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Avatar of Sev Geraskin

by Sev Geraskin

Mon Jan 23 2023

  • We hear the terms POC (Proof of Concept) and MVP (Minimum Viable Product) used interchangeably daily. When a startup seeks to build a product and engages a third party, this ambiguity could misalign expectations between a startup and a service provider. So what is the difference between POC and MVP, and when would you build each?

    Startups use POC to test the feasibility of their idea with a few potential customers when the startup is unsure if their idea works. POC is not built for scale but only for those few initial users. You would not use POC to discover PMF (product market fit) since PMF is a degree to which a product satisfies customers in numbers.

    POC usually takes days to weeks to build and is an excellent option for bootstrapped startups to validate a business idea as efficiently as possible. POC is more of an exercise than a product and does not scale beyond a few users. As a bootstrapped startup, building an extensive product before getting feedback from the first few users means spending too much time and money on something that might have little to no use.

    POC also does not have to be automated or be software at all. For example, if you are building the next Amazon, your first goal should be to move a few packages from a seller to a buyer. You would use people to package, deliver, and send notifications without always being concerned with automation. If you managed to satisfy those first users of the system and demonstrated your idea's differentiators, you might have completed a POC and are ready to build an MVP.

    To measure the success of POC and validate your idea, you would get feedback from those users participating in the exercise through surveys and interviews.

    Once you have already validated your idea and proven it works, congrats! You might be ready to build your MVP. Now, you are ready to automate and scale your core processes and functionality. The goal for MVP is to discover Product Market Fit and be able to pivot, test, and iterate with your product.

    MVP usually takes several months to build and is used by bootstrapped or funded startups to find PMF. Since finding PMF involves validating with customers in numbers, your MVP should be a quality product that scales to support the increasing number of simultaneous users.

    Unfortunately, many MVP implementations sacrifice product quality. That's the wrong approach. The critical letter in MVP is V, which stands for viable. MVP saves effort vs mature products by providing a minimum number of polished features and should be built to the standards of commercial products. The subpar-quality product would block user growth and prevent PMF discovery.

    To measure MVP's success, you want to go beyond gathering direct feedback from users via surveys and interviews. You want to analyze customer reviews and track user analytics, such as viral cycle time or the amount of time it takes a user to invite another user to your product or platform.

    Why build it?To validate your ideaTo find product market fit
    What is it?An exercise focused on testing if your idea can be turned to realityA usable quality product with a minimal set of features
    Build to scale with users?NoYes
    How long to build?Usually Days or WeeksUsually Several Months
    When to build?Bootstrapped startups with zero to few usersBootstrapped or funded startups with few to many users or customers
    How to measure success?Surveys, direct user feedback, interviewsSurveys, direct user feedback, interviews, customer reviews, viral cycle time, user analytics