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Bobby Gill of ‘Blue Label Labs’: “Improving the value of the underlying service”

When we talk about the music discovery platform, bopdrop, we often focus on how founder Matt Krause tackled the initial marketing effort on his own and landed enough users just after launch to break into Apple’s top free apps list. The app connects with a user’s Spotify account and offers social media functions that help […]

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When we talk about the music discovery platform, bopdrop, we often focus on how founder Matt Krause tackled the initial marketing effort on his own and landed enough users just after launch to break into Apple’s top free apps list. The app connects with a user’s Spotify account and offers social media functions that help expose users to a wider variety of music based on their preferences and behavior which is awesome for those of us who are always looking to add something new to our playlists.

It goes to show that digital transformation can be subtle, even though we tend to think of it as a process that comes to fruition after adopting an innovative, brand-spanking-new digital product. In cases like bopdrop, digital transformation is something that augments an existing product by improving the value of the underlying service.


As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bobby Gill.

Prior to founding Blue Label Labs in 2009, Bobby was a Program Manager at Microsoft within the Servers & Tools division. Together with co-founder Jordan Gurrieri, Bobby co-authored “Appsters: A beginner’s guide to app entrepreneurship”. At Blue Label Labs, Bobby’s role as CEO entails providing strategic and technical oversight for all apps we produce.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Both my co-founder Jordan and I were working in roles at Microsoft where we were gaining substantial industry knowledge and valuable experiences but like any big organization, neither of us had the room to truly perform at full capacity. We both felt that we could be doing more with our skillsets if we were to branch out but didn’t know exactly what it would look like. So in 2009, I left Microsoft to go to Columbia where I would complete my MBA and when I finished, I joined up with Jordan to start Blue Label Labs.

In our early days, we were forced to confront a couple of realities when we realized that, while it’s difficult to get apps to the top of the app stores, there was an immense demand for our services. To help us build our brand, we started the blog ‘Idea to Appster’ to share our collective knowledge and discuss common problems we observed while working with entrepreneurs. This would eventually serve as a catalyst for us to go head first into our book, “Appsters: A Beginner’s Guide to App Entrepreneurship.”

The inspiration we gained during our earliest days caused us quickly shift our company to be a full-service design and development agency. So much more goes to building successful software than just banging out code and slapping a product on a digital storefront — with our skills and a network of talent, we could deliver a service that does everything in its power to ensure that the products we build are successful. From there, the idea of Blue Label Labs had the direction it needed and I haven’t looked back.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

We spent eight months pouring all our sweat and effort into our first app, Bahndr. We prepped it for launch and made it through the first Apple App Store review only to have it swiftly taken down because we forgot to purge the database of all the test data and user accounts. Some of them had some not-so-appropriate names and images, which Apple noticed on their review of the first update, resulting in them canning us. Remember to always clear your test data before you launch, folks!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I will be forever grateful to my parents who helped me financially bootstrap the business in 2011. I didn’t have a business plan or any real idea of how Jordan and I were going to make money besides the notion of building apps. My parents, without question, helped get Blue Label Labs off the ground by giving me the time I needed to develop a model that allows the business to do so much more than just develop apps.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

While it’s no literary masterpiece, the “4-Hour Workweek” really opened my eyes to the notion that you don’t need some sexy new idea to make a successful business. Though you might not make the front page of TechCrunch, there are so many simpler, more traditional businesses within niche markets that can provide you with a steady income source with a little effort. Back when Windows 8 was being launched in 2012, we used the concepts in this book to launch a website called ‘Windows8Templates.com.’ It was a design kit for the Windows 8 operating system that allowed people to easily mockup Windows apps using PowerPoint. All we did was create a bunch of PowerPoint assets that we plugged into a WooCommerce-powered WordPress site and we generated thousands of dollars of revenue each month for the next two years. The idea is decidedly unsexy as it had already been done for iOS and Android. However, the one thing we did differently was identify that the Windows 8 platform was underserved in this area, thus allowing us to carve out a niche by emulating existing products and ultimately market it for this new audience base.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

In my early days, there were a couple of primary motivators that kept me focused. I realized that I could create an experience that outperforms most of what I observed on the market by offering services beyond just development. Prior to formally identifying as a “full-service digital product agency” I was already of the mindset that I could serve businesses by cultivating a model that not only provides exceptional software but teaches businesses how to identify and connect with their audience as well as maximize value.

It’s like teaching a child how to ride a bike without training wheels. If you set a random bike in front of a child and simply say, “Get on and peddle,” the vast majority are going to end up scraped and bruised then walk away feeling discouraged. To get results, the bike has to be the right fit and they need to learn everything from how to get on, balance, generate momentum to move forward, as well as how to negotiate turns and other obstacles. I already knew how to build the perfect bike, so I refined an effective system to run alongside the riders I train while comprehensively covering all the mechanics in a digestible format. Once they’re proficient, I’ll even teach them how to do tricks!

Too, I knew I had to “go big” so I put everything into this idea so it wouldn’t end up just being some side hustle or after-work hobby.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Blue Label Labs is always working on a few exciting projects at any point in time! But, due to confidentiality reasons, I can’t share anything specific from our up-and-coming projects.

