prevent this type of mis-step.

The Proof-of-Concept:

Now let’s examine the PoC, or Proof-of-Concept. This differs from the MVP in that when you want to prove your product will work from a technical standpoint, build a PoC. This is a software or mobile development effort that will provide the viability from a functional standing. Depending on your product type and market to be served, when technical features and functions are drivers, this is the best course.  And obviously a necessary ingredient to getting the funded you’ll need to Go To Market.

A PoC VS Prototype:

Some might say they these are the same thing but on different scales and that is almost true.

The Proof-of-Concept:

A PoC provides software development teams with the ability to test and/or prove the viability of theories, the ProtoType is much more involved.  If you are not sure if you can build a feature that you want due to technology limitations or platform incompatibilities, or any various technical issues, the PoC is you best tool.  An important business factor is that the time to provide a PoC is much less than a Prototype. Often companies can build a predefined PoC template of sorts that can be easily retrofitted for different tests.

These efforts get their ROI based on lowering the risk of failure from your product launch. More specifically, they help you stay under budget by not wasting custom software development services time building features that won’t withstand high volume usage.  This is also true with Mobile App Development as the same guidelines apply. If you are building cross-platform mobile apps they must have their PoC on the variety of Mobile Devices that your target audience will use.

PoC are commonly used to market test how well the visual design meets the technical requirements that surround the user experience.  The User Experience Design must be highly usable while providing intuitive steps to harness the power of the technology behind it. Mobile and Software applications alike have the same potential risks of failure that can be easily avoided with a low investment PoC.

The ProtoType:

The ProtoType should be used when you need to test your product utilizing multiple features to create an accurate big picture.  There are many products where one feature and/or function are dependent on the other and would serve no value standalone. This is a costly upfront from a software development stance but provides a very clear go forward direction.  At the completion of the ProtoType build and testing, you have actionable data that stretches from design, usability, and deep insights into real world functionality.

MVP VS ProtoType

Building an MVP verses a ProtoType is a complicated choice based on very simple facts and decisions. You can’t go that wrong with either way but that does depend much on your specific scenario.

The MVP:

These are the two most methods of testing in my mind. The differences are much simpler. The MVP is the minimal development effort that can be released into the market. A product viable enough to generate revenue by early adopters. This often will need to be matched with marketing dollars and a press on existing relationships to get them started but it’s a real live launch.  A first day that can be celebrated. The MVP is a polished version of your soon to be well-oiled revenue machine. The known bugs have been hammered out and short of minor compatibility issues, a working product to be consumed by your target audience.

The ProtoType:

The ProtoType is intended to provide the same or similar market data without releasing the product to the general public. This is where you’ll need to lean on  your network and interested early adopters that you’ve met along the way. This is a very hands on method to gathering market data. The ProtoType itself is often a noticeably unfinished product and that is to be expected.  You might think of it as a MVP that is not polished and or presentable to the point you would pay for it. But the core functionality is there to be testing by real world objective audience in a controlled manner.

The Summarized Choice:

With all that we’ve reviewed, you can’t really go wrong by choosing any of these methods. The only way to surely go wrong would be to not choose at least one. This is very important data that needs to be gathered as betting on your idea of vision without market evidence is the most common reason that startups fail.  The second part of this is finding a local partner that you can trust that will share your vision. At Sparkfish, your success is our success and for the last 15+ years we have helped launch countless startup product.

It starts with an experienced development team that can build what you want the way you want it. More importantly, have the experience to guide you through the process and ensure you achieve the intended results. Contact us for a free consultation, we are looking forward to partnering with you, creating endless impact with innovation that counts, and changing the world.


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