The previous chapters talked about preliminary stages in setting-up your business. How do you move beyond the idea stage? Prototyping & creating an MVP0 are tried and tested development techniques in creating product or services.
What is a Prototype?
A prototype can be defined in various ways depending on the need and situation of startups or businesses in general. In essence, the prototype is the conceptual initial model of your product or service that target users can understand.
Characteristics of a Prototype
Rudimentary Mockup or Sample
A ‘quick and dirty’ version of the end-product; it may or may not be fully functional
The ‘HOW’ of Your Product or Service
Illustrates the product specifications to streamline the development as well as inspect possible errors
Refinement of Functionalities
Represents the solution to gather feedback from potential users, but it is not usually released to the market
Conveys the Value Proposition
Displays functionality and prove market traction when presenting to investors
Although a Prototype is most useful in the early stages of development, it can be used at any stage. Startups use prototypes for these purposes:
- Use as a Basis for Building the MVP: A prototype dictates features that are possible to be integrated into the first version of your product or service. This helps define which features are essential.
- Streamlines the Development Process: As a visual representation of the target end-product, a prototype illustrates the purpose of the product/ service specifications. Thus minimising back-and-forth across teams and makes building more efficient.
- Testing and Refinement of Functions: in design phase and production, prototypes are used to inspect potential errors and to test usability & functionality
Additionally, a prototype can be used in reserving Intellectual Property Rights of a product or service–given that the idea is feasible, unique, and marketable.
Forms of Prototype
A prototype takes different forms, depending on how and which stages of development it will be used. It also depends on funding (or lack thereof), as well as the nature of the product or service. Is it better presented through simulation? Is there a need to inspect the product integrity to get it ready for building? Will you develop the prototype with an in-house team or outsourced services?
- Presents “a complex idea in a realistic form” simulated in different scenarios used to interact with stakeholders for demonstrations and feedback gathering
- As a simulation but users only use it but can’t interact with it
- Screens (for apps or software products)
- Feature Graphics
- User Flows
- Landing Page
- A fabrication of the idea into a physical model that users can interact with (thus providing more accurate feedback)
- Used in the design phase to test and inspect the physical aspect and feasibility of the idea
- As a simulation but users only use it but can’t interact with it
- Could fall apart as a basic model of the final product
- 3D Print
- Scale Model
- Injection Mold
- 4D Experiential Prototype (for services)
Using the Prototype to Fund Your Startup
Secure Seed Funding
”It takes money to build a prototype; but you need a prototype in order to raise money.Emily StraubelAuthor of Get Funded
There are many ways that a startup can get funding for a prototype. Prototypes can be more affordable in a simplified form. Usually, founders use personal or ‘Love Money’ or loans from banks. Our article on Startup Funding expounds more on the different options that you can explore.
Prototypes may not be fully functional but it has the essential features that can be shown to and evaluated by potential investors and support from other financial sources (e.g. from early adopters/ Crowdfunding). Here’s how a Prototype can be used to get funding:
- Materialises the business idea into a usable and interactive form
- Conveys core value proposition
- Exemplifies key differentiators across competition
- Aligns with and supplements your business plan and roadmap
- Demonstrates a clear vision of your end-product or service
- Identifies possibilities and limitations of functionalities
Get Direct Feedback
Prototypes are also presented as a demonstration of the expected product or service to selected consumers–who may even include your direct connections.
“You can’t build great products in the dark, without a well-defined customer. And you can’t develop the right product for your customer if you fall in love with a prototype that nobody wants to buy.”Bill AuletManaging Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management
Unlike the MVP, a prototype is not used to gain market traction once it reaches a potential customer. However, same as the MVP, presenting a prototype to the public opens the line of communication to customers which startups should nourish constantly. Talk with them, listen to their critique, and learn from them.
Use all the feedback to tweak the initial hypothesis or assumptions for your business idea.
MVP, Prototype & Proof of Concept
MVP VS Prototype
What is an MVP? An MVP or a “Minimum Viable Product” is a set of essential features and specifications of a product or service. MVPs are iterative by nature as each version tests the validity of that product/ service into a better version from the original specs. In the very first stages of development (or from conceptualisation of a product or service), a preliminary MVP called the MVP0 is usually created.
