PoC vs prototype vs MVP: What's the difference between them?

Ana Vilar García

PoCs, MVPs and prototypes are the very first step when startups or new businesses are conceived. But even if this is a crucial step to build new businesses, the difference between them is not always clear. It’s not that easy, because their goal and the stage they take place in is similar: they are meant to prove your idea is worth it and they take place at the very beginning of your startup path.

At Corporate Lab we’re experts on building new businesses, and creating PoCs, MVPs and prototypes is part of our daily workload. Today, we analyze PoC vs MVP vs prototypes, and we share our own definition and key features. Keep reading.

PoC: Definition and key features

PoC stands for proof of concept, and it can also be known as proof of principle. PoC is a process that aims to demonstrate that a certain idea can be turned into a project. The key point here relies on the feasibility of the idea

Most of the time, a proof of concept is required in order to know if a project is feasible and can be developed from a technology perspective. Apart from testing the feasibility of the idea, PoC is also a useful tool to determine if it's viable financially - the result may reveal it is technologically feasible, but not profitable. 

While creating a proof of principle, it’s not necessary to make the whole system work, but just to draw the main points. Thanks to this design, you can plan the implementation in a longer term and be sure you minimize stoppers or failures during the development of the idea.

This concept is used most often in the tech industry and it is a common concept in the startup world, but it can also be found in drug discovery, manufacturing, science and engineering sectors.

Goal: Demonstrate an idea can turn into reality. Convince stakeholders about the value of your idea.
Not its goal: A proof of concept doesn’t explore the market needs or potential interest in the idea.
Advantages: PoCs allow you to save money and time in case the idea is not feasible at all. It also helps visualize alternatives if it is partially unfeasible.

What should your proof of concept include?

  • Defined criteria for feasibility
  • Documentation of the whole development process
  • Evaluation component
  • Next steps and proposals to move forward

Prototype: Definition and key features

A prototype is a draft of your project. Once you have determined that your idea is feasible from a tech and financial standpoint, you can design an early draft of the final product.

A product prototype is not meant to fully work, be completely designed or include all the features you have in mind. Instead, it is meant to draw an image of what your idea will look and feel once it’s finished.

Prototypes are not meant to be released to the general public, but to test it among your own team, acquaintances, or beta testers. Thanks to their feedback, you can spot possible errors or improvements so your product is as neat as possible when you launch it. 

Goals: Test the idea is usability, functionality. Give stakeholders a rough idea of what the project will look like when it’s done.
Not its goal: It’s not meant to fully work or include all its features.
Advantages: Prototypes allow you to get early feedback, get first insights on the market, spot problems in advance, and reduce time and cost efforts.

What should your product prototype include?

  • Proof of concept
  • Previous research on the market trends, needs and pains
  • A physical or digital description, including the most essential characteristics
  • Functional essential features
  • A provisional patent, if needed

MVP: Definition and key features

MVP stands for minimum viable product. An MVP is a first version of your product. Even though it has room for improvement and you will scale it with time (or even pivot it completely), MVPs are the first functioning version of your idea. Opposite to PoC and prototype, a minimum viable product is fully working and is delivered to the market. 

As its name suggests, an MVP is a product itself. It’s probably an improvable product, but it fully works, it is delivered to the market, and customers can use it as they use any other product in the market. 

Since a minimum viable product is so minimal, you have to be careful what features it includes. An MVP will help you know if the market is ready for your product and willing to consume it. Hence, you have to define its core value and deliver it with the most essential features. Making a difference between must-haves and nice-to-haves is key here.

Once your MVP is built and launched, it is time to test its performance and get important answers so it can be successful in the long term. These tests can be oriented to fully defining your target audience, finding the right distribution channel, establishing a fair pricing, and so on and so forth. Nevertheless, all of these need to be established before building your MVP. Its later performance will help you finish defining these. 

Once you have these answers, you will be able to establish competitive advantages and defensibility measures that will help you not only maintain, but also scale your company.

Goals: Provide the value proposition of your product. Get evidence that the product has potential and can be successful in the long term. Testing if your idea has a product-market fit. Test audiences and define target market, channels, user personas, and so on.
Not its goal: This is not meant to be your final product, only a first version. By delivering and testing your MVP, you can further develop it, iterate it or even pivot if it’s not successful.
Launching an MVP before a more developed product helps you save time and resources, in case there’s no product-market fit. Plus, starting from a minimal version can help you design additional features tailored to your target needs. 

What should your minimum viable product include?

  • A previous proof of concept
  • A previous market research that shows minimum interest in your product, and a broad definition of your target market
  • The product’s core value
  • A fully functional set of features that deliver the core value
  • Defined use cases and user journey

👉 If you feel ready to build your MVP, take a look at our 9 tools to build MVPs and get your hands on it ASAP! 👈

At Corporate Lab, we're experts in building fast MVPs. We work in an agile way, focus on market validation, and achieve a quick product-market fit. If you run a company and want to include corporate innovation in your roadmap, send us a message. We can detect new business opportunities and build new businesses to complement your existing ones.

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