What is a proof of concept, and how can you develop a high-quality proof of concept for your business? Let’s take a look at the POC process and the advantages of developing a POC for your startup.
Imagine that one day you woke up from a dream with the most amazing idea for a business ever.
In fact, it’s so amazing that you want to start building it straightaway.
We know you’re keen to get started, but step back for just a moment.
35% of new businesses fail because they found there was no market need for their product. And even if you have the best idea for a product ever, if nobody is buying it, you’re not going to see success.
This is where a proof of concept, or POC, is helpful. With a POC you can see if there will be interest in your startup idea, giving you the confidence you need to move on to the next step of refining your business plan.
Join us as we take a look at the purpose of a proof of concept, and how you can create one for your business.
- Proof of concept definition
- What are the advantages of developing a proof of concept?
- What’s the difference between a POC, an MVP and a prototype?
- How to develop a POC for your startup
- In summary: Get developing your proof of concept today
Proof of concept definition
A proof of concept is all about making sure your startup idea is a viable one. You may sometimes hear it referred to as a ‘proof of principle’ or ‘proof of technology’.
Creating a proof of concept lets you see if your idea will work in real life. The earlier you can do this, the more confidence stakeholders will have in your startup.
We always advise that you think of your POC as a science experiment. Ultimately you want to:
- Determine an idea
- Set a goal
- See if your idea is successful
- Present the results of the project to your stakeholders
- Repeat as appropriate
There are no hard or fast rules in regards to what you need to include in your POC – as long as your research lets you see if your idea is feasible.
Proof of concepts are ideal when you’re creating a product that no other business has made before. When you don’t have any existing products to compare, a POC lets you see if your idea is feasible and will work in the marketplace.
They can also be helpful if you’re adding a brand new feature to an existing product and don’t have any basis for comparison.
What are the advantages of developing a proof of concept?
To the untrained eye, a POC may feel like an extra step in the process, but developing one can help increase your odds of success. It can:
1. Help you assess risks
Creating a proof of concept can help you and your team identify potential risks and issues before a product goes live. You then can decide whether to make changes to the product or go back to the drawing board.
2. Help get your team on the same page
Proof of concepts can help align your team and introduce them to your prospective product. For example, a POC can show your sales and marketing team the unique selling points of your product and who your competition would be.
You can also use a POC to get feedback from employees who may not have been involved in developing your product.
3. Help see if your idea can adapt and grow
A proof of concept can help you see how scalable your idea is. As an example, would it be easy to mass-produce in the future? What would you do if you needed to add additional features for new markets?
4. Help you get investment
Finally, a POC can be great to give to investors. Potential investors will want to see that you’ve done your research before they provide you with funding, and a POC is a valuable way to do this.
What’s the difference between a POC, an MVP and a prototype?
Many business founders think these terms are interchangeable, but they do refer to different steps of the startup process. The good news is that you can use them all to increase the chances of success.
Let’s say you’re developing a mobile app. You’d start off by carrying out a proof of concept to see if your idea for an app will work. Once you’re happy that your idea is viable, you’d put together a prototype so you and your team can get a feel for how the app will look and work. Finally, you’d create a basic version of your app and launch it to market – your MVP.
How to develop a POC for your startup
If you want to develop a proof of concept for your startup idea, you’re probably now wondering how best to go about it.
We’re often asked how long it takes to develop a proof of concept, but the honest answer is it depends on your experience, your hypothesis and the type of product you’re creating. A POC can take anything from a couple of days to a couple of months.
Similarly, we’re asked what format a POC needs to be presented in. Remember that you’re just testing the viability of your product at this stage, so you don’t need anything too fancy. A document or presentation is sufficient. Alternatively, you may decide to do a short video with a pitch for your investors.
Here are our handy hints for developing your POC and giving you the confidence to move forward with your business idea.
1. Start as soon as possible
A POC should never be an afterthought. It should be one of the first things you do when you’re identifying product ideas.
We’ve seen many startups create a proof of concept later than they should and tweak the results to fit where they are in the product cycle.
This approach never works out well and can ultimately end up deceiving your stakeholders.
2. Understand your target audience and their pain points
If you want to know if your product will sell, you need to understand who will buy it. Carry out some market research and understand who your customers will be.
Where do they live? What do they do for a living? What are their hobbies? What social media platforms do they use? When you understand your key audience, you’ll know how your product can make their life easier.
It is often a good idea to directly talk to the people who make up your target audience. Ask them what problems they are experiencing and see how your product can help them out.
Even if you choose not to create a proof of concept, it’s always a good idea to carry out extensive research into your target market.
3. Define your solution
When you know your customers’ pain points, you’ll be able to refine your prospective product to help them out as much as possible.
Does your initial product idea make life easier for your customers? If the answer is no, you may need to tweak it. Remember, you don’t want to launch a product that is of no use to anyone.
Think about how much your solution will cost, how much resources it will require to launch and how scalable it is. These factors will all need to come into play.
Your ideas don’t need to be 100% perfect at this stage. It’s better to have a handful of half-realised ideas than one idea that isn’t quite right.
4. Decide on your metrics
How will you know if your proof of concept is successful? At this stage, you’ll want to consider the performance goals you need to monitor. These goals will depend on the product you’re looking to sell and the solution you want to provide.
For example, if you want to launch a mobile app, you may decide to create a waiting list that people can sign up to for more information. This means your goal could be X amount of subscribers. This shows there is interest in what you have to offer and will give you the confidence you need to start creating a prototype.
If you’re creating an automation platform, you can see how much time (and money) your software will save over completing a task manually. This will give you the knowledge you need to see if your product will be well-received by prospective customers.
5. Keep it simple
One of the main reasons proof of concepts fail is that they go into too much detail. This can make them confusing and hard to read, especially if you are hoping to use yours to get an investor on board. Your POC needs to be simple and to the point.
Should a POC be a maximum length? Again, it’s hard to say. The shorter you can make it, the better. If in doubt, ask another member of your team or a proofreader to go through it and see if anything can be cut.
Start with one hypothesis and work towards proving it right. Keep things clear and concise, and you should be on to a winner.
6. Don’t worry if your POC doesn’t work
Sometimes proof of concepts just don’t work as they should. It might be that the market isn’t ready for a product, or while the product is viable now, it might not be in the future.
In fact, half of all proof of concepts fail the first time around.
Many businesses find that they need to create several different proof of concepts before they see success.
If a proof of concept doesn’t come to a positive conclusion, it’s okay. After all, it’s better to find out at this stage than it is after your product launches.
You then have the choice of trying again or moving on to something else entirely.
In summary: Get developing your proof of concept today
With 95% of products failing in the first year of launch, a proof of concept is a low-risk way of checking that your business idea will stand the test of time. If you find that your startup idea will not work, you can walk away without having invested too much time and money.
If you find your product is a viable one, you can then move on to creating a prototype and eventually an MVP.
Still not convinced of the benefits a POC can bring? Even top film directors create proof of concepts for their blockbuster movies. A short trailer can help sell the movie to potential stakeholders and see if people like the plot. Sin City, District 9, 300 and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow all initially started out as POCS!
We wish you the best of luck with creating your very own proof of concept, and we hope these hints and tips have given you the inspiration you need.
Remember, if you need a little extra support, be sure to read on…
Need help developing your proof of concept? You are launched is here to help
If you’re stuck on your proof of concept idea and need some support to fine-tune it, our team of experts have the experience you need.
We are in contact with venture capitalists and startup accelerators since 2014. So, you can be sure that we would be able to help you refine the idea and get it to market.
If the thought of a POC has got you scratching your head, get in touch with us today and see how we can help get your startup launched