I will say that we are proud of how the JAXJOX platform is performing in the market. We developed the software for this system that’s been hailed by Forbes as “the future of fitness” among other noteworthy praises from various publications.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

I feel the de facto standard for defining digital transformation is something along the lines of bringing modern tech into the mix to replace or improve some process. Depending on the business and the process in question, digital transformation can take on several different looks. At the end of the day, digital transformation should provide a modern, engaging solution to some problem through technology like software.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Truly, businesses in every industry can benefit from digital transformation. The caveat here is that the solution needs to provide a great user experience (UX) or it might fall short of meeting its goals. One thing that comes to mind is how all different kinds of software came to the market around the time of the Dot-com boom of the 90s but a lot of it was garbage. Before the open-source movement latched on, software development companies didn’t really think about or care about the design as it was more about just getting the output right. Over time, this would change as software development became more accessible which caused many companies to have that “aha” moment after seeing small firms and independent developers release products that people actually enjoyed using.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

As we serve all different kinds of industries, digital transformation can take on a variety of shapes. For example, if we created an eCommerce site and app for a brick-and-mortar retailer, this would likely lead to a monumental shift for their business. In other cases, we might build something that adds to a business’s digital toolkit after they’ve already completed a majority of the “transformation” process. More on this later.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Of the many challenges in implementing digital transformation, one of the most pervasive challenges we encounter whether it’s for retail, healthcare, a social platform, or otherwise is teaching businesses how to evolve to best accommodate the customer journey throughout a product’s lifecycle. When you get a product off the ground, you’ve already done the research and testing to ensure your MVP will be a hit with the target audience. A product roadmap needs the flexibility to adapt to feedback such that you’re rolling out new features and tweaking the design based on real use case scenarios. If you just build around assumptions like the high-profile Quibi platform that crashed and burned, you’re bound to follow suit.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

1.) Because the idea of health tech is fresh on my mind thanks to JAXJOX, I see digital transformation in fitness leading an industry-wide revolution with more sensors, smarter apps, and eventually, deeper insights into our performance. Right now, we can track and measure all kinds of workout data but there isn’t anything widely available just yet that can provide the kind of feedback that, say, a personal trainer offers. By applying machine learning (ML) to a system that analyzes movement, a fitness platform could provide feedback in scenarios when, for example, a person is favoring one side while lifting which can lead to uneven development. Really, there is a ton of opportunity for innovation in this area of fitness tech.

2.) We developed a product called Hello Sitter that brings on-demand child care via a secure marketplace to a niche service that more or less didn’t exist. The product was designed to consider all kinds of factors, from the ability to capably network parents with vetted sitters and securely handle the payment portion. As a parent, you’re basically at the mercy of who you know and their availability which makes doing anything impromptu anywhere from challenging to impossible. Hello Sitter solves childcare problems like Uber solves mobility issues by allowing users to find reliable child care whenever they might need it.

3.) Some industries get a major boost just by furnishing information which is what the product Vana (formerly known as Muncheez) provides for the cannabis industry. Consumers are more vested in the products they care about than ever before which holds true for everyone from proud stoners, the recreational marijuana smoker, and those who use cannabis under the guidance of a medical provider The weed industry has shifted dramatically since legalization efforts have taken place across the US, meaning growers and sellers are now tasked with a responsibility to educate their customers about products. This leads to both more sales and a better customer experience so it’s a win-win.

For example, customers already know that sparking a bowl will “get you high” so deeper insights into the specifics of how a strain performs make a big difference, thus allowing customers to make an informed decision and select the ideal product for their intended experience. Further, being able to locate retailers is an incredibly useful tool as buyers don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of time finding a dispensary that carries what they want. Once more legislation is passed to legalize cannabis everywhere, solutions like Vana and others on the market will likely all incorporate delivery components that will be extremely beneficial to those with limited mobility.

4.) The concept of generative design works wonders for architecture and engineering by providing an intelligent, AI-driven system that outputs a slew of different designs based on the parameters it’s provided. We incorporated such a system into the web platform Delve that we built in partnership with the Google subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs. In an impressive proof-of-concept, the UK-based developer used Delve for a large development site outside of Wembley Stadium to generate, evaluate, and optimize “40,000 variants that increased the number of housing units (i.e. unit yield”) while preserving quality of environment over an existing benchmark design. By the end of the 8-week engagement, Delve produced 24 high-performing variants that exceeded all goals across unit yield, usable built area, daylight access, sun hours on the ground, and daylight impacts on neighbors.”

Much like how we use Design Sprints to quickly identify problems, answer questions, and test prototypes for our client’s software, generative design skyrockets the efficiency of the planning phase for construction. Wider adoption of these tools will allow real estate developers to produce better designs, save on costs, and produce results much faster than ever before.

5.) When we talk about the music discovery platform, bopdrop, we often focus on how founder Matt Krause tackled the initial marketing effort on his own and landed enough users just after launch to break into Apple’s top free apps list. The app connects with a user’s Spotify account and offers social media functions that help expose users to a wider variety of music based on their preferences and behavior which is awesome for those of us who are always looking to add something new to our playlists.

It goes to show that digital transformation can be subtle, even though we tend to think of it as a process that comes to fruition after adopting an innovative, brand-spanking-new digital product. In cases like bopdrop, digital transformation is something that augments an existing product by improving the value of the underlying service.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

Companies with a thriving culture of innovation have a great exploration process and know how to test their ideas to understand the impact on their users. For me, innovation is something we are constantly seeking but it’s only part of the equation to bringing “new competitive advantages.” In some cases, it’s putting a slight spin on an existing idea or simply doing something better than the competition by providing a better design. It’s important to remember that when you’re in the market of truly bringing innovation to the market, a lot of your success depends on developing messaging that resonates with your audience so communicating value is, by and large, about as important as innovation itself.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ―C. S. Lewis

I chose this quote because it parallels my mindset when I set out to pave my own way in life. It’s not like I wasn’t in a great position, I simply wanted more so I had to choose to pivot during my career to make my dreams a reality.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can find us by following the Blue Label Labs blog, our Twitter, our Facebook, and our LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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