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    E-commerce Here We Come

    Published 06 March 2013, 04:22PM843 comments
    The final piece of our small-business-website puzzle fell into place today, as the team unwrapped our all-new shopping cart widget. Every Infinite.ly website owner can now transform their page into an online store, and sell products or services via Paypal. We don't charge fees per transaction, and allow up to a hundred items for our premium subscribers.



    Although our new Professional subscription package has been bumped up to $4.95/month, everyone who previously signed up can enjoy the same features at the original price of $3.00/month -- our way of saying thanks to those users who believed in this product from the start. All of our free-account users can of course try out the new functionality, but will be limited to just 5 product listings per site.



    It goes without saying that the team will continue to refine this major feature as we receive feedback from our early adopters, so please let us know what you think!
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    We debuted four new templates this week, based on learnings we've gleaned over the past month of observing more users working with our platform. Although Infinite.ly is a more flexible toolkit than nearly anything else out there, having a good starting point for common page styles is undeniably helpful in getting our users' sites up and running faster. We'll continue to add more templates as we go along, but this month we've got four brand-new ones for your building pleasure:






    Launch your web presence on Infinite.ly today! We're still 100% free.

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    Infinite.ly has just released two experimental new features this week, and they're available right now for all accounts.

    First up, we've built a way for you to integrate your Infinite.ly website directly into your Facebook Page. Similar to FB Page Builders like Pagemodo, your Infinite.ly site can be placed inside a "tab" on your FB page. You can specify which section of your site you want to appear on your FB page tab. You could, for instance, only show your Products gallery or your About Us section.


    The second feature is one that we've been debating ever since we launched commercially back in June 2012. Our policy from the start has always been to embrace third-parties instead of competing with them (i.e., aggregate Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr, etc. instead of trying to mimic what they can do), and this extended quite naturally to blog-publishing. Up until just yesterday, the only way an Infinite.ly site could sport a blog is if its owner already had a Wordpress or Blogspot account already set up somewhere else, allowing us to synchronize their entries via RSS.

    For quite a few people, this aggregation strategy was enough, but we kept hearing people asking for ways to start a blog from within Infinite.ly as well. And that's exactly what we've done: this week we've released our first iteration of Infinite.ly blogging platform. You'll find that it's got most of the basics in place already: drafts, tags, syndication, comments, archiving. Of course, there's much more we could add, and this is really just the tip of the iceberg for the rest of the stuff we've got planned for 2013.


    Check out Infinite.ly's new features - it might just be what your business has been looking for!

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    Featured Site: Colab.ph

    Published 22 December 2012, 06:25AM919 comments

    Colab.ph is one of a handful of venues around Metro Manila that's applying the coworking concept to the local context. They're just a stone's throw away from Infinite.ly's own office (we're incubated at Exist in the Ortigas CBD, while they're across the way in Barangay Kapitolyo), and we love their philosophy and design aesthetic. 


    We worked with the founders of Colab to develop an elegant but cheerful landing page that closely matched their organization's sense of style. And it was that sense of style that made coming up with ideas for the Welcome section so easy: the bands of strong colors around their office were the perfect anchor for the layout, and the rest of the page just flowed naturally from there.

    Check out Colab.ph here, and pay them a visit if you're ever in the area. 

     

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    The Infinite Loop

    Published 13 December 2012, 09:19PM476 comments

    Over the past couple weeks, the team has been quietly working on a small picture book to celebrate what has been a truly great year for us. Here are a couple of images from the series:




    You can check it out in its entirety at christmas.infinite.ly, or download the PDF version at Scribd.com.

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    We're celebrating Christmas early here at Infinite.ly HQ, and have a sled-full of awesome surprises for the holidays.

    We've just released the best version of our interface that we've ever built, and we're really proud of how streamlined and clean everything looks. We've also added a very brief tutorial screen for first-timers that points out where the important items are located.


    All the major tools have been moved to the left of the screen, freeing up tons of screen area so that our users can focus on their work. Instead of horizontal tabs, we've reorganized things into vertical panels, which means that they overlap a lot less with your actual page design.


    We've also added 3 new page templates, bringing our total up to 6: Business, Personal, Event, Product, School, and Teaser.


    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we're going on sale for the entire month of December! Every annual subscription registered between the 1st and the 31st of December 2012 is 12% off ($32.00, down from $36.00)! (In the Philippines, the price is ₱1,350, down from ₱1,600).

    What's even better: this 12% discount will continue to be applied to your account forever, not just for your first year with us.

