PoC vs Prototype vs MVP: What Does a Startup Need?

Proof of concept, prototype, and minimum viable product are more than mere industry jargon – they’re the foundational bricks that anchor any successful digital product.

Dive into the world of startups, and you’ll soon realize just how crucial these terms become. While each term refers to a different process, they’re the guiding lights that help entrepreneurs translate their dreams into reality.

As we unpack PoC, prototype, and MVP, you’ll discover their distinctions and nuances and how crucial they are to the startup journey. 

Whether you’re just taking your first steps into the startup arena or a seasoned developer, understanding these essentials is crucial in the early days of getting your project off the ground.

What is PoC?

Proof of concept sounds a little like an arcane term you might hear from a research scientist in a lab, but in the world of startups, it plays an instrumental role. 

At its core, a PoC is a litmus test for ideas. A PoC seeks to answer a fundamental question:

Can this concept work in the practical world?

Unlike sprawling projects, a PoC is more of a narrowly focused process. It zeros in on a specific design, project, or assumption and puts it to the test. This PoC process ensures that the seed of an idea can – in practice – grow into a full-fledged product you can be proud of.

PoC Best Practices

  • Clarity of Purpose: Before diving into a PoC, have a crystal-clear understanding of what you're testing. Ambiguity can lead to wasted resources.
  • Set Defined Parameters: Limit the scope of your PoC. This isn't the stage for expansive exploration but rather a pinpointed validation.
  • Gather the Right Team: Assemble a team of experts who have the requisite knowledge and skills pertinent to the concept being tested.
  • Document Everything: From hypotheses to results, meticulous documentation can provide insights for future reference.
  • Solicit Feedback: Once your PoC is complete, garner feedback from stakeholders. This can guide potential refinements or even broader applications of the concept.

Why Do You Need to Use a PoC?

We’ve all heard the statistic that 90% of start-ups fail, and the majority of those failures occur within the early stages.

Infographic of the common reasons for startup failure

A lack of product-market fit makes up a whopping 34% of the common reasons for an early-stage start-up to fail, therefore the importance of having a proof-of-concept working model in place cannot be overstated. 

Here’s why a well-executed PoC can make or break a start-up:

  • Validation: Beyond theoretical musing, a PoC offers tangible evidence of a concept's feasibility. It's the first checkpoint in ensuring you're on the right path.
  • Risk Reduction: Every startup grapples with uncertainties. A PoC acts as a safety net, identifying and addressing potential hiccups before they snowball into significant challenges.
  • Cost-effective: Resources are often tight in the startup world. A PoC ensures you're not pouring money into a bottomless pit, betting on an idea that's doomed from the outset.
  • Stakeholder Confidence: In the world of investments and collaborations, trust is paramount. A successful PoC assures stakeholders, both internal and external, that the venture has solid grounding and isn't a mere shot in the dark.

With the challenging terrain startups traverse, a PoC serves as an invaluable tool, ensuring that ideas have the resilience and relevance to stand tall in the real world.

What is a Prototype?

While the PoC is considered the initial test for the feasibility of an idea, the prototype is a journey toward creating a product in a more usable form. A prototype is a tangible or visual representation of your product that takes you several steps closer to the real deal. 

Think of a prototype as a draft. It allows teams and stakeholders to visualize and interact with the core functionalities of the product. More than just a sketch, it’s the first draft of the product, highlighting the anticipated user experience and journey.

Major Prototype Models

  • Throwaway/Rapid Prototyping: This is the sprinter of prototypes. Crafted swiftly, it represents specific aspects of interest. It serves its purpose, garners feedback, and then gracefully exits the stage, allowing the actual product to be developed with newfound clarity.
  • Evolutionary Prototyping: Consider this the long-distance runner. Starting with a basic version, it undergoes numerous iterations. Each round hones the prototype based on invaluable user feedback, gradually sculpting it closer to the final masterpiece.
  • Incremental Prototyping: This model takes a modular approach. Envision building a product as assembling a puzzle; each prototype is a piece of that puzzle. They're crafted, refined, and perfected individually, eventually coming together to unveil the complete picture.

Why Do You Need a Prototype?

Prototyping isn't just a buzzworthy phase in product development, it's a critical step that can spell the difference between success and obscurity.

