If you’ve ever found yourself seriously thinking about building a mobile app, but have no idea where to even begin, this post is for you! In a world where it seems like everyone has an app idea, the truth of the matter is that there is plenty of room for innovation and new ideas in the marketplace. But to take your idea and make it a reality, you’ll need to keep the following in mind.

First: Market Research

At Oak City Labs, we’re passionate about market research and strongly believe that it is the key to your success. Before writing the first line of code, it’s important to make sure that your idea is fully thought through. And while market research is definitely the most strategic route to take when your app is still just an idea, it’s also the route that can end up saving you money in the long run.

To take that first step in getting your app idea off the ground, begin by doing some free research. That’s right: FREE! Using everyone’s trusty friend Google, you can find information showing you what your app idea’s total addressable market (TAM) could be. Along the way, you’ll find competitors and possible features. You’ll also start to refine what your app idea is and what makes it unique. We also encourage those in this stage of the process to talk to people and conduct Voice of the Customer surveys and, ultimately, create a value proposition statement. The goal with all of these steps? To help you refine your app idea, discover what makes your idea unique and set you up for success as you begin the process of building the app.

Next: Partner

After doing your fair share of research and being confident in your decision to move forward with building your app, it’s time to find a partner that can help bring your idea to life. When looking for a development company, we encourage you to prioritize the following:

  1. Reputation: How experienced is the development team? How many apps or custom software projects have they led or developed before? What do their clients have to say about them?
  2. Relationship: How are they planning to communicate with you throughout the project? Will there be weekly check-in calls? Will they help you flesh out your idea strategically, advise of feature prioritization, consult with you on growth strategies and more?
  3. Results: Are they going to be able to solve your problem? Is this partner able to help you achieve the results you’re looking for?

We created Oak City Labs to answer a lot of these questions – to give you the missing pieces to transform your app idea into a real, quality product that makes a difference. Our team has spent decades in diverse roles across multiple leading tech companies. From this experience, we understand how to deliver on all facets of the app creation process – from the technical considerations, to project management, to product-market-fit, and all the important questions you might not think to ask. We’ve learned these lessons so you don’t have to.

We know how all of the pieces of development fit together so we bring a fully informed approach to your final product. By building strong client relationships – guiding you through every step, valuing your feedback, and collaborating on the process with you – we craft the well-designed, marketable app that you want to build.

Then: Build

Assuming you’ve properly validated your app idea and selected the best strategic partner, it’s now time to begin building your app. The process involved can include everything from wireframing and user testing, to visual and interaction design depending on your specific needs.

At Oak City Labs we make sure to have a full feature list in place before beginning development. Then we prioritize the feature list to ensure that the most important things are built first. If budget or time becomes an issue, we always want to ensure that your high priority needs were taken care of in the beginning.

As development proceeds you should expect lots of testing through frequent beta builds provisioned by the development company to your device. And you should expect lots of testing on their end too.

Don’t Forget: Marketing

It would be easy to wrap up this post with the next step and call it a day. But the truth is that successful apps won’t take off and have a hope of succeeding if there isn’t a marketing plan in place. While your app is in development (and, quite honestly, long beyond that), you should be working on and executing your marketing plan. From a website to social media, and even press kits, your marketing plan can make or break your app’s chances for success.

Finally: Launch (& Rinse and Repeat)

It’s the finish line! Well, sort of. At the completion of the build and testing phase of the project, it will be time to launch your app and we’ve created a whole checklist to make this process successful here, here and here.

Once that first release hits the store, you should celebrate! What an accomplishment! But keep in mind that it’s really just the beginning. Following the launch, your app will need to be nurtured on an ongoing basis if you hope to grow your audience (and therefore your business!). You’ll need to address bugs, add new features, adapt to new technology challenges and much more.

As with any business idea, there’s a lot that goes into going from an idea to a bona fide product. At Oak City Labs, we love helping entrepreneurs make their ideas a reality. If you have an idea and think we’d be a good partner for you, we’d love to chat!

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Many people ask me if their app idea is a good one. They are often searching for validation of the idea before spending a ton of money building it. If it’s a market that I’m familiar with I can give a gut answer. More often than not though, I’ll start asking questions about market size and opportunity. In a few weeks, we’ll be hosting a free workshop on not only the questions to ask, but how to do this research and why it’s important. Today I’m sharing just a snippet of some of the content we’ll cover and why it’s incredibly important to businesses and entrepreneurs.

To begin, one of the most important pieces of data to find is the Total Addressable Market (TAM). The total addressable market is the size of the market that represents the actual revenue opportunity for your company. Most investors, whether external or internal, will want to understand the size of the TAM. It’s also part of a value proposition statement. And, hint: it’s most likely NOT the first really big number you find.

