The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) is under construction to measure the expansion history of the universe using the baryon acoustic oscillations technique. The spectra of 35 million galaxies and quasars over 14,000 square degrees will be measured during a 5-year survey. A new prime focus corrector for the Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory will deliver light to 5,000 individually targeted fiber-fed robotic positioners. The fibers in turn feed ten broadband multi-object spectrographs. We describe the ProtoDESI experiment, that was installed and commissioned on the 4-m Mayall telescope from 2016 August 14 to September 30. ProtoDESI was an on-sky technology demonstration with the goal to reduce technical risks associated with aligning optical fibers with targets using robotic fiber positioners and maintaining the stability required to operate DESI. The ProtoDESI prime focus instrument, consisting of three fiber positioners, illuminated fiducials, and a guide camera, was installed behind the existing Mosaic corrector on the Mayall telescope. A fiber view camera was mounted in the Cassegrain cage of the telescope and provided feedback metrology for positioning the fibers. ProtoDESI also provided a platform for early integration of hardware with the DESI Instrument Control System that controls the subsystems, provides communication with the Telescope Control System, and collects instrument telemetry data. Lacking a spectrograph, ProtoDESI monitored the output of the fibers using a fiber photometry camera mounted on the prime focus instrument. ProtoDESI was successful in acquiring targets with the robotically positioned fibers and demonstrated that the DESI guiding requirements can be met.