Aug 18, 2023



The classic MBA product development model is shrouded in secrecy and mystique:

  1. Develop the offering in private, make everyone involved sign non-disclosure agreements,
  2. Raise millions of dollars in venture capital,
  3. Spend years making it perfect,
  4. Then unveil your creation to the astonishment of the world and the thunderous sound of ringing cash registers.

Unfortunately, this mentality ruins careers and empties bank accounts. On their own, ideas are largely worthless—discovering whether or not you can actually make them work in reality is the most important job of any entrepreneur.

Don’t be shy about showing potential customers your work in progress. Unless you work in an industry with unusually aggressive, competent, and well-funded competitors, you really don’t have to worry about other people “stealing” your idea. Ideas are cheap—what counts is the ability to translate an idea into reality, which is much more difficult than recognizing a good idea. 

“Stealth mode” diminishes your early learning opportunities, putting you at a huge early disadvantage. It’s almost always better to focus on getting feedback from real customers as quickly as you possibly can.

A Prototype is an early representation of what your offering will look like. It may be a physical model, a computer rendering, a diagram, a flowchart, or a one-page paper that describes the major benefits and features. It doesn’t have to be fancy: all your Prototype has to do is represent what you’re offering in a tangible way, so that your potential customers can understand what you’re doing well enough to give you good feedback.

For best results, create your prototype in the same form as the finished product. If you’re creating a physical product, make a tangible model. If you’re making a Web site, create a working Web page with the basic components. If you’re creating a service, create a diagram or flowchart of everything that happens in the process, then act it out.

The more realistic your Prototype is, the easier it’ll be for people to understand what you’re trying to do.

The Prototype is your first attempt at creating something useful, but it won’t be your last. Your first will be embarrassingly poor and incomplete, and that’s okay. Prototypes are valuable because they allow you to get good feedback from real people before you invest a huge amount of time, money, and effort into the project.

The purpose of a Prototype is not to make it perfect: it’s to quickly create a tangible focus for your efforts—something you and other people can see, evaluate, and improve.

As you show your Prototype to potential customers, you’ll get a steady stream of ideas and Feedback (will be discussed later) that will help you make your offer even better.