What is the Difference Between MVP vs POC vs Prototype and why does it matter?

Posted 15 Jul by Pavel Gorbachenko

There can be a lot of confusion about the differences between MVP vs POC vs prototype. Often people think they are all different words for the same thing. In fact, they are quite distinct concepts that have different purposes and benefits for a company.


Knowing the difference between MVP (minimum viable product), POC (proof of concept), and a prototype is important when you consider that many startups fail. Choosing the right option from these at the outset helps optimize the chances of business success.


Let us now look at what the differences are between each, and when each might best be used.

What are the differences between MVP vs POC vs prototype?

The table below helps to understand at a glance which of these to use: 


Factor

POC

Prototype

MVP

Role

Is this concept even feasible? The POC can be used to validate assumptions about the idea.

How will the product or solution actually function?

What is the value proposition of the product and how will it function?

Development

Demonstrates that a solution could be built.

Shows how the solution will be built and how it will work.

Is a built version of the product that tests the market for it.

Audiences

Tends to be rather small and used internally to showcase an idea.

Usually used internally to see how the development work will be carried out.

Is used externally to gauge market interest and see how it could be improved.

Issues

 

Deals with issues at the early stage of development.

Takes an iterative approach to development looking at issues the client has with the product when it is in the market.

Function

Does not function as a fully working product.

Does not function as a fully working product.

Functions fully as a working product using the basic but most essential functionality.


Helps to understand whether it is feasible to go ahead with the product.

Helps to see how the product will look and how it will feel for the user.

Helps to see how the product will be used.

Feedback

Does not provide an opportunity for feedback from actual or possible customers. Might sometimes be used with investors to attract funding.

Can allow the firm to get feedback from a few possible customers.

Allows the firm to gather feedback from a lot of customers, potentially.

Customer growth

Does not grow the customer base.

Does not grow the customer base.

Grows the customer base at the same time as iterative development is taking place.

Revenues

Will not bring in revenues from customers.

Will not bring in revenues from customers.

Can bring in revenues from customers.

The Importance of MVPs, POCs, and Prototypes

In all cases, MVPs, POCs and prototypes provide the chance to carry out vital research before making a massive investment.

In today’s competitive business environment, no business can afford to waste time or money pursuing a dud idea.

All three of these help you undertake critical research into the likelihood of success of a concept.

The POC helps understand if the idea is even possible.

The prototype helps understand how it can be built.

The MVP helps understand if customers are interested in the product and if they will pay to use it (or part of it).

MVP vs POC 

It is helpful to understand when an MVP should and could be used instead of a POC (proof of concept). Choosing between MVP vs POC can best be done by understanding who the target audience is and what the end goal is.
 
The POC is specifically focused on understanding project feasibility. This includes considering if there is a viable business model for a particular concept.

It is also used for examining if the technical capability is there to build a product that will do what you want it to.

An example of a POC would be the use of software to test if certain features can work in the manner expected. Another might be to test if the integration of two systems is possible.
 
MVP and POC are targeted at quite different audiences and are used at different stages of development. The POC is often produced for investors to showcase a great idea. Alternatively, it might be used internally in the firm to prove that a product idea is feasible. An example of a POC is a presentation that explains what the proposed product is which demonstrates its viability.

On the other hand, the MVP is produced as an early version of the actual product to be used directly by customers. This helps to understand on a more practical level whether there is a market for the product. It also helps with observing how customers use the product and how it can be adapted to meet their needs.

In other words, perhaps the biggest difference is the fact that end users will actually use the MVP. However, end users will be unlikely to ever see or look at a proof of concept.

Having seen the differences, it is also useful to know what the similarities are between a proof of concept and a minimum viable product. The similarities are as follows:
  • Saves time and money prior to building a complete fully-fledged product.
  • Helps to understand if a concept will be feasible or not.
  • Provides the possibility of gaining feedback on the possible solution (though from different sources).
  • Both help to gain input into how the business model might work for the company.
When considering what comes before MVP, proof of concept usually comes first.

It is useful to work on a POC first to know whether the idea is even worth pursuing at all.

If a proof of concept is not undertaken, the development might start without even knowing if the build is going to be technologically feasible.

MVP vs. Prototype

Distinguishing between MVP vs prototype also helps to better understand the best uses of each. This is helpful in understanding which of these best fits your needs.
 
A prototype enables the business to see how the product will work and how it might be used by end users in theory.

Sometimes, a prototype might be tested with a few end users. A prototype is a good solution demo. It proves that the concept can be built, showing how this can be done and how it will work.

On the other hand, an MVP is developed for use by the end users to see whether they will use it. This also helps to understand how the product will be used. However, in the MVP this is done in a more direct manner, with the end users themselves in all cases.

An example would be a high fidelity type of prototype where the person interacting with it would not even know it was not real at first glance. It might be built using HTML/CSS but it would have limited functionality.

The difference between prototype and MVP is that MVP provides a much more thorough insight into customer usage. It can be used to gather data on how useful the product is and how it might be improved for ease of use.

These perceptions can be invaluable before investing money in extending functionality in areas that customers have no real interest.

The similarities of both are:
  • Understand possible issues with the concept at a relatively early stage in the process.
  • Helps to look at usability issues and concerns.
  • Helps to understand the features needed in the product.
  • Gain feedback from end users – albeit on a very much smaller scale in the case of the prototype.

Prototype vs POC

The POC is mostly used for decision-makers to decide if a concept should move forward. The difference with a prototype is that it might be considered a pilot. The POC is also helpful if you are seeking seed-stage funding. 
Meanwhile, the prototype is more suited to understanding how the product will look and feel.

The actual physical output is quite different. A POC will usually be a collection of documents that show that the concept is feasible. These might include a business case and technical specification for the concept. They might also include a presentation showcasing the idea. However, the prototype shows the actual idea in an early stage working format.

Conclusion

As can be seen, MVP vs POC vs prototype are three quite different concepts. Each has a specific use that can offer benefits for the business. The only true test of a product with customers is the minimum viable product.
Choosing the right option of these three that is best suited to your purpose optimizes the chance of business success. It helps save time and money by prioritizing scarce startup resources in the right way.

How can Enkonix help?

Enkonix is a full-cycle software development company. We partner with companies across all sectors to offer custom software development. Our mission is to bring businesses to the next level, transforming ideas into actual digital solutions.

We can help you with developing an MVP. We can also help with building a prototype or presenting a POC. We are very experienced with all three of these concepts and we can advise which of these is best for you for the stage you are at.

Whether you are looking to gain investment, decide how a concept can work, or seek customer feedback iteratively, Enkonix can help you achieve your business goals.
Meet the team

Meet the team

We are a group of engaged professionals who love what they do and are thrilled to change the world for the better About us

Our projects

Our projects

We have built more than 30 successful web and mobile apps. Take a look at some of our most recent work Check out our recent work

Do you have a business plan or idea? Let us know!