In a competitive app market, Neon Roots emphasizes importance of 'business development'

Neon Roots' Los Angeles office. Image: Neon Roots

What do rap mogul Snoop Dogg, self-help guru Tony Robbins and globally recognized printer company Epson have in common? They've all collaborated with Neon Roots, a Los Angeles-based mobile app development agency that strives to serve as a "business development shop."

Here's a closer look at Neon Roots and how this company differentiates its products and services from those of other mobile app developers.

Neon Roots as a business development shop

Image: InMobi
The mobile app development landscape remains highly competitive, which is reflected in recent data. A recent study of 1,089 mobile app developers conducted by mobile advertising company InMobi showed building a successful app typically requires more than just superior technology and expertise (reg. req.).

"For a mobile app to be successful, extensive marketing is an important aspect. Marketing an app effectively can pose an altogether different challenge for developers, as they need to switch roles from developers to marketers," InMobi wrote in its study report. "[And] getting an app discovered is the fundamental challenge ... With millions of apps across iOS, Android, Windows Phone and other platforms, standing out in the boundless sea of available apps is becoming increasingly difficult."

Neon Roots is exploring ways to serve as more than just an app developer. As a broader "business development shop," it tries to be "more than the work [it creates]."

To accomplish this goal, Neon Roots emphasizes three key business areas in its client projects:

  1. Strategy: Neon Roots offers support with market research, customer development, brand strategy and more, ensuring clients are able to deploy apps that deliver consistent results.
  2. Design: From art direction to data-driven design, the Neon Roots team works with clients to guarantee an app's design meets a client's needs
  3. Technology: As a full-service business development shop, Neon Roots boasts development expertise in many areas, including Ruby on Rails, iOS, Android, HTML5 and even augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Neon Roots also recognizes that building "the fanciest, most feature-filled app possible" is far from ideal.

Instead, Neon Roots encourages testing, refinement and validation of an app based on real market and end user data. And with this data at its disposal, Neon Roots is able to "find out what [it] needs to build in the first place," according to the company.

Neon Roots and the app development process

Although many mobile app developers subscribe to a "build first, ask questions later" app development mindset, Neon Roots takes a different approach to app development.

Neon Roots CEO Ben Lee told FierceDeveloper that his company emphasizes the "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP) during the initial app development stages.

"We believe in validating to core concept in the marketplace with real users before writing a line of code," he said. "Our process is about making sure the idea is strong enough to succeed, then we focus on building an MVP as the first step. The MVP needs to be as lean as possible and is purely made to get the product into users' hands. From there, we can gather more data and iterate."

In addition, Lee asserted that Neon Roots sets realistic expectations for clients and ensures they understand an app's first iteration is unlikely to be the final release.

"We work with a lot of clients that want their first release to be perfect and feature rich, and while we understand where they're coming from, the truth is that's debilitating. We have to be relentless in cutting things down to the bare essentials at the beginning of the process; it's about releasing as quickly as possible so you're making decisions based on user feedback at the earliest possible stage. If you're not doing that, you're perfecting something for failure," he stated.

End user feedback also remains paramount for Neon Roots throughout the app development cycle, and without it, the company would struggle.

"From the very first stage of ideation we're working to involve the user, and we constantly stress that decisions need to be informed by real user data – founder-driven design just doesn't work," Lee noted. In a nutshell, we try to incorporate user feedback at the very earliest stages of the project through to the v1.0 release and well beyond."

App development tools that drive Neon Roots' app development cycle

Becoming a successful business development shop rarely, if ever, happens overnight. To succeed as a business development shop, an app developer must leverage a broad range of software and technologies throughout the app development cycle.

Lee pointed out that "GitHub is life" for NeonRoots, and his company frequently leverages other app development tools as well, including:

  • Heroku
  • RuboCop
  • Xcode
  • Reek
  • TestFlight

But development tools alone provide only a limited amount of support for Neon Roots. As such, Neon Roots also utilizes productivity-streamlining tools like Stack and Trello, Lee noted.

"Productivity-streamlining tools can be more helpful than conventional developer tools sometimes," he said.

The future of Neon Roots

Neon Roots has already worked with many world-renowned clients in many industries, and the company continues to explore ways to bolster its portfolio. The company said clients should expect numerous internal releases that illustrate its dedication to serving as a business development shop.

"Expect strategic and data-driven concepts, and expect a lot more internal products from Neon Roots," Lee said. "We're very proud of our client work, but we're building up a roster of internal releases and you can expect us to continue building on that."