Our previous article on MVP details the lifecycle from building, processes, advantages and disadvantages: Build MVP
While there is often a confusion between the term “prototype” and “MVP”, it is generally understood that a prototype is a representation of the product that does not include actual or full building (this can range from an InVision clickable prototype to a landing page that captures the key benefits of your product).
What it is: A working model that may still have errors but is helpful in the development process.
What it is: A minimum but viable version of your business idea that is sellable and has a fully functional backend
Goal: Used for testing, and while it may reach the potential customers, it is mainly for that purpose
Goal: Get the most viable but minimum version of your business idea to the market in order to evaluate its value and gain market traction.
In one sentence, the Prototype is a ‘draft’ of the product–the MVP–brought to the market.
For example, a prototype of an app can be just 5 screens of the app created through a design software. On the other hand, the MVP will be the beta version of this app, softly launched into the market through App Store.
Proof of Concept
A proof-of-concept is created to test whether a certain idea or theory about the product can be implemented. Compared to the MVP and Prototype, the POC focuses on proving the feasibility of a business idea–the solution to the identified problem in the market.
Having a POC is a precursor to the prototype and MVP. It doesn’t necessitate the need of complex material or flows. It mainly focuses on proving if a business idea is doable.
While both the MVP and Prototype can validate the idea, the POC is most useful in these cases:
- When it is unclear whether an idea can be brought to life
- If certain features are feasible and/or necessary
- Getting first funding for your startup
- Lack of resources (time, funding, access to specialists and technical experts
- During development, a POC can be used to prove if specific features (of the prototype or MVP) can be built
- A version of a product that has just enough features to stay viable
- Conveys the core value proposition to early adopters
- Illustrates functionalities, performance, usability, scalability
- Captures market demand through a faster and more efficient release of the product
- Garners feedback directly from customers; invaluable in market testing
- The HOW of the product or service
- Illustrates functionalities and usability
- May or may not be fully functional
- Not released to the market (only for early testing)
- Communicates the value proposition and can be used to raise seed funding
Proof of Concept
- Proves feasibility the business idea
- Simplest and most efficient means of proving a single assumption on the product or target market
- Requires minimal use of resources
- Directly addresses the market need with a focused solution
- Not released to the market
- Can be used to raise seed funding.
The MVP0 makes your business idea or project concrete. The MVP0 or “Pilot” is the first version of the product or service with a set of the core functions and minimum specifications that solves the defined problem. It can be a design, wireframe, or clickable prototype–whichever best represents your idea. Building an MVP0 reduces upfront costs and scales-down needed resources–an advantage for businesses just starting out.
Building an MVP0 allows you to pivot into the creation of your full product. The MVP0 is not just a precursor but a critical stage in the process of realising your business idea.
Case Study: AirBed & Breakfast (Airbnb)
10 years ago, two designers and one software engineer launched a platform where users can post an “airbed” for thrifty travellers to rent. Now known as Airbnb, the initial website served as an MVP0, with stripped down functions:
- posting photos and information;
- making reservations; and
- paying for the duration of stay
Not only does it provide a variety of accommodations at different locations; Airbnb also helped homeowners and innkeepers make their place visible thus helping them reach more customers through the internet.
Your MVP with Creatella
We work closely with our Partners in creating their vision and materialising their idea. Throughout this process, you will be consulted in order for our team to get your feedback about everything from the logic of the UX to the colors used in the footer. No detail is too small in perfecting your MVP0.
Even if your budget is small and you do not yet wish to proceed to tech development, building an MVP0 with us can be invaluable to raising funds. Once a potential investor can get a sense of the look and feel of the final product from your prototype, they will feel safer about investing in a product that already exists, in the form of an MVP0.
We call it a zero, but the powers of the MVP0 cannot be underestimated!
I. Defining the Product Specifications
A product manager sets up regular calls with you in order to understand your vision, aesthetics and UX needs.