TL; DR: Blue Label Labs, an NYC-based company with offices in San Francisco and Seattle, creates powerful digital products strengthened through a development process focused squarely on the user. Founded in 2011 by two former Microsoft developers, the company’s goal is to leverage strategic business consulting and product development to make a real impact on the bottom lines of the enterprises and Fortune 500 companies it serves. Looking forward, clients can expect Blue Label Labs to evolve its investment strategy, fostering innovation in the business sector.
As anyone who leaves a salon traumatized by a cringeworthy haircut knows, it’s not always easy to communicate your wants and desires to a service provider — and the app development landscape is no exception.
Obviously, there’s a lot more at stake for a business or enterprise hoping to execute its vision in the form of an app than what happens in a barber’s chair. Still, to avoid giving a client a metaphorical mullet when he or she wants a mohawk, savvy developers know a thoughtful, user-first approach is vital throughout the entire development cycle.
“For us, it’s about having an eye toward a client’s business strategy to make sure we’re not building in a vacuum, along with a lean, user-centric and testing-focused methodology,” said Zack Drew, Partner & VP of Client Solutions at Blue Label Labs. “As reflected in our mission statement, our goal is to help ambitious companies, brands, and founders make bolder choices and uncover transformative change with truly user-validated digital products.”
The NYC-headquartered company’s comprehensive development process includes an initial five-day discovery process, relentless user experience testing, a focus on elegant design, and guidance throughout crucial hosting, launch, and marketing decisions. The company has used this strategy to help enterprises and Fortune 500 companies, including Bloomberg News, iHeart Media, and Google, launch successful digital products.
Whether partnering with organizations on strategic business consulting, creating designs tailored to a target market, or engineering products to scale and sustain customer relationships, Blue Label Labs helps companies improve their bottom line in a digital world.
Founded in 2011 By Developers from Microsoft
Blue Label Labs got its start nine years ago after two friends and former Microsoft developers began dabbling in the art of independent software development. They did so, at first, for themselves and friends before starting to grow through word of mouth.
“These were the early days of mobile apps — you didn’t have the millions of apps that are there now,” Zack said. (Apple officially launched the Mac App Store in January 2011 with the release of an update to Snow Leopard). “At the time, developers differentiated themselves just by participating in the industry. Before we knew it, we were growing into a pretty hardcore app development agency.”
The company continued to evolve and diversify its portfolio over the next decade while honing its development process into a differentiator in itself.
“Over the years, we saw a rise in app popularity, of course, but in the last few, there’s been a bit of a shift back toward complex web apps and products and away from mobile,” Zack said. “We’re also adding products for smart speakers, Apple TV, and Apple Watch to the portfolio as it evolves.”
Today, the growing digital product development agency remains headquartered in NYC, with offices in Seattle and San Francisco. Over the past six years, the group has designed, developed, and marketed hundreds of digital products as one of the most experienced agencies of its kind.
Consulting, User-First Design, and Engineering
Zack said Blue Label Labs is in an ideal position — not too small or too big that it can’t carefully consider the needs of its clients.
“At one end of the market, you have individual developers, but if that one-man shop closes, you don’t have support for your app anymore,” he said. “At the other end, there’s the large consultancies, like Bain or McKinsey, who we’ve just started to see hire developers and designers in the last five years.”
Blue Label Labs, of course, fits in the middle of the spectrum and benefits from being digitally native.
“It’s about growing up in tech, having been part of the Mac App Store since its inception, seeing the successes and failures along the way,” Zack said. “Whereas the Bains and McKinseys of the world had to learn the skill set of consulting on digital and digital products, it’s what we’ve done from the start.”
As a digital-native, Blue Label Labs also understands the importance of the elements surrounding an app — from server infrastructure to digital marketing campaigns and beyond.
Zack told us from a hosting perspective, the company helps clients determine the best server and storage providers for their individual needs.
“A lot of times, we turn to cloud web hosting solutions from Amazon Web Services (AWS); we’ve also used a fair amount of Microsoft Azure for hosting, especially for HIPAA-compliant work, as they’ve got a solid suite for that,” he said. “We’ve also been using Firebase (Google’s production-grade web content hosting) as a backend provider. It can serve quite a massive audience affordably and easily from an infrastructure perspective.”
Serving a Highly Diverse Client Set
The client base at Blue Label Labs ranges from startups and entrepreneurs to small businesses and large enterprises — all of whom Zack said appreciate the speed of innovation that a lean development methodology brings.
“Today’s enterprises are looking for lean principles of building, measuring, learning, and user testing, because they know that they are not structured in a way to innovate quickly enough,” Zack said. “They’re hungry for a change in methodology that allows them to move more quickly.”
Blue Label Labs works with everyone from iHeart Media to the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, one of the biggest nonprofit medical organizations in the country. The company also serves Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet-owned division of Google focused on creating urban innovations that meet infrastructure needs.
“Their whole reason for being is to help make cities and city planning smarter,” he said. “We’re proud to have a couple of projects for Sidewalk Labs under our belts and to be working to advance local priorities.”
No matter who the company is working to serve, the main focus is always testing to ensure a minimum viable product (MVP) — in other words, a version of a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and fuel future product development through feedback.
“That’s something that we’ve learned over time — if you don’t place the software in front of users quickly, even while it’s just in a design phase or just a strategy phase, you’re too likely to build either too much or too little — and either case is a problem under lean methodologies.”
An Evolving Investment Strategy Aimed at New Ventures
A gaze into Blue Label Lab’s crystal ball reveals a future that’s decidedly in the investment space. The company is actively working on a plan to assume equity stake in lieu of partial cash compensation — a move that will provide a revenue source and place Blue Label Labs in the angel investor space.
“And similarly, we’ve also been building our network of venture capital and the angel investor groups that we’re meeting and trying to interact with so that we can then essentially send pitch decks for clients who are trying to raise money to all the right investors,” Zack said.
It’s a win-win for all.
“We can help get them some money, and at the same time, it helps us evolve their product.”