We raised a $1.3M seed round mostly with our pitch deck and a prototype. I do think our experienced team had a lot to do with that though.
The hurdles for each type of round have been moving up, and overall funding has been tightening. So, now it’s not surprising for a potential Seed Round investor to want to see that you have some traction.
In general, I think it’s very difficult to have an early-stage startup without technical co-founders who have the same skin in the game (for a variety of reasons). There are some clever ways to work around that, use off-the-shelf tools and services, build an audience, and even acquire paying customers for a valuable MVP. But, it’s certainly very challenging and the examples of startups doing that successfully are more rare. Airbnb is one example.
It often takes 3x longer than you think it will to reach product-market fit and demonstrate traction. If you tightly manage your burn rate and stretch the pre-seed money to that longer time horizon, you may be able to pull it off!
Couple of useful articles: