Entrepreneurship · Entrepreneur

What does a prototype look like?

sofia tabassum Attended Sarhad University of Science and Information Technology (NTI)

September 27th, 2016

Wondering how polished it should be for any startup and what is expected out of it by investors, partners, etc.

Rob G

September 27th, 2016

that depends to a significant extent on what you are building/selling. And forget what investors want to see, it's what customers want to see that is most important for now.   investors today want to see 'traction' first.  Traction can mean different things, again depending on what your product is, but in general users/customers/revenue.  If only users, i.e. an ad revenue model, then it's not just the absolute number of users that counts, but also the rate of growth that is important.  IF you plan to generate revenue other than with advertising then some proof of customer interest/demand is important, i.e. revenue or at the very least customer commitments, i.e. contracts for future revenue.   So your prototype requirements really boil down to "what does it take to get to traction?"  I'm a firm believer in proving customer demand (product/market fit) BEFORE you build a product or even an MVP.  So again, depending on what your product is/will be, you might start with sketches or a powerpoint with some screen mockups to use to talk to users/prospects.  If your prospects will give you commitments based on your PP deck then great. If not then go to the next step, maybe some clickable screens mocked up on a real device.   Keep improving your 'prototype' until either you get customer commitments, i.e. sales or contracts or you prove that prospects don't want to pay for your product.  If the latter, that is hard to hear, but better to hear it now than after you've spent months or years and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars getting to 'no'.  Once you have customer commitment then build an MVP then again confirm customer commitment (go out and get more customer commitments using your MVP) then build rev 1.0.  If your product is a tangible item that people need to see and touch before they will commit then again, put in as little time and $$ as is necessary to get to either customer commitment or  "no". 

Brett Whysel

September 29th, 2016

We're building an app to empower consumers to make wise financial decisions. Our primary goals were to flesh out our ideas and get feedback from potential users. We created a series of low fidelity wire frames on index cards, followed by some slightly better looking prototypes in excel so confirm the math. Then, we hired a developer to create a still-unpolished but low-cost mobile website. We learned. Enough from this process to know we needed to pivot...

Jonathan Fritch Structural Test Engineer at The Spaceship Company

September 27th, 2016

I think that's really dependent on what your trying to do, is the prototype a proof of concept, or to prove market potental, or showcase the product?

Arthur Lipper Chairman of British Far East Holdings Ltd.

September 27th, 2016

The primary entrepreneurial purpose of a business plan is to get a meeting with professional investors, who seldom really study that which you have prepared. I tell classes that I usually determine in less than a minute of a first meeting if I want to do business with the person pitching me. If I do I can make it work and if I don’t there always seem to be problems. The business plan should show a clear path to cash flow breakeven if funding is received by X. I am assuming that the project can reach cash flow positiveness if the product or service is as good as the entrepreneur believes. I, as opposed to many VCs and professional investors, have no interest in being able to make management changes or to guide the company. I only want to create a flow of income over a longer term. It’s called a royalty. Arthur

Matt Belge UX Design Lead at Carbon Black

September 27th, 2016

I agree it depends a lot on the context. It can very simple if you are simply trying to illustrate an idea or walk them through a scenario of using the product. Or it can be very polished if part of the concept is to appeal to customers based on the look and feel. Try to get a sense of what it is you want out of the prototype. In some cases, you may be solving a complex problem and the main value is to show how you've made the customers life easier. In this case, polish is not so important - its about showing that the steps the customer takes are reasonable (and perhaps even exciting to them.) If its about making an incremental improvement over something that is already out there, then being a bit more polished might matter. 

Tom DiClemente Management Consulting | Interim CEO/COO | Coach

September 27th, 2016

It depends on your stage of product development and the expectations of the investors given the expectations you've built up with them about market and Customer requirements.

Saravjit Singh Independent Consultant and Trainer

September 27th, 2016

A prototype should be as near to the 'real thing' as possible or affordable (as may be the constraint in the case of some startups). Don't try to save time/money by having a half-baked prototype - if you can help it. A truly representative prototype has to be built at some stage - why not now. It serves all possible needs. 

Vinay Menon Founder at Mera Tiffin

September 28th, 2016

@Sofia here are some examples of prototypes, we generally create one and bounce it with our prospects and customers to scope out the function. Hope this helps


Will give you some idea what to look for in a prototype.



Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

September 27th, 2016

At a minimum, it should provide proof of principle. A prototype that looks approximately like a production item would be useful, but not governing in all situations. Small items are now easily prototyped with the advent of 3D printing; larger items, not so much. Software-based prototypes should show proof of function and ease of use. Fancy but not functional models will not be taken seriously. Sent from my iPhone

Valeriia Timokhina Eastern Peak Software: Custom software development

September 29th, 2016

You prototype must be working, it isn't a sketch on a paper. Build an MVP - first version of your product. If you're wondering, what features are expected by investors and how to create an MVP that will get your project funded, read more detailed information in this article: