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Why founders should prototype more

4 min read
Kacy Boone  •  Jan 10, 2019
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When talking about startup founders, “storytelling” and “pitch deck” are practically interchangeable.

But what about prototyping?

Prototyping has become an integral part of some founders’ storytelling playbooks: one of whom is Shafqat Islam, co-founder and CEO of NewsCred. We sat down with him to better understand how he uses prototyping software to guide his team to product-market fit and further develop his vision.

Shafqat Islam, CEO of NewsCred

Finding product-market fit

The journey towards reaching product-market fit has been an overarching theme in NewsCred’s history.

Born from the idea of combating fake news, the company pivoted before landing on their current offering: an enterprise content marketing platform with $90 million in venture funding.

Around five years ago, the company found itself at a crossroads: they were growing at a strong rate, but the market wasn’t quite pulling the product out of their hands.

That’s when they took to the old-fashioned pen and napkin to sketch out a new product idea: one that would change the direction of the company entirely.

“We’re not designers with formal design training. We’re just trying to build businesses and products that people will use.”

Twitter Logo

Feeling energized from the sketch session, Islam quickly moved from a napkin to a high-fidelity prototype in InVision. He successfully presented the prototype to their investors, and walked away thinking “under no uncertain terms, this was the future of the company.”

Related: How to make your first wireframe

Over the next six months, employees from across the company in sales, marketing, and customer success started using InVision. They walked customers through the new prototype to get feedback, making iteration after iteration: an approach that allowed them to move fast while also staying close to customer needs.

Islam explains, “Without prototyping, we would have lost a lot of time and money, and probably would have built the wrong product.”

Communicating your vision powerfully

In addition to gathering customer feedback to make sure they were on the right track, Islam also needed to get buy-in from employees and investors. According to Islam, the ability for a founder to develop a shared vision keeps the team encouraged to push forward, investors interested in advising, and customers excited to join in on the vision.

“Vision is this very nebulous thing,” says Islam. “But if you can paint the picture of the future, it gets employees excited and that gets your customers excitedTwitter Logo.”

And what better way to paint the future than through design? After months of iterating with their InVision prototype, Islam presented their final prototype at their annual customer summit. He remembers being met with audible “ooh” and “ahs” from the audience.

Related: 5 prototyping tips that will improve your process

After a decade of entrepreneurship, Islam has one solid piece of advice to share. “Do not scale before you find product-market fit. Designers do prototyping all the time, but founders and CEOs should also be doing prototyping to figure out what the product should be.”

Related: Want to learn more about prototyping?

  • What is rapid prototyping?
  • 3 common—and preventable—prototyping gotchas
  • Low-fidelity vs. high-fidelity prototyping