Infographic of the top reasons for startup failure

Given that 35% of startups hit a dead-end due to a lack of market demand, the importance of prototyping becomes evident. Here's why:

  • Visualization: It offers a tangible depiction, allowing stakeholders to experience the product firsthand. It's the bridge between abstract concepts and tangible reality.
  • User Feedback: Before you go full throttle with production, a prototype lets you test the waters. Early feedback is gold, ensuring the final product resonates with its intended audience and fits the market's pulse.
  • Design and Development Clarification: Prototypes dispel ambiguities. It provides developers and designers with a clearer picture, streamlining the process and avoiding potential pitfalls.

In a world where market relevance is paramount, prototypes serve as a safety checkpoint. It lets startups gauge the waters, refine their offering, and ensure they're not just creating a product but fulfilling a genuine market need without exhausting their resources on full-fledged development.

What is an MVP?

What do Uber, Dropbox, Slack, and Figma all have in common? It’s not just that they’re unicorn companies or giants in their respective fields, but also launched their projects with a minimum viable product (MVP). 

It’s a common misconception to think of a minimum viable product as just another type of “bare-bones” product. In actuality, an MVP is a strategic move in the product development process.

An MVP embodies the essence of a product, stripped of all its frills yet functional and potent enough to offer genuine value to early adopters. 

Instead of asking if it's possible to build, the MVP shifts the narrative to: Should it be built?

Key Characteristics of the MVP

  • Functionality: At its heart, a minimum viable product must serve a purpose. While it might not have every bell and whistle, it should have a core feature set that addresses a user's primary needs, compelling them to engage.
  • Iterative Process: Flexibility is the MVP's middle name. It's constructed with the idea that feedback is imminent, and pivots are not just probable but encouraged. Every piece of user feedback is a stepping stone guiding the product's evolution.
  • Cost Efficiency: Startups operate in a world where resources are finite. An MVP respects this reality. By focusing on critical features and sidestepping the superfluous, it ensures that investments are directed towards aspects that genuinely resonate with users.

Why Do You Need an MVP?

  • Early Market Entry: Time waits for no one, especially in the fast-paced startup ecosystem. An MVP propels your product into the market, ensuring you seize the early mover advantage.
  • Feedback: An MVP is like an ear to the ground, letting you tune into the market's heartbeat. It's an avenue to gauge user sentiments, desires, and potential roadblocks.
  • Reduce Wastage: The lean approach of an MVP ensures you're not constructing a cathedral when a chapel would suffice. By concentrating on essentials, resources are utilized judiciously, ensuring maximum impact.

In the sprawling journey of product creation, an MVP serves as both a starting line and a compass. 

It provides direction, momentum, and validation, ensuring that the path chosen resonates with both the market's demands and the product's vision.

PoC vs. Prototype vs. MVP: Major Differences

With such striking similarities in both concepts and terms, it’s easy to see how proof of concept, prototype, and MVP tend to be used interchangeably. 

Each process has its unique role and importance within the product life cycle. Understanding the distinction between proof of concept vs. prototype vs. MVP is crucial for a startup and businesses as they map out their product journey.

PurposeValidate feasibilityVisualize solutionTest the product market
StageIdea validationDesign & DevelopmentPre-launch
FunctionalityLimited to one featureMultiple featuresMinimum viable features
User InteractionMinimalHighMaximum


Let's consider the journey of developing a new digital reading app that integrates audiobooks and ebooks into one seamless platform. We'll call it "ReadNListen".

Proof of Concept

The proof of concept is the baby step in the journey of product creation. It's like dipping your toes in the water before taking the plunge. The PoC addresses the burning question, "Can this idea be realized?

Often, this stage might not even see the light of day outside the core team. Its primary goal is internal validation. It’s limited in its scope, focusing on one key feature or function and seeing if it's feasible.

For ReadNListen: The PoC might be a basic software mockup that checks if it's possible to switch seamlessly between reading an e-book and listening to its audiobook counterpart without losing your place.


Once you have the nod of approval from the PoC, the prototype stage begins. Think of it as a sketch or a draft. 

The prototype seeks to answer the question, "How will this work?". This is where design comes into play. Prototypes aren’t just about functionality; it's about user experience. 

Here, interaction is higher as potential users might be engaged to provide feedback. Multiple features are showcased, and the overall flow and user journey are presented. It paints a picture of the end goal.

For ReadNListen: The prototype is an interactive demo version of the app. Users can choose between a few books, read them, and switch to audiobook mode. It doesn't have the full library or all the features like bookmarks or night mode, but it provides a feel of the user journey. 

Potential users might be engaged at this stage to provide feedback on their experience.

Minimum Viable Product

Now comes the heavy hitter, the MVP. With all that has been learned from the PoC and the Prototype, the MVP is developed. 

