PoC vs. Prototype vs. MVP: The Difference Startup Founders Should Know


PoC vs. Prototype vs. MVP-The Difference Startup Founders Should Know poc vs prototype vs mvp

In the war of startups today, we have three strong sides for the founders to choose from PoC, Prototype, and MVP. But which ones should you side with as a startup founder?

Today, we’ll discuss the differences between PoC vs. prototype vs. MVP. Let the best team win!

PoC vs. MVP vs. Prototype: Quick Look

Proof of Concept (POC) is a method of validating your hypotheses with potential users to determine if your idea is technically feasible through informed decisions.

A prototype is a general shape of the idea of your product concept, and your users can interact with it to validate your idea to progress towards the product development process.

An MVP is a fully functional version of the prototype with minimal core features that let your target user base interact with the product and collect their feedback.

What Is a Proof of Concept (PoC)?

A PoC is a product that will determine the feasibility of your product from a technical standpoint. Proof of Concept can also verify that your idea will function as you intended.

The goal of PoC is not to explore market demands or determine the product’s best process. A Proof of Concept can only validate your idea’s viability in the market.

A Proof of Concept is not the final product you will present to your target audience. It’s simply a product version that shows you if your idea of the product is feasible.

A POC only covers the technical aspect of the project and doesn’t need perfect development as a result.

What Are the Features of a Proof of Concept?

Proof of Concept, despite not being a full-fledged product, has its own set of non-technical features.

Here are some features of a Proof of Concept that deserve mention:

  • Lets you know the feasibility of your idea/ concept
  • It opens up new ways to explore building options for your product
  • It helps you catch the attention of investors and early adaptors with your product
  • It lets you figure out the ways to implement one small fragment of the project at a time
  • Reveals bugs and issues at an early development stage
  • It opens up innovative possibilities for the app
  • Allows to complete development of a basic version with minimal resources
  • It saves you development time and helps you bring the product to public attention faster
  • It lets you decide if you should continue building or not
  • When you decide to build and publish, it lets you validate your unique ideas earlier than your competitors on the market

When to Use Proof of Concept (PoC)?

Now that you know the importance of proof of concept, the question that comes right after it is: when do I use proof of concept?

The true reason behind using a POC is to measure the feasibility of your idea. An idea is always uncertain at its core and needs to be tested for viability.

Other reasons include the following:

  • When you’re not sure, your idea is technically workable
  • When you need to gather seed funding for a real product at an early development stage
  • When you need to gather funds and measure the feasibility of your idea at the same time
  • When you need to explore the technologies applied to your projects
  • When you have to ensure that all the features will work after development

We’ve found out the “when.” Now let’s look at “why”

  • You can determine the feasibility of your idea with valuable feedback from users
  • You can use the POC to attract seed investors
  • You can choose the right tech stack for product launch and further future development

PoC Examples

Two of the greatest mainstream services of the modern world started as POCs. If done right, a POC will always work in favor of the startup founder, helping them reach all the right goals.


After a successful launch in San Francisco, they wanted to test if the product would work the same way in different parts of the world.

As their POC, the founders of AirBnB launched their service in Tokyo. After greatly positive user feedback, they proceeded to develop their product further.

Amazon GO

Amazon tested the viability of its product by launching it with its employees first.

After implementing different tech stacks to get the best result, the product was finally developed to its current form and released for public consumption.


When diving into your product’s development phase, it’s essential to prototype your product first.

When you’re creating functional prototypes that deal with user interfaces, you get to test the accessibility of the product for your target users.

What Is a Prototype?

A prototype of any product is a minimal working version of the product that’s built for the sole purpose of demonstration.

A product prototype can be used to test and prove the viability of the startup idea in front of users, and potential customers, as well as pitch the idea to investors.

What Are the Features of a Prototype?

A product prototype can be considered a version more minimal than an MVP, but it still has its features.

  • It helps with getting early user feedback on the product
  • It helps gain the attention of early investors who can fund further development
  • Let you identify mistakes during development that can cause errors and remove them
  • Let you run multiple design instances to find the best one that suits the target user base
  • With a prototype, creating a visually appealing product and polishing your business idea with a refined product format is easier
  • Even more time and resource-saving methods than an MVP
  • The users get introduced to the user flow of the application from an early stage
  • The user base’s needs become much easier to identify when interacting with the app
  • Even when an idea is complex, it can be presented accordingly with a prototype
  • A single prototype can even be used for multiple similar projects in the future

When to Use Prototype?

There are times when project requirements need more crucial details.

With a prototype, you can create multiple mockup versions to check the most suitable version for further development and launch.

Here are possible scenarios where a prototype is a must if you want success:

  • When you want to showcase your product idea within a limited budget and time constraint
  • When you need to figure out the possible error that might occur by giving it a visual form
  • When you want to understand how your product works before you start further development
  • When you want to test the basic functionalities of your product with limited technical resources
  • When you need to start collecting seed-stage funding from investors at an early stage

And here’s why you need a prototype:

  • If you want to finalize the design, you will go forward with it when developing the final product
  • If you are looking to collect faster user feedback
  • If you are planning to secure an investor for your startup idea

Prototype Examples

You might often feel confused about how you will present your product prototype in front of an audience.

In that case, There are several ways to create a prototype that doesn’t require a professional product team while helping you achieve primary business objectives.

Paper Prototype

A paper prototype is the simplest form of prototyping done on paper. It’s mainly a rough sketch of the product on paper.

The sketch can contain both Front-end and back-end concepts. This falls under the low-fidelity prototype category.

3D Printing

Though not a sustainable idea when it comes to mass production, you can often take the help of 3D printing to create a physical version of the product that can be used to demonstrate how it’s going to work.

