Learn by example – making your niche ecommerce or daily deals store standout

As a gadget geek, I like to look at gadgets, think about them and whether they should fit into my little budget for gadgets. I also get dismayed though that since I live in the Philippines, I can’t get the best gadgets or geek stuff from the US.

I recently attended the Drupal Camp held last weekend at Microsoft 6750 Ayala. The topics were all about drupal. but I found it interesting that they would tackle e-commerce. I thought camps were all about programming, and I found also they had other topics more on the business side of things rather than just plain boring programming.

Anyway, back to our main topic – how to run a successful ecommerce setup.

This is a real world story though, and it’s kind of going to be unabashed and no-holds-barred facts and opinion. So if you have any comments suggestions or violent reactions, feel free to comment