Proof of Concept (PoC), in explicit terms, refers to providing a proof that your concept will work. However, its inference differs across the industries. For instance, in software development industry, it means verifying the technical viability of a product. In engineering, it is about developing a prototype to demonstrate the functionality of an idea. In filmmaking or digital art, it refers to designing documents or prototypes to determine whether a new technique, technology or tool is a viable option. When applied to start-ups, PoC is a way to demonstrate that your idea has good market potential – it is workable, scalable and profitable.

According to Techopedia,

PoC is a demonstration, the purpose of which is to verify that certain concepts or theories have the potential for real-world application. POC is therefore a prototype that is designed to determine feasibility, but does not represent deliverables.

PoC will give you a documented evidence of whether your product or service can be successful. If it can’t succeed, then it is an indication that you should scrap your idea (unless you strongly believe in your product and are willing to risk the failure).

For example, let’s say you are developing a music app for differently abled people. You are quite confident that your app has amazing features & functionality to attract the target audience and a great product is in the making. You even think that it wouldn’t be too difficult to secure seed funding. Well, the truth be told, this is not the right approach.

You need to ‘look beyond the product’. PoC should precede product development. Because, it will answer the following questions about your product:

  • Is there really a latent or an existing demand for your product? Perhaps your idea is good, but doesn’t appeal to the end-users.
  • If yes, then what features and uses customers expect from this kind of product? It is not about what you think they want. It is about offering what they want.
  • Can your product be mass-produced or grow as your business grows? If it can’t be scaled, then it’s of no use.
  • Can your product be monetised? If people are not willing to pay a price for it, it is not a profitable business model.
  • Can your product adapt to changing market needs? If not, either competition will eat you away or customers will stop buying from you.

PoC not only establishes the technical viability of your product, it also gives you an insight into what will work & what wouldn’t, what improvements it needs, what is the potential of its scalability and what is it the commercial feasibility. When investors see a tangible proof of the potential success of your idea, they might get interested in backing your project. So, it makes more sense for you to put aside time and budget for PoC before taking a headlong plunge into a full-fledged product development or starting the business.

Do note that PoC should not be confused with Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

MVP is a prototype – an early/a ballpark version of the product which is developed with sufficient/minimum features in a single or lesser quantity to run trial tests or acquire the initial user base (for example, 10,000 site visitors or 5,000 app downloads). MVP validates that this product ‘should’ be built. It also gives initial market traction, after which the product is launched in the mass market with final features.

PoC proves that a product holds potential and ‘can be’ considered for development. PoC can be carried out through MVP, a questionnaire survey or face-to-face interaction with target customers. You can say that MVP is one of the ways to do PoC.

For a start-up entrepreneur, PoC is the best bet to minimize the risk of losing money on an idea that is not worthwhile. And, if it proves that your idea is super, then there should be no stopping you!

March 2, 2017
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