Digital Modeling

With digital modeling, you can create a virtual model of your product that can be used to demonstrate the application’s functionalities.

These are also known as digital prototypes and are considered to be high-fidelity prototypes.

Minimum Viable Product

In the world of products, an MVP is an ideal solution for all startup founders when they want to solve the problems of the target audience as soon as possible.

An MVP will always serve the target market’s customers with minimal key features and improve itself over time by gathering feedback from its target audience.

What Is a Minimum Viable Product?

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the minimum version of a product that only has basic functionality and a few features that can solve the pain points of the target users.

It’s designed to be simple in terms of both application and appearance.

What Are the Features of an MVP?

MVP Features, when developing, are considered the most helpful for startup entrepreneurs. It’s the best way to test your idea while capturing your audience.

Here are the core features of all MVPs in general

  • The product is ready to be published within a short time
  • It helps you prove your target market hypothesis by letting you measure the viability of your initial idea
  • You can choose the features you want the product to launch with
  • Though it’s a simplified form of the product, there’s more room for growth through complex ideas
  • It helps you manage development costs and time
  • User feedback reveals the way for future developments
  • You reduce the risks of people not liking the product since it’s already functioning
  • You get a higher customer retention rate compared to a lower investment
  • You have a higher chance of attracting investors with a functioning product
  • You can even acquire paying users that support your growth

When to Use a Minimum Viable Product?

Most startup ideas out there set out to fail without a proper game plan.

The main reason behind it? They don’t have a tangible product that can serve active users and retain customers. If you don’t want to fail right out the door, here’s how you can plan your MVP.

MVP is always your best bet when you want to make a surefire impact on your industry market.

Other choices include:

  • When you want a functional product with built-in features
  • When you need a product to work without errors after the launch
  • When you want to launch a product to make profits instantly
  • When you want to understand user behavior to update your product accordingly
  • When you are looking to get the highest retention rate with the lowest investment possible
  • When you need to attract potential investors

And here’s why you should use an MVP in all the scenarios above:

  • If you want to start monetizing your idea
  • If you want to save and optimize resources
  • Gain user insights to implement future updates

MVP Examples

There are a lot of MVPs out there that are an inseparable part of our lives. Let’s look at some polished products you may or may not know that started as MVPs.


A location-based social media launched back in 2009, Foursquare would let people check in from different locations within the app.

The fact that it felt like earning achievements in a game made people get into it faster.

AdWords Express

AdWords Express was not always automated. When it first began, a group of students worked in the background to create and submit ads according to customer requests.

They automated the process when they realized the demands were only going higher for their product.


You can describe Zappos MVP in three words: Online shoe store. The very first domain of Zappos was even called shoesite.com.

It started as a simple shoe store and became a highly successful marketplace. Zappos went so big that Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009.

Comparison Table: Proof of Concept Vs. Prototype Vs. MVP

Though they sound nearly similar in all the discussions we made above, each of these three has a very distinct role in fulfilling while staying within their unique parameters.

Question It AnswersIs the idea technically feasible?How should the product look and function?Is the product idea viable?
Main GoalIdentifying technical feasibilityPresenting a visual idea of the product for testing user experienceProviding a finished product with minimal features
Risk EvaluationReduces risks regarding technical issuesReduces risks regarding user dissatisfactionReduces risk of going over budget
Technical Resource InvestmentNext to zeroA littleHigh
Cost EffectivenessCan be done with next to zero budgetNeeds minimal budgetRequires moderate to high budget
Salability In Current FormNot For SaleThe goal is not to bring revenueCan gain paid users
Further Development ScopeIt can be used for future MVP developmentIt can be turned into an MVP with additional featuresIt can be turned into a complete product
Target User BaseFor internal use of the development teamStakeholdersPre-selected real users of similar apps
User AudienceInternal usersMinimumIt depends on the scale of the launch

Key Takeaways: PoC vs. Prototype vs. MVP

  • A Proof of Concept is the earliest stage that requires almost no professional development and simply presenting the ideas
  • A prototype of a product idea can give the business idea a visible form
  • An MVP is where the idea blooms into an actual product that the users can interact with

Do You Always Need to Code Your PoC, Prototype, or MVP?

It entirely depends on the approach that is your personal preference. You don’t need to code your PoC since it can be done on pen and paper.

As for the prototype, it may or may not be coded depending on the complexity.

As for the MVP, regular MVPs use different programming languages to serve their purpose.

Of course, there’s always no-code MVP if you want to make the process easier.

To Wrap It All Up

Though only one of these three can generate a functional product that active users can interact with and provide feedback on, the other two significantly impact MVP development.

All these three have their shoes to fill during different stages of development, so don’t dismiss them yet. Instead, use them accordingly when needed to maximize your success.


What Is the Difference Between a PoC and a Prototype?

A POC is only the idea of the product itself. A prototype is the earliest version created from a PoC to test if the product will function as intended.

What Is the Difference Between an MVP and a Prototype?

An MVP is a functional product with limited functions to solve core issues of a user audience within the target industry. A prototype is a very early version of said MVP created to determine if it will function.

What Is the Difference Between an MVP and a PoC?

MVP is the future version of a POC. When an idea is made feasible and considered viable with a PoC, MVP development begins, which is the envisioned product.

Can PoCs, Prototypes, and MVPs Be Used Together in a Development Process?

Yes, all of these are the different phases of the same product, so you can integrate all three of them into your product development cycle.

Can a PoC Be Used to Test the Feasibility of an Idea?

Yes, you can use your PoC to test if the idea of developing it is feasible and if the solution will work in real life if there is a product based on it.