This is the basic version of the final product. While it might not have all the envisioned features, it has enough to be of genuine value to early adopters. 

The MVP delves into MVP development, asking, "Will this be accepted in the market?" It's released to a segment of the target audience, and feedback is actively sought. This feedback loop can inform the next stages of product development. 

For ReadNListen: The MVP is a launch-ready version of the app. It has a basic library of books and their corresponding audiobooks. It allows users to read, listen, and switch between modes. 

There might be a bookmark feature, but other advanced features like annotations, curated playlists, or social sharing might be reserved for later versions.

Interim Conclusions

In essence, while a PoC establishes the feasibility of an idea, prototypes paint a vivid picture, visualizing how the entire system will operate and interact. 

The minimum viable product, however, goes beyond these initial stages. It’s a tangible, albeit stripped-down, version of the product that seeks to quench the early user's thirst, gearing up for the market's larger appetite.

For "ReadNListen," the journey from a mere concept of blending reading with listening to a market-ready product is emblematic of the value of differentiating between PoC, prototype, and MVP. 

Each phase provided unique insights and validated specific assumptions, ultimately contributing to a product that fulfills its early promise.

How to Choose the Best Approach for a Startup?

Navigating the initial phases of a startup can often feel like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Recognizing where you stand in this journey is paramount, and the choice between proof of concept, prototype, and MVP often hinges on your current needs and objectives.

1. Clarify Your Objective

  • Are you attempting to test the waters with a unique, revolutionary idea that hasn't been done before? Are you unsure if the tech stack or mechanism is feasible?
  • Recommendation: Dive into a PoC. This will grant you the confidence that your foundational idea can be realized.

2. Map the User Journey

  • Is your primary goal to craft an experience? Do you wish to showcase the flow of your product, ensuring that all components gel well together? Are you eager to gather early user feedback on this experience?
  • Recommendation: Develop a Prototype. This will allow potential users and stakeholders to visualize and provide feedback on the product's functionality, ensuring alignment with user expectations.

3. Market Testing

  • Have you validated your idea, received feedback on your prototypes, and are now chomping at the bit to unveil your product to the world (even if it's not the final version)?
  • Recommendation: Embark on MVP development. Launch with a basic version to gauge market reception, refine based on feedback, and iterate for perfection.

By understanding your startup's goals and the stage you're at, you can judiciously select between a proof of concept, prototype, or MVP, ensuring that you're always moving in the right direction with clarity and purpose.

Wrapping Up

The journey of a startup is much like crafting a masterpiece. Every brushstroke, every detail, and every hue has its role to play. Similarly, whether you're looking at a PoC, prototype or MVP, each offers a distinct value, ensuring that your startup progresses efficiently from one stage to the next.

At Intellectsoft, our distinctive edge lies in over 12 years of hands-on experience in software development for startups. We've been the silent force behind numerous success stories, curating solutions tailored to fit the unique needs of every startup. 

Our rich legacy can be witnessed through some of our pivotal cases, like the Video Content Search Engine and Aggregator, the transformative strategies for Investment Evolution Corporation (IEC), and the tech brilliance employed for a Tracking Solutions Provider.

Our expertise is not just confined to creating software but extends to architecting industry-specific mobile experiences across diverse sectors like healthcare, retail, and FinTech. 

And as a digital transformation-first company, we are poised to elevate your startup with the latest in AR/VR, IoT, and Cloud solutions.

So, if you're keen on turning your vision into a tangible, profitable product, Intellectsoft is the compass you need. Dive deep into our portfolio to witness our prowess. And when you're ready, let's turn that dream into reality!


What is the main difference between PoC vs. Prototype vs. MVP?

The distinction between PoC vs. Prototype vs. MVP revolves around their purpose and application stage. A PoC validates feasibility, a prototype visualizes solutions, while an MVP is the basic version of a product ready for market testing. Learn more from real-world applications in our cases.

How can Intellectsoft help with MVP development?

Our team offers tailored software development for startups, specializing in transforming ideas into a minimum viable product that resonates with users. We also provide a spectrum of mobile app development services.

Where can I get insights on startup success and MVP strategies?

Dive into the Intellectsoft blog for rich insights on development, MVP, industry trends, and startup success stories.

Who is behind Intellectsoft’s success in developing MVPs?

Our seasoned team of experts, with their extensive experience in crafting a minimum viable product, is the cornerstone of our accomplishments. Discover more about us and our transformative journey.

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