Startup prototype: Should we build a prototype before an MVP? - LimeRed

We have a great idea, but where do we start?

What has the most value for us, our funders, and our users?

What is a startup prototype?

DesignerShare

Sarah and Bill, the founders of DesignerShare, had a logo and an idea – to redefine designers clothes lending as an empowering action for women everywhere. The paths this idea could go down were many, so which one made the most sense first and what would people want? We took their team through a 5-day rapid prototype to find out.

What We Did

Problem Framing & Understanding

Rebranding

Qualitative Research

Pitch Practice

Product Definition

Does our product need to exist? If it does, where should we start?

Problem Framing & Understanding

Before the prototype began and on the first day, we spent time as a whole team defining the problem this new product would solve for users. We looked at their beliefs, their context, their physical locations, and made a list of assumptions to test later in our research that would inform the product. All of our sessions were designed around answering the question: Is this something that people will use and love? Should we spend the time and money to make an MVP? The outcomes of these framing sessions helped us stay focused on the benefit for users when making decisions about features and components later.

Rebranding

When we looked at the competitive landscape, the vision of the brand, and the user base, something was clear: The logo and current brand assets weren’t reflecting the future or present state of the DesignerShare brand. Since we needed to develop and test some brand assets in the prototype, we redesigned the logo to be more in line with the market expectations. From there, we had a solid brand vision to communicate with the rest of our startup prototype and visuals.

Qualitative Research

There were so many assumptions we had to test with users in our startup prototype that would make or break this product. So many, that we kept a running list on the wall any time anyone made an assumption that we needed to test. We got in touch with prospective users while we were generating ideas to make sure we were focused on what would be most important for them, because without them, there would be no platform! Not only did this help inform the prototype, it made the market case clear for a future funder.

Pitch Practice

Every day, we helped our startup team define, refine, and practice their pitch. We timed them, gave them exercises to run through and helped communicate the value that their new product would bring to people. Pitching takes practice and by the end of the week, they were experts. Everything we do in a prototype is designed to define and communicate value, so their team is set up for not only success when developing their MVP, but also communicating their real value.

Product Definition

When you have a great idea, part of the fun is thing about the future implications and expansions for that idea. Problem is: you can get lost in the dream when the tough question is: what do you build first? Throughout this whole process, our goal was to determine whether this product needed to exist, how to communicate its value if it did, and then define its key features. We helped our startup team develop and define some interesting IP that they hadn’t thought of before that will be a key investment for a funder, further define their internal process and business model, and make some decisions around their product’s user experience and design. All in a week.