    Tell all your friends and help us spread the yuletide cheer. There's no coupon code to be entered; the discount is automatically applied when you enter your credit card details. If you've been hankering to start building your very own website and domain, now's your chance

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    Five Months Later

    Published 06 November 2012, 09:00PM209 comments

    It’s now been 5 months since our reboot, and it’s been a tremendously exciting and educational time for our small team. We’ve been growing Infinite.ly with zero marketing budget, and the relatively small number of early adopters has allowed us to pay attention to every single person that gives our service a try. Over the past 60 days, we’ve had the good fortune of piloting Infinite.ly with three vastly different groups of users:

    Ten Outstanding Young Employees of Metro Manila is a yearly competition that highlights employees with exceptional conduct and great character. Each of the 18 finalists were awarded their own domain name and webpage. It was in working on this project that we piloted the idea of “Infinite.ly partners” for the first time, where a given webpage “belongs” to a partner and sports partner-specific branding in its layout. Self-promotion played a big part in bringing traffic to the individual TOYEMM pages; a few of them managed to gather over a thousand Facebook Likes on their pages in less than a month’s time!


    Hack2HATCH is the biggest startup event the Philippines has yet seen, and our team was fortunate to have helped organize it. The main h2H page is of course built with Infinite.ly, and so are the individual profile pages of our inaugural batch of startups. Each profile functions as an alternate landing page for these startups, as they almost universally have their own domains to begin with.


    Smart Schools is a non-profit initiative that we’re working on with Smart. The idea is to enable the thousands of public schools around the country (the majority of which don’t have a web presence yet) to build and maintain their school’s website for free using Infinite.ly. We piloted the program with 15 schools during a workshop in Angeles City, and it was extremely informative to watch the participants figure out how to use our app. In some cases, the main people designing the layout were still in grade school, so we also got to see how a child would approach the single-page design problem.


    Our learnings over these past two months have been critical in shaping the product. Partnering with organizations that need super-fast webpages in bulk seems to be the way to go for us, and we’ve been steadily refining our internal processes to better support that notion. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been paying attention to the product itself of course; last week’s release was a major upgrade.

    Apart from a bunch of cross-browser compatibility fixes, we’ve managed to add a feature that a number of people had been asking for: multiple pages. Infinite.ly sites, which were formerly a single long page divided into sections, can now act more like traditional sites with multiple pages. We accomplish this by simply using the sections that users had already defined and presenting them as if they were standalone pages.

    To switch your Infinite.ly page to the new layout style, just go to Settings and pick “Multiple Pages” from the Page Style dropdown, as shown below.


    A veritable boatload of smaller features have been added as well, including group-selection, hardening of our image-uploading workflow, and a more refined mobile version. If you were one of the original early-adopters back in June, we encourage you to come back and see how things have progressed since then. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised by all the improvements. 

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    Infinite.ly was on TV!

    Published 23 October 2012, 11:42AM20 comments

    I did a brief interview with Lexi Schulz on ANC Alerts yesterday, in which we talked about Infinite.ly, Hack2HATCH and the general state of the Philippine technology scene. I also managed to work in visual plugs for our friends at Medcurial, Orchestrack, and TOYEMM.

    The video doesn't embed, unfortunately, so check it out here:

    http://anc.abs-cbnnews.com/videos/2822/infintely-a-startup-for-smes/

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    The local startup scene is in its infancy right now and there are admittedly a lot of growing pains as everyone tries to figure out what to make of this new movement. This past week, there was a small hubbub at the Social Innovations Camp over some members of Healthtxt (the second place winner at the recent Startup Weekend Manila 2012) allegedly copying key features of Where’s My Doctor, the first place winner of said event. WMD’s team is made up of (amongst many others) Ryan and Michie of MRTTrackr.

    The whole affair is covered in lurid detail at the Bobbery, so I’ll only reproduce the broad strokes here. Although I saw both teams pitch at SWManila, I wasn’t around for SICamp, which is where things apparently went off the rails. Some of the key players from Healthtxt pitched an idea at SICamp that was allegedly a “shameless ripoff” of WMD’s. Naturally, the WMD team was livid, and the following morning the Bobbery’s tabloid-esque coverage brought the issue online for everyone to speculate about.

    At the core of this issue is, I think, a general misunderstanding of what events like Startup Weekend, Social Innovations Camp and recently, Hack2Hatch, actually are. These events are meant for the sharing and cultivation of ideas; they do not profess to protect any of those ideas once they’re out in the open. Obviously I don’t speak for the organizers of either SW or SICamp, but realistically speaking, no event of this nature could ever do that.

