What Is Pretotyping? How To Use Pretotyping To Validate Your Business Idea

Pretotyping comes from the words “pretend” and “prototype.” It is a method to validate business ideas to improve the chances of building a product people want.  Pretotyping helps to answer such questions (about the product or service to build) as: Would I use it? How, how often, and when would I use it? Would other people buy it? How much would they be willing to pay for it? How, how often, and when would they use it?


Pretotyping in a nutshell

In the FourWeekMBA interview to Alberto Savoia, author of the Right It and the person who coined the term “pretotype” he explained:

The key difference between pretotyping and prototyping is the following: typically you build a prototype to make sure that what you are planning to build can actually be built to see if it will work, how it will work, how long the battery will last, etc. etc.

So, prototypes are built to make sure that you can build something. Now, my research shows that 99% of the time you can build it. Most of the apps, say, in an app store do not fail because people cannot build them, they fail because people are not interested.

As Alberto Savoia explained, pretotype is really:

Designed to ask a very different question. It asks the question, “should we build it?”So, if we build it, will people buy it?

In the book, there are many examples of pretotypes.

Let’s look at an example of pretotyping to understand how you can use it to validate your business ideas.

YouTube Pretotype case study

Alberto Savoia explained the YouTube Pretotype:

One of the techniques I teach, one of the pretotyping techniques I write in the book, is called the “YouTubePretotype,” so instead of actually building the app with code, you can use PowerPoint or KeyNote or any other program to simulate what the app will do, right? So you can make a little video, a little movie, that will show the potential users what the app actually does.

And he continued:

So you can have one screen where you write your name and you write the books that you like and then you click a button and it asks for recommendations and you see the app giving you a recommendation. You can do all of this without writing a single line of code. Anybody can do it if you can use PowerPoint or Keynote you can do that.

Key takeaways

Pretotyping (pretending to have a working prototype) is a fast way to prove an idea. Rather than focus time, effort and money on a prototype that the market doesn’t want.

With pretotyping you can flip the questions “if I build it will you buy it?” and approach the market with the following research question: “If you buy it, we will build it.”

Key highlights

  • Introduction to Pretotyping: Pretotyping is a method that combines “pretend” and “prototype” to validate business ideas before investing significant resources. It helps answer crucial questions about a potential product or service, such as whether people would use it, buy it, and how much they’d be willing to pay.

  • Key Difference from Prototyping: The main distinction between pretotyping and prototyping lies in their goals. Prototypes are built to ensure that a product can be developed and functions as intended. In contrast, pretotyping focuses on whether a product should be built in the first place, based on user interest and demand.

  • The Right Question to Ask: Pretotyping shifts the question from “Can we build it?” to “Should we build it?” It aims to determine whether people would actually buy and use the product if it were developed.

  • YouTube Pretotype Case Study: One example of pretotyping is the YouTube Pretotype. Instead of coding an app, a simulation is created using tools like PowerPoint or KeyNote. For instance, a video could demonstrate the app’s functionality and interactions without writing any code.

  • Benefits of Pretotyping: Pretotyping is a fast and cost-effective way to validate ideas before investing substantial resources in development. It enables businesses to gauge market interest and demand early on and align their efforts with customer preferences.

  • Flipping the Question: Pretotyping allows businesses to reverse the conventional approach of “If I build it, will you buy it?” to a more customer-centric stance of “If you buy it, we will build it.” This approach ensures that development efforts are driven by proven demand.

Read next: Pretotyping: How To Find The Right Idea To Avoid Business Failure With Alberto Savoia

Related interviews:

Key resources:

Read Next: Business Model Innovation, Business Models.

Related Innovation Frameworks

Business Engineering


Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Innovation Theory

The innovation loop is a methodology/framework derived from the Bell Labs, which produced innovation at scale throughout the 20th century. They learned how to leverage a hybrid innovation management model based on science, invention, engineering, and manufacturing at scale. By leveraging individual genius, creativity, and small/large groups.

Types of Innovation

According to how well defined is the problem and how well defined the domain, we have four main types of innovations: basic research (problem and domain or not well defined); breakthrough innovation (domain is not well defined, the problem is well defined); sustaining innovation (both problem and domain are well defined); and disruptive innovation (domain is well defined, the problem is not well defined).

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation as a term was first described by Clayton M. Christensen, an American academic and business consultant whom The Economist called “the most influential management thinker of his time.” Disruptive innovation describes the process by which a product or service takes hold at the bottom of a market and eventually displaces established competitors, products, firms, or alliances.

Business Competition

In a business world driven by technology and digitalization, competition is much more fluid, as innovation becomes a bottom-up approach that can come from anywhere. Thus, making it much harder to define the boundaries of existing markets. Therefore, a proper business competition analysis looks at customer, technology, distribution, and financial model overlaps. While at the same time looking at future potential intersections among industries that in the short-term seem unrelated.

Technological Modeling

Technological modeling is a discipline to provide the basis for companies to sustain innovation, thus developing incremental products. While also looking at breakthrough innovative products that can pave the way for long-term success. In a sort of Barbell Strategy, technological modeling suggests having a two-sided approach, on the one hand, to keep sustaining continuous innovation as a core part of the business model. On the other hand, it places bets on future developments that have the potential to break through and take a leap forward.

Diffusion of Innovation

Sociologist E.M Rogers developed the Diffusion of Innovation Theory in 1962 with the premise that with enough time, tech products are adopted by wider society as a whole. People adopting those technologies are divided according to their psychologic profiles in five groups: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

Frugal Innovation

In the TED talk entitled “creative problem-solving in the face of extreme limits” Navi Radjou defined frugal innovation as “the ability to create more economic and social value using fewer resources. Frugal innovation is not about making do; it’s about making things better.” Indian people call it Jugaad, a Hindi word that means finding inexpensive solutions based on existing scarce resources to solve problems smartly.

Constructive Disruption

A consumer brand company like Procter & Gamble (P&G) defines “Constructive Disruption” as: a willingness to change, adapt, and create new trends and technologies that will shape our industry for the future. According to P&G, it moves around four pillars: lean innovation, brand building, supply chain, and digitalization & data analytics.

Growth Matrix

In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Innovation Funnel

An innovation funnel is a tool or process ensuring only the best ideas are executed. In a metaphorical sense, the funnel screens innovative ideas for viability so that only the best products, processes, or business models are launched to the market. An innovation funnel provides a framework for the screening and testing of innovative ideas for viability.

Idea Generation


Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.

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