"The key problem of a startup is that it always takes longer than expected to launch a product, so it's important to get things done quickly"

Interview with Mikhail Necheporenko - Zero2Hero Team Leader, CTO of a tech startup, an expert in the tech products development
Startup founders often wonder: What steps should be taken to a successful product launch? What is a prototype and what is its key difference from MVP? What mistakes do founders make, and what should they do to prevent them?

To answer these, as well as some other questions, the Zero2Hero founder Tatiana Melnichuk has interviewed the CTO of an IT startup and our project Team Leader Mikhail Necheporenko.
— Misha, hi! Please tell us what are you doing now at your company?
— Our company creates various technologies that allow publishers to increase their incomes. Publishers are the owners of ad spaces where advertisers post their ads.

Thanks to our technologies, a person will be shown more expensive ads, and, therefore, an advertiser will earn significantly more than someone who doesn't use our technology. This is a complex project and it has many parts.
— Great! How long have you been working for this project?
— I have been working on this project for about four years, but I have been working on the advertising market for more than eight.
— Have you been working from the very beginning of the project?
— If we are talking about this company, then yes, I have been working from the very beginning. Interestingly, this project has evolved several times. If you look at the original idea and what it's resulted in now, then we'll see two different projects that have one common idea, but the ways of its implementation are two completely different things.
— Is it correct to say that your company was a startup?
— This is a startup even now :) There are many definitions of a startup, and one of them sounds like this: a startup is an enterprise that doesn't have a clear business model.
Our project is at the industry's and the advertising direction peak, we do know-how, and therefore our business model is constantly changing.
— Thank you! We'll return to the business model a bit later. Let's roll back a little. Why did you start working on this project? How did you decide to join a "risky" startup?
— A startup is an attractive place because of people, not ideas. A friend of mine invited me to work there. I know him well: we were working at the same company earlier. If we talk about why I didn't go to a large company, to an office, to a managerial position, but to a startup, it's because there is a liveliness in a startup. It is very cool when life gives you a new challenge every day.
First, you make a prototype, then build an MVP, then you are happy about the cool and rapid launch, or maybe you are upset that you need to pivot. You're in constant flux, and that's cool.
—Great, you started to talk about the stages of a startup launch. Tell us about prototypes and how they differ from MVP.
A prototype is a thing that allows you to verify or disprove a hypothesis. Also, a prototype, unlike an MVP, has one property - all prototypes must end their life in a trash can. This isn't a version of a product, this is a project which tests your hypothesis. That's all.
It's very important to build a prototype quickly: the faster you build it, the easier it's for you to throw it away.
— It's very important to build a prototype quickly: the faster you build it, the easier it's for you to throw it away. Secondly, you don't need to think about scaling, development, market needs. You just build a prototype and test the idea. For example, at our company, we build one prototype a day. We have an idea, and we will implement it the next day. Of course, if the idea is more extensive, it may take longer. The most important thing is to make the prototype as fast as possible.
MVP is the first version of the product. This is the thing that you are already creating, but it has minimal characteristics. MVP doesn't test the idea, but the way the user reacts to your idea. You create it and try to sell it. It is important. We've made a lot of MVPs that failed, precisely because they didn't go through the buying stage. If the market responds well and if it even promised to pay for your product, then you need to make the first version already.
The first version differs from MVP in that it aims to satisfy those users who gave you money. In fact, this is no longer MVP creation, but filling the product with various convenient features. In addition, while making the first version, you think about scaling, development, and the future of the project.
— So the prototype just works out the business model, and the MVP is what you're trying to sell, right? Where is this fine line? Where does the prototype end and the MVP start?
—I would say that a prototype doesn't end and an MVP starts, but a series of prototypes ends and an MVP starts. Each prototype answers one question. This doesn't necessarily refer to the viability of the entire product. A prototype can test the viability of small detail, a part of a product.

In addition, thanks to the prototype, it's possible to determine the vector of further development of the idea. It can not only test the hypothesis but also allows you to choose the best of the ways according to which you'll develop the product. When you start doing MVP, you should already know what to do.
— Super! Thanks. You've recently said that you build a prototype in one day. Is this a standard or it's right just for Senior-level developers? What is the optimal time for a prototype building?
To build prototypes at this speed, you need to prepare.
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First, we have been preparing for this for a long time. In order to build a prototype in a day we collected the tools in advance (in a month or two).
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Secondly, we understood in what sphere we were going to build a prototype.
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Thirdly, there is no need to focus on a specific figure. For some people, a day is a good speed, but for others "fast" - is a month. It all depends on the scale of projects.
You should remember that the prototype is only 10% of the product. You can't spend more than 10% of your time on a prototype, otherwise, it's not a prototype, but an MVP or some version of the product.
— Great, is it possible to build a prototype by efforts of junior-level developers? Have you had such an experience?
— Yes, I had such an experience. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the project was large, so junior-developers have quickly become not junior-level ones :) A junior developer is a person who, with his efforts, passion for knowledge, desire to do a good job, has negative sides. This is a lack of experience and a lack of understanding: "does this feature looks good or I should improve it?"
If you are launching a prototype or MVP by efforts of junior developers, then there must be a Senior developer, who'll control these moments.
— Moreover, the Senior-level developer (or a Team Leader) doesn't just control, he is responsible for quality. There is no need to make junior-developers build a product of premium quality. Junior-developers do some features, and the Senior-level specialist brings the final result to the desired level of quality
— Can you give some advice to a young startup?
— The key problem of a startup is that it always takes longer than expected to launch a product. The top tip is to focus on just one metric. In the beginning, quality doesn't play a significant role, it will definitely come with experience. The main thing is to do everything quickly because you run the risk of burnout, and this cannot be allowed.
—Cool! Misha, thank you very much for the interview. And if you want to build a prototype - contact us. We'll help you launch your product by the efforts of diligent junior-developers!
—Glad to be of service to you.
Test the hypothesis?