POC and MVP: Navigating Key Strategies for Startup Success


Alexandra Kazemir-Yampolska


1 minute

In the startup world, a significant amount of miscommunication and disappointment can be traced back to slight differences in vocabulary. In various countries and industries, startup decision-makers often assign completely different meanings to the terms MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and POC (Proof of Concept). 

The lack of clarity isn’t just an inconvenience—it becomes significant when a prospect has a budget for a POC but receives a quote that’s ten times higher for an MVP. This issue often arises from a failure to properly clarify the meanings of “POC” and “MVP” at the start of discussions.

In this article, we’ll clarify the basics of these two definitions to help you navigate easily through them when discussing your next project.

What is POC (Proof of Concept)?

POC (Proof of Concept) is essentially an interactive prototype of an application designed to visualize an idea and define user flow. Its primary focus is to showcase a killer feature while generally overlooking UI design and technology stack details.

Key points about POC

  • Timeline: A POC should be built within 2–4 weeks using out-of-the-box solutions.
  • Purpose: It is intended to check market needs, traffic traction, user experience (UX), and the viability of a commercial idea.
  • Functionality: The killer feature should function, albeit in a basic form.
  • UI: Typically utilizes readily available resources like WordPress themes, Flutter plugins, or predefined JavaScript templates.
  • Technology Strategy: Helps in selecting appropriate technology for future prototypes/MVPs/products by assessing traffic load, security requirements, and data storage needs.
  • Budget: Typically ranges from $600 to $8,000 in Eastern Europe.
  • Outcome: Usually results in a simple one-pager or a marketplace with several tabs, and may extend to a mobile app with around 10 screens and 1-2 user flows.

A POC primarily tests the market demand for a business process or a key feature, where aspects like a polished front-end, blog integration, support services, microservices, and partnerships are not yet priorities. Deliverables for a POC include: 

  • A document outlining the idea, target audience, business model, business flow, and project goals.
  • An app demonstrating one functional user flow.

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What is MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?

MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a minimal yet usable version of a product that can be released to test in the market. An MVP includes multiple user flows, 15–30 screens, and is designed to bring immediate value to the market. It features a decent UI and clear UX. While the technologies used may be adjusted later, changes are not always necessary.

Key points about MVP

  • Preparation: Before developing an MVP, a tech team usually creates a prototype to ensure the technical solution is feasible.
  • Budget: Generally between $10,000 to $50,000 in Eastern Europe.
  • Development Time: Ranges from 2 to 5 months.
  • Team: Involves 1–4 developers, along with a part-time QA, designer, and project manager.

Deliverables for an MVP include:

  • A working app with up-to-date technologies.
  • A core set of features.
  • Project design and UI kit.
  • UX scheme.
  • Project specifications with user stories and requirements, including acceptance criteria.
  • Configured infrastructure and CI/CD.

Methodologies and Development Cycle

The development cycle for a POC typically involves a single developer and a part-time PM working in one stretch. In contrast, MVP development involves a project backlog and is developed in sprints (1/2/4 weeks) with milestones that have concrete deliverables. 

This stage introduces project management methodologies like Kanban, Agile, or Scrum—essential for a successful MVP. Kanban is often used in product teams, particularly in game development, while outsourcing companies excel at implementing Scrum in an Agile environment.

Don't Confuse POCs with MVPs: Understanding Their Key Differences

This stage introduces project management methodologies like Kanban, Agile, or Scrum—essential for a successful MVP. Kanban is often used in product teams, particularly in game development, while outsourcing companies excel at implementing Scrum in an Agile environment.

Unlike an MVP, the purpose of a POC is not to implement serious and complex product features, such as payment systems or to demonstrate complex technical capabilities. This fundamental difference significantly separates the two concepts.

From our team’s experience, we often run tests and explore hypotheses during the POC phase. Afterward, we usually discard the initial code and develop it several times more efficiently based on the insights gained from these preliminary tests.

In numerous instances, our clients have expressed a desire to 'check traction.' However, creating traction presupposes that two conditions have already been met: 1) a market fit has been identified—which is actually the most complex step, and 2) marketing campaigns aimed at increasing brand awareness have been conducted.

Alexandra Kazemir-Yampolska

CEO of RedCat

Oleksandra Kazemir-Yampolska

Without these, it is impossible to calculate key product metrics like Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Lifetime Value (LTV) in a statistically meaningful manner. This raises a classic ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma: which should come first, traction or actual execution?

Furthermore, if we merely set up a landing page with a waitlist for a future MVP/POC/Whatever, can this be considered valid confirmation of traction?

Understanding the distinction between an MVP and a POC is crucial because it aligns expectations. If clients and developers recognize these differences, there will be no unrealistic expectations regarding the outcomes of each approach.

How exactly does this understanding improve the process? Both client and contractor teams will speak the same language, align on definitions, and set equivalent expectations. For a POC, the expected outcome is a conclusion about the potential of a full-fledged, high-quality project without releasing this preliminary version to users.

Conversely, an MVP is a product with a basic set of functionalities that is launched in the market to not just hypothesize about the product’s creation, but to actually test its effectiveness and gather user feedback. In short, an MVP is supposed to be live, evolve, and undergo upgrades and code refactoring.

Choosing the Right Executor

In 80% of cases, a POC is executed by one of the startup co-founders or a freelancer, as the scope of tasks is typically not extensive enough to engage an agency. Unlike a POC, an MVP requires a more collaborative effort involving design, QA, and significant project management to orchestrate everything—thus necessitating a full team. A small digital agency, specialized in the relevant field, is often the best fit for executing an MVP.

The RedCat team has a vast experience working with both POC and MVP requests, helping our clients achieve their business goals in a short-time and effective manner. In 2021 our clients succeed to raise more than $40M in 2021, and repeated this success in 2022 and 2023 and check their ideas through the POC.

Don’t miss the chance to make your vision come to life—contact us via the form below or view our portfolio now to start your project with a partner you can trust to deliver.

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Alexandra Kazemir-Yampolska

Alexandra Kazemir-Yampolska

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