Engineering students working in the lab, a student is adjusting a 3D printer's components, the other one on foreground is using a laptop

It’s not easy to get a new product successfully into the marketplace. About 90% of startups fail, and less than 50% of businesses make it to their fifth year. Many small businesses also struggle to break-even, let alone turn a profit.

While a new product may seem like a “sure thing,” it doesn’t always translate to real-world results. By working in increments to test out a product’s market feasibility, your startup can increase the likelihood that the product will be well-received.

Your business can go through various stages of testing, including minimum viable product, proof-of-concept, and a prototype. Each of these serves a function in testing the waters for your product. Let’s explore the differences between each.

What Is Minimum Viable Product?

Minimum viable product (MVP) is just as it sounds: the bare minimum. It contains enough features to exist but may not have enough features to really make a splash in the marketplace.

Instead, an MVP has the core functionality to affirm that the product is needed in the marketplace. Too many times, startups create a product that no one ends up buying. You would use an MVP to determine that the product has value.

You can put an MVP product into the marketplace with early adopters who know they are receiving the minimum. Often early adopters can provide key feedback about features they may want in the future.

What Is a Proof-of-Concept?

A proof-of-concept (POC) is a model that tests out a theory. When you build a proof-of-concept, you are not certain that your idea will work. POC proves that your idea is feasible.

If you are unsure of some of the technical aspects of your product, a POC is necessary. Without a POC, you could have a high risk of failure if you dive into the next stages without knowing that your product will actually work.

Typically, a POC is a small-scale visualization or presentation to show the potential for the final product. It’s not about delivery, but instead shows the feasibility and the bigger picture. Often, stakeholders or decision-makers are the recipients of a POC.

What Is a Prototype?

A prototype is a working model of the product you intend to build. Its purpose is to work out the product’s design. Your development team can look for flaws or errors in usability and functionality.

Sometimes, several prototypes are made to test out different features and solutions. For example, you may use a circuit printer to build functional parts of your product. Customers can interact with the different prototypes, and the development team can make observations about which one works best.

Both an MVP and a prototype are intended to elicit customer feedback. But where an MVP is more polished, a prototype may still have issues that need to be worked through.

The Next Stage of Product Development

A minimum viable product, proof-of-concept, and prototype all have different goals. You can start by asking yourself what questions you want to answer about your product to know where to begin. Whether large or small, you want to confirm your product’s viability before introducing it into the market.

For more tips on product development, check out the rest of our blog.