Let’s say you have an idea to build a mobile app for contractors to do project estimates on the fly. First, we go to our trusty and free market research tool, Google. We do a search for “contractor estimate tool market”. Not much comes up because it’s narrowly defined, so we widen the search to “construction software market”. Now we’re getting somewhere. Result #4 is a link to a press release that highlights a new market research report covering the “”Global Construction Management Software Market 2016-2020”. This is really close to what we need. However, most press releases aren’t great for actual numbers unless you’re willing to pay for the report (which can help greatly depending on the business case you need to make). This press release is fantastic for other items, like a list of key competitors and CAGR for market growth (how fast the market is growing). We can use a company from the list, Procore, and do a Google search for “Procore market share”. There are several interesting articles in the news about Procore reaching a valuation of $500M in December 2015 and another company being acquired for $600M by Oracle. Another one of the results shows Procore with a 1.5% market share. That’s a pretty nice looking opportunity based on the valuation and current market share. To really determine the legitimacy of the market data would take a few days of research versus the 15 minutes spent for this blog post.

We can already see some patterns emerging from just the one press release, but what about our original idea of a contractor estimation tool? Procore addresses larger companies, which makes sense for the numbers that we’re finding. For our app idea, we want to focus on small to medium sized contractors. We’re back to square one, aren’t we? But all is not lost, we can use that report and the other information for future reference. It can also give us ideas for key search terms for future research.

Maybe we should back all the way up, because sometimes you have to go backward to move forward. How many construction contractors are there in the US? Literally, put that whole phrase in Google. The first hit takes us to a trade organization, AGC of America. Trade organizations and conferences are great references for high-level market data. AGC sites a statistic of 650,000 employers with 6 million employees. That could be a lot of customers! Even more interesting, there’s a link at the bottom about construction spending which gives us numbers about actual spend. A mistake people make often is using the total industry spend as a representation of market size. What we really need to look for is “construction spend on software,” and then construction spend on software estimation tools. Using “construction spend on software” takes us to a Construction Software Buyer Report. It’s a little dated but we can work with it. The key stat is that “prospective buyers are willing to spend $7,766 for the purchase of new construction software.” And look! The top reason for evaluating new software is to “improve the accuracy of estimates.”

And the entire article is a fantastic source for more information. It includes a link to another article about a downward trend in spending which we should keep in mind. Most importantly, it includes an article link to exactly what we’re looking for, a research report conducted by JBKnowledge in conjunction with two other associations and a university. This should contain some good data and it does. They have over 2,600 survey respondents covering a wide range of budgets and sales volumes. It also has an interesting graphic depicting the resistance to use estimation tools in the cloud:

And one that offers more insight and potential opportunity in the market:

To sum up where we are, we’ve found a good list of competitors and we’ve started to identify the key search terms in order to find good market data. It might seem like we jumped all over the place but that is the reality of doing market research on a budget. It takes a lot of reading articles and a decent about of time. Good market research is going to take time and effort. With just 15 minutes of hunting, we found a really good, quality report on the market. Next steps for finding actual Total Addressable Market:

  1. Dig deep into the list of competitors and start to compare features. In fact, a feature comparison spreadsheet or chart is a great tool to use. While researching competitors, make note if one is a public company. If they are, reading through the publicly available investor reports like a 10-K or quarterly report can produce very insightful information about revenue and market growth.
  2. Continue searching via Google with various phrases pulled from reports and the industry. Some might include:
    • Number of construction contractors in the US
    • Average revenue or budget per contractor in the USIf you can find the first two and the percent of budget spent on software then you can make some assumptions about numbers. Let’s say most contractors spend 1% of their budget on software.# of contractors in the US * budget per contractor = total budget available.Then: Total budget * .01 = estimated spend on software.
    • Based on one report we found, we know that 71.1% of contractors use a software tool (versus a spreadsheet) for estimating. We can make a best guess that 71.1% of total contractors in the US use software for estimating. Which might be a little high given the study group. But let’s go with it for now until we find supporting or competing numbers. That same report from JBKnowledge also highlighted most contractors were not very happy with the solutions, so perhaps there’s opportunity to improve?
  3. Continue hunting for and looking on trade association websites for data.
  4. If all those numbers still sound good and we see a pattern developing, then we should move on to a very important next step: talk to people. As many as possible, in what is formally known as a Voice of the Customer survey.
  5. This is all just the tip of the iceberg, to learn more and continue the discussion, we’d love to invite you to our FREE workshop on market research. To find out more and to register visit this link. We hope to see you soon!