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What’s the Difference Between an MVP and a POC? And Which One Do I Need?

Peter Tylee · 29 Sept 2023

If you’re a startup or a company in its early stages of developing a new product, one of the very first things you need to do is validate your idea. Jumping in head first can cost you a lot of money, time and stress. Starting with an idea validation method, like a Proof of Concept (PoC) or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – or both – can save you a lot of heartache and give your business a much better chance at succeeding. So, what exactly is the difference between a PoC and an MVP, and which one do you need? Which one will help you secure funding? How much will they cost? We have all the answers – read on below.

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The Difference Between an MVP and a PoC

Both an MVP and PoC have the same goal: to validate an idea. Both methods seek to minimise the risk of failure, however they each test different things and occur at different stages of project development. A PoC is designed to validate the technical feasibility of your idea.

An MVP, on the other hand, validates that there is a market for your idea. It does this by testing the market with a workable prototype that can be used to gather feedback from end users. The most significant difference between to the two, therefore, is that an MVP is designed to be used by customers whereas a PoC is strictly an internal project.

What is a PoC?

If you’re launching a revolutionary new product or want to add unique value to an existing market, a PoC is an excellent way to determine whether or not your idea can be achieved from a technical standpoint. Relatively low cost, a PoC can be completed quickly and allows you to ascertain if your idea is viable while also gaining an understanding of your project’s constraints and the tools and resources you’ll need to make it work.

Because a PoC is designed for internal validation, it ignores specific features such as UI, UX design, security and development best practices. It uses mock APIs and very basic UI controls and the code created for a PoC generally isn’t used at later development stages. Accordingly, your PoC should only ever been shown to researchers, developers and stakeholders. End users won’t – and shouldn’t – see your PoC.

For your PoC to be successful, it’s crucial to set clear goals and determine which problems you need to address and solve. Your project scope should be kept tight, focusing on just one feature. If you need to check the feasibility of more than one feature, you should run multiple PoCs.

What is an MVP?

A study found that one third of startups failed because there was no market need for their offering. By creating an MVP, you can get to market as quickly and cheaply as possible and see how your target market reacts. Your MVP isn’t a full-blown version of your product, but will offer its core features so that you can validate the idea with genuine user feedback. This feedback will give you invaluable insight into what is working, what isn’t working and what your audience’s pain points are. From here, you can either go back to the drawing board or adapt and evolve your product, developing it iteratively over a period of time into the best possible version.

For an MVP to be successful, you need to focus on a narrow audience. By focusing on a specific niche, you’ll be able to address pain points faster. Whilst your MVP should be usable and as issue-free as possible, you shouldn’t waste time on anything beyond your core offering. You can build in other features over time once you’ve discovered what consumers like and don’t like.

Some examples of successful businesses started as MVPs that you’ll have no doubt heard of include Amazon, Dropbox, Instagram, Facebook and Airbnb.

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The Key Differences Between a PoC and an MVP:

  • The goal of a PoC is to prove technical feasibility, whilst the goal of an MVP is to validate a market need.
  • A PoC can be developed in a matter of days or weeks, whereas an MVP can take months.
  • An MVP will be seen and used by early adopters and investors, whilst a PoC will only be seen internally by researchers and developers.
  • A PoC will reduce the risk of technical issues; an MVP will reduce the risk of creating a product that there is no market for.
  • A PoC requires a minimal investment, whilst an MVP will need a larger investment
  • A PoC cannot be sold or used by consumers, however an MVP can generate income immediately.
  • A PoC can be used to inform a prototype or MVP but will never be used in a final product, whereas an MVP can be used as the foundation for the full product.

Do I Need to Create Both an MVP and a PoC?

As mentioned above, PoCs and MVPs both aim to validate your idea, however they do this from different angles. Choosing the right approach from the beginning will help increase your likelihood of success. It’s generally recommended that all startups develop an MVP, while developing a PoC is optional depending on your business model, your idea, and the stage of development you’re up to.

Which One Should I Start With?

Both methods are designed to save you time, money and effort by validating your idea before launching a fully-fledged product to market. Which one you should start with depends on the context of your specific project.

As a guide, you should start with a PoC if:

  • You’re creating a new, revolutionary product and you’re not sure if your idea is viable from a technical standpoint.
  • You want to bring new value to an existing market and need to demonstrate your product offers unique functionality that will set you apart from competitors.
  • You need to figure out the technical requirements of your idea, including which technology is most suitable and what resources or third-party solutions you’ll need to make it work.

You should start with an MVP if:

  • You already know that your idea is technically feasible but need to determine if there is a market need.
  • You want to start making a profit as quickly as possible.
  • You want genuine customer feedback.

Which One Will Help Me Attract Investors?

A POC may be useful in securing funding by proving you’re heading in the right direction, however a POC is usually only an internal project. An MVP may be a more effective way to attract investors because you’ll have evidence of real-world need, use and feedback.

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How Much Will They Cost Me?

A PoC is a more budget-friendly exercise while an MVP will require a larger budget, however, it is still significantly cheaper than launching a fully developed product into the market untested.

Which one is right for you?

The validation method that is right for your business and idea will be determined by the stage you’re at, your resources and what you’re trying to achieve. Essentially, if you’re trying to mitigate market risks, an MVP might be your best option. If you’re trying to ascertain technical feasibility, opt for a POC.

To find out more about the different methods of validation and which one is right for you, get in touch today.