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Tips for a Sucessful MVP vs. Prototype

New startup founders often have questions regarding the development of the first iteration of their solution, the minimal viable product (MVP). The terms MVP and prototype are often used interchangeably, however, they serve distinct purposes. An MVP represents the version of your product that contains only the features necessary to validate your idea with prospective customers.

The MVP is a functional version of your product, but has a limited set of features, as it is designed to address the customer’s most compelling pain point.

You can think of a prototype as a draft of the MVP. The prototype represents a simple design or sketch of an idea that may become an MVP. Prototypes are often nonfunctional or minimally functional (but not production-ready); prototypes are excellent tools for validating your assumptions before investing in the technical resources needed to execute an MVP.

The MVP is a functional version of your product, but has a limited set of features, as it is designed to address the customer’s most compelling pain point. MVPs can be used to gather in-market customer feedback and discover additional pain points before investing more resources in a larger feature set.

Tips for Developing a Successful MVP

The most common mistakes made during the MVP phase can be attributed to a lack of understanding of the customer, market and most compelling pain points.

Here are three tips to remember as you’re developing your MVP: 

  1. Don’t over-engineer it. Never allow tech to become a barrier to solving a problem. Your job during the MVP phase is to identify your customer and understand their most compelling problem.
  2. Once you’ve identified the customer and their most compelling problem, develop a viable solution for addressing that single pain point. Then, deliver your solution to customer as soon as possible.
  3. Before moving on to expanding the feature-set, don’t forget to validate that your customer is willing to pay for the solution offered.

Also, listen to the full episode of “Technically 200 Talks with Shanel Fields and Kishau Rogers” to hear more stories of the path to building a high-growth startup.

Kishau is an award-winning technology entrepreneur on a mission to amplify human capability and solve the world’s increasingly complex problems with computer science, systems thinking, and creative intelligence. She is the CEO of Time Study Inc., which empowers leaders with intelligent tools to build a better workplace by optimizing time and creating more value for the enterprise’s greatest resource, people. Her work is featured in many leading publications, including Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNN Business, and Black Enterprise. Kishau has a deep background in Computer Science, over 25 years of experience building and shipping enterprise software solutions, and more than 15 years of entrepreneurial leadership.