Your mobile or web app’s Proof of Concept (POC) plays a critical role in executing an effective market entry for your app.
What is a POC?
Your proof of concept is the quickest, cheapest, and easiest way to test and prove your hypothesis: there is a market for my product and the market is willing to invest in my product with their time and even their money.
Why start with a POC?
Many entrepreneurs try to build a product too early. Before building the app, let’s first prove that the product should even exist. Too many startups fail because they burn through their runway too early. Avoid this common pitfall by saving your resources (your time and your money) from moving in the wrong direction. You will find that the initial users of your mobile or web application will be much more forgiving than your investors and your personal budget.
The goal of your proof of concept should be to put a product in the hands of your initial target market to start collecting validated feedback:
- How are they using it?
- What features bring the most value?
- What unmet need drives that value?
- What is not being used? Why not?
You may be surprised by the data in the feedback. In most cases, we’ve found that that the initial users are placing greater value in portions of the product that were not expected. This is a win–we’ve already saved our resources by not developing something that will ultimately not be used or valued by your users.
How to set up your POC:
Think Quick, Cheap, and Easy–Setting up your POC can be done by implementing a manual process flow and by utilizing existing tools. Remember that your proof of concept is positioned to simply prove the hypothesis. Focusing on building proprietary technology that can scale at this step, as exciting as that sounds, is counter-productive and will lead you away from your product’s core.
However, we still need to take caution in how we present the product. We advise our clients to create a simple, clean presentation of their product via a landing page and/or pitch deck that paints the vision of a unique, automated, and polished product. Put this in the hands of a trusted marketing team such as Shawn Swaim. You’ll want to start selling before your product is ready. While the face of the product gleams with exciting opportunities, you can shift your focus to defining manual processes and searching for products and tools that are already available to the market, testing them, and selecting the right fit to help prove the hypothesis.
When looking for existing tools, take time to research available software license subscriptions and software that can be bought outright. You will find that in most cases, the product that you are trying to build has already been brought to market in another industry (or even your own industry) and can be repurposed. If you find something that is close but is not a perfect fit, you may always reach out to the product owner and ask what can be tweaked or adjusted to fit your needs. Starting with an already built tool that can be customized to your needs will allow you to get to your market quicker, cheaper, and easier.
In this phase of your product development, it is important to not allow great to get in the way of good.
Cycling Through Your POC:
As you’ve heard, it is imperative to launch early and to launch often. If you haven’t heard that before, I suggest reading The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Reis. As explained in the book, if you are not embarrassed by your product launch, then you have waited too long to launch. You can always and should always improve on what you have built. We encourage our clients to follow the 3R Cycle.
3R Cycle | Release. Record. Respond.
The faster you can make your way through the 3R Cycle, the closer your mobile or web app will be to solving your users’ true problems and unmet needs.
Release: Launch your product early to a specific target market with the purpose of solving a specific need or problem.
Record: Collect as much data as possible about what your users value in your product and how they are using it.
Respond: Implement changes to your product that will move the needle for user acquisition, engagement, and retention. Nothing should be prioritized over this in the development of your product.
In the early stages of your POC, when your startup is still green and gleaming fresh, you should be getting dirty with manual work in an effort to churn through these cycles as quickly as possible.
Ready to start developing your own tech?
Although you should never be done churning through the 3R Cycle, you will eventually catch traction and be ready to start developing your own tech. You will know that it’s time to develop our own tech when the scattered outbursts of feedback turn into a consistent chant that encourages you to move in a defined direction, AND you can no longer move the needle forward by continuing a manual process or have exhausted the resources and pliability of the existing tech you are using.