    What does that imply for the young entrepreneur eager to build out their next concept? Well, you have to accept the fact that the education you receive from peers and mentors at startup events also involves you educating them about the inner workings of your concept. We’re all giving and taking ideas from each other, the whole situation with Healthtxt and WMD is simply an overly-dramatized manifestation of that. Whenever I talk about my product ideas with people, I do so knowing that there’s a possibility that I’ll eventually see elements of that idea in someone else’s work at some point. That isn’t their fault either, that’s just the nature of the game, because at the very heart of innovation is the notion of repurposing and improving on other's ideas. If they’re classy individuals, they’ll credit me, but one should "never ask for what ought to be offered," as the saying goes. 

    I consider Ryan and Michie of WMD to be friends of Infinite.ly, and I hope this situation doesn’t sour their impression on startup culture or (more importantly) their fellow entrepreneurs. As a young startup, you’ve really only got two choices here: either you roadtest your idea out in the open and run the risk of being copied, or you labor in stealth mode and hope you’re building the right thing. You chose the former by joining SW and SICamp, so you need to accept its implications.

    I don’t know the HealthTXT team so I can’t really speak to their intentions, although one of the members has left a very lucid response to the Bobbery’s piece.

    Now how about we all just let this one go and get back to work?

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    I've been fairly active on Quora's Startups in the Philippines section recently, and wanted to cross-post some of my more cognizant writing here:

    =====

    I'm going to share some of my observations and ideas from the past two years running my startup Infinite.ly - a product company founded and operated in the Philippines that's currently finding its footing in the marketplace - as well as the three years before that wherein we were spinning out web products by the truckload as a company called SyndeoLabs. 

    1. Solve tip-of-the-iceberg problems
    Icebergs float around the ocean with only the top 10% of their total mass above water; there's a hulking mass under there that is not immediately visible. Likewise,a good tech product should address problems that are small and manageable initially, but open up the possibility of a much larger solution later on. The part where the analogy fails is that with icebergs, it's easy to figure out where the initial 10% is: it's always at the top. When planning a product startup, it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain which aspect you should target first. 

    My current strategy with Infinite.ly is to focus on the webpage design problem initially, and expand the toolset to solve other common web challenges that small business owners have to face later on. We chose to pursue the webpage builder first because it was right within our wheelhouse -- our team is 75% designers and have collectively built hundreds of web properties. If we picked a different area to focus on, we wouldn't be nearly as effective.

    2. Keep it singular
    There's a tendency for young entrepreneurs to look at the fecund landscape of apps out there and think, "Wouldn't it be awesome if there were a product that combined product A and product B's features?" Yes, it probably would. But no, I don't think it's generally a good idea to build that awesome A+B fusion idea of yours. The main reason is that you'd be playing catch-up with two sets of features instead of one, which is exponentially more difficult than simply trying to build a better product A. Or you could go in a completely different direction altogether, and let A & B have at it.

    One of our early mistakes with Infinite.ly was trying to do a couple of products at the same time. We often joked that we had enough code for 2-3 startups, and although that was technically correct, none of those startups would have been very good. It's so much better to just focus exclusively on doing one thing _well_. It's hard enough to get one product out the door, building two and trying to combine them is just stacking the odds against you unnecessarily.

    3. Remember where you are
    The Philippines is a unique place to debut a tech product, full of contradictions: our national language is only spoken by about a quarter of our population, so we're used to websites offered solely in American English. Less than 5% of us have credit cards, but that shouldn't be a surprise since over 90% of us are categorically poor (i.e., belong to classes D and E of the economic strata). Mobile phone penetration is near total, but only 3% have broadband. For some reason, we are among the top 5 consumers of Youtube globally, and top 10 consumers of Facebook. We're 8000 miles away from Silicon Valley, but our software industry is predicted to grow by 50% (in both revenue and jobs) next year.

    What does all this mean for your product? It could mean everything, or it could mean nothing. More and more small businesses are incorporated every day in this country (760,000 as of last year), so I believe that products which help them get set up faster and more cheaply are in a good position. 

    Currently, we're exploring prepaid cards as the primary way to buy Infinite.lysubscriptions in the Philippines, as we don't think credit cards are the way to go here. Obviously that opens up a completely different set of logistical challenges but the nice thing about modern technology is that it's never very expensive to take a stab at certain ideas. Which brings me to my final point:

    4. Keep at it
    It takes a long time to mold an idea into something that works, and it takes even longer to convince people that they need to pay for it. A good tech product never stops iterating, because its specifications are wholly defined by the perpetually moving target that is customer behaviour. If you're serious about what you're doing, you need to be prepared for the long haul, and you need to accept that you're going to get it wrong many, many times before you get it right.