What exactly is a prototype , mockup and paper prototype


I have my idea ready and want to build it immediately and pitch to investors but people have been asking me to build a prototype, some ask me to build a mockup or deck or working model or some ask for wireframes etc

Which one should i start with if i just have the idea of what i am going to create or is it a waste of time and i can directly build the website and itereate based on what i see there.

if i am looking for angel investing do they really ask me to build a working model or some other model before listening to my pitch?

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asked Mar 25 '10 at 08:34
445 points

3 Answers


A prototype is a semi working application, it's little more than a proof of concept.
A mockup (paper or screen) is a non working representation of the app.

Investors want to see a working something that they can get their heads around, assess both the validity of the idea and get some sort of valuation estimate on.

Ideas, in and by themselves, are unfundable unless you have a proven history of making your investors significant money.

answered Mar 25 '10 at 08:41
Bob Walsh
2,620 points


In essence you want to de-risk your company, and mockups/paper prototypes are likely insufficient.

It sounds like you're looking to get investment money with just an idea, and that's hard to do. Why? Because ideas are themselves worthless without talented people making them a reality. It's very important to demonstrate you're capable of executing your idea.

Not only do you want a proof-of-concept, but it's very valuable to be able to show there's a need. Having a minimal product with real users (especially paying ones) can be a powerful signal, and it helps you to iterate and find your product-market fit.

But before you embark on a quest to build a prototype, make sure you understand your customers and their problems. Take a quick look at Cindy Alvarez's blog for a crash-course on "Customer Development" (if you haven't already).

answered Mar 25 '10 at 10:57
Greg Belote
798 points


I find setting up a wireframe to be time well spent. It really helps you think through a lot of the workflows that you might not have realized by working it out on paper. I also find you recoup the time when building out the prototype (or product) because there is less to work out.

Unless you have a proven track record, I would expect this would be a huge asset in communicating your vision to investors.

Fyi, you should check out Balsamiq.com. I saw the recommendation from Steve W. on this forum, and it's great tool.

answered Mar 25 '10 at 14:17
Doug G
446 points

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