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MVP vs. POC: What's the difference and which one is right for your business?

What stack should we use for our MVP?
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Okay, take off your big and aspiring founder shoes and imagine this: you're a young architect in a board meeting with the stakeholders of your company. They've cut a whole hour out of their busy schedules and wait for a project update.

So you go: "Guys, remember that fancy underwater mall we've talked about a couple of months ago? Guess what – we can build it. Like, it's totally possible. I mean, I'm not really sure how, but it is possible. Cool, right? Now give money."

You're somewhat disappointed in their reaction – why are they boo-ing you? You can build it, so that's good news, right? You leave the meeting and head home. You spend the night building a miniature model of the fancy underwater mall out of a repurposed aquarium and toothpicks.

The next day you visit your friend who is a contractor and show him your creation. You remember the board meeting, so you're being more cautious with words: "See this fancy underwater mall I've made yesterday? Take it and build, like, a BIG one... please". Probably, that's the moment when you tell yourself you might not be the genius architect you've thought yourself to be. So, what went wrong here?

See, this is where the concepts of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and POC (Proof of Concept) come into play. Understanding the nuances between MVPs and POCs is crucial for founders, because choosing the right approach can make all the difference in bringing innovative ideas to life while ensuring business viability. So, what are MVPs and POCs exactly?

Proof of Concept (POC): Laying the Foundation for Technical Feasibility

A proof of concept (POC) serves as a fundamental step in the product development process, acting as a litmus test for the technical feasibility of an idea. Conducted early on, often before a prototype or MVP is created, a POC aims to demonstrate that the core technology or underlying concept behind the idea can actually work.

Essentially, a POC is a stripped-down version of the proposed product, focusing on the critical functionalities or technical aspects that underpin the overall concept. It's not about building a complete, polished product – rather, it's about proving that the idea is technically sound and can be translated into a tangible product.

In other words, something your contractor friend might need to get an idea of how to to bring all that underwater mall madness to life.

Limited Scope and Focus:

POCs typically focus on a specific aspect or functionality of the idea, rather than trying to build a complete product. This limited scope allows for a more focused and efficient development process, ensuring that resources are directed towards validating the critical technical elements of the concept. Say you're developing Instagram – you goal here is to develop a somewhat functional skeleton of the app. Too ugly for the general public, but cute enough to make your team fall in love with it.

Early-Stage Development:

POCs are typically developed early in the product development process, often before a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) is created. This early-stage development allows businesses to identify and address potential technical hurdles early on, minimizing the risk of investing in a product that may not be technically feasible (what if the fish tamper with the shopping experience?!).

Internal Audience and Stakeholder Buy-in:

POCs are typically developed for internal stakeholders, such as developers, product managers, or decision-makers, to gain buy-in and support for the idea. By demonstrating the technical viability of the concept, businesses can secure the necessary resources and support to proceed with further development. For example, tomorrow you need to scale your team from 5 to 20 people. These new 15 people initially trust neither you nor your product. They don't have a reason to! By creating a POC you basically give them a good reason to invest their time in your product.

Technical Documentation and Reporting:

POCs should be accompanied by clear and concise technical documentation that outlines the development process, the technologies used, and the results achieved. This documentation serves as a reference for future development and provides valuable insights to stakeholders involved in the project.

Risk Mitigation and Informed Decision Making:

By investing in a POC early on, businesses can mitigate the risk of investing significant resources in a product that may not be technically feasible. The learnings from the POC can inform decision-making and help businesses make more informed choices about the future direction of the project (note to self: the fish does tamper with the shopping experience, but the customers like it).

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Minimum Viable Product (MVP): Validating Market Demand and Gathering User Insights

Once the technical feasibility has been established through a successful POC, the next step is to create a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is a working version of a product with just enough features to satisfy early adopters and provide valuable feedback for further development.

The key distinction between an MVP and a POC lies in their focus. While a POC is primarily concerned with technical viability, an MVP shifts the focus to market demand and user validation. It's about putting the product in the hands of real users to gather feedback, assess market demand, and identify areas for improvement.

An MVP typically includes only the essential features needed to deliver the product's core value proposition. It's not about creating a feature-rich product; rather, it's about providing a minimal set of functionalities that allow users to experience the essence of the product and provide valuable insights.

Simply put, an MVP is what makes the stakeholders nod their head (and give money, hopefully).

Focus on Core Value Proposition:

An MVP should focus on delivering the core value proposition of the product, providing just enough features to satisfy early adopters and demonstrate the product's potential. It's not about creating a comprehensive product with every possible feature – rather, it's about providing a minimal set of functionalities that deliver the essence of the product and allow users to experience its benefits. Using an earlier example of Instagram – now your best bet is to put off all the bells and whistles like Reels, Stories and messaging system and focus solely on building a very polished feed with user submitted photos. Just photos – out there, in the vast blackness of space…

Early-Adopter Engagement:

An MVP is designed for early adopters, individuals or a small group of users who are willing to try out a new product and provide feedback. These early adopters play a critical role in validating the product concept, identifying potential issues, and suggesting improvements.

Rapid Iteration and Feedback-Driven Development:

The development of an MVP is an iterative process, where the product is continuously refined based on user feedback and market response. This feedback-driven approach ensures that the product is evolving in the right direction, addressing user needs, and adapting to market changes. For example, if you notice that rectangular photos in the feed tend to be less popular – scrap them and use square ones! Users skip videos? To hell with videos!

Low Development Cost and Time-to-Market:

An MVP is typically developed with limited resources and in a short timeframe. This allows businesses to test their ideas quickly and cheaply, minimizing the risk of investing heavily in a product that may not succeed.

Clear Path to Market and Future Development:

An MVP should have a clear path to market, outlining how the product will be launched, marketed, and monetized. This roadmap provides direction for future development and ensures that the product is aligned with the overall business goals.

Choosing the Right Approach for Your Startup's Journey

Now that you have what makes a difference between a well-informed architect and an aspiring psycho with a crazy idea, which approach is right for your business?

The decision of whether to create a POC or an MVP depends on the specific goals you want to achieve and the stage of your product development.

If you have a new, innovative idea and need to validate its technical feasibility, a POC is the ideal starting point. It allows you to test the viability of your concept without investing significant resources in a full-fledged product.

On the other hand, if you've already validated the technical feasibility with a POC and want to test market demand and gather user feedback, an MVP is the appropriate next step. It enables you to interact with real users, gather their insights, and refine your product based on their experiences.

Consider a POC if:

  • You have a new, innovative idea and need to validate its technical feasibility.
  • You're unsure about the underlying technology or concept and need to test its viability.
  • You're seeking early buy-in from internal stakeholders before investing further resources.

Consider an MVP if:

  • You've already validated the technical feasibility with a POC.
  • You want to test market demand and gather user feedback on your product.
  • You're ready to release a working product to a limited group of early adopters.

How Our Platform Can Help

Whether you're looking to create a POC or develop an MVP, our team can connect you with experienced developers who can help you bring your ideas to life. Probably not the idea of an underwater mall though.

We have a pool of developers with expertise in basically every tech stack out there, ready to start working on your project yesterday. And keep in mind, you're not outsourcing a dev – with you get a full-fledged team member who seamlessly integrates into your project management ecosystem and works in line with your product strategy.

So, are you ready to take your product development to the next level? If so, let us help you find the right developers to build your MVP or POC!

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