The Impact of prototyping on the survival chances of digital early-stage startups: Findings and insights from explorative expert interviews


  • Nancy Richter Schmalkalden University of Applied Sciences
  • Martin Wrobel



business model, prototyping, Lean Startup, expert interviews, digital entrepreneurs


The products of digital entrepreneurs are highly innovative, and their business models contribute to the prosperity and further development of the economy and society. However, studies indicate that most of all startups fail, particularly during the early stages of their business journey Prototyping as part of Lean Startup or Business Model Testing approaches, can assist digital early-stage startups in navigating uncertainty and achieving successful product launches. However, these methods are applied very individually and there is little empirical research on best practices. We therefore conducted 65 explorative expert interviews and asked successful startups about their prototyping practices. Our results include learnings on the prototyping process and the testing format, the role of the founding team during prototyping practices, the customer focus and the role of networks. Our study adds important details to theory and practice of the innovation and prototyping processes of digital early-stage startups. Our results offer actionable advice and guidance to any current and potential entrepreneur, but especially to first-time founders and less experienced executives in early stage-startups. Additionally, our contribution enhances the theoretical understanding of the Lean Startup approach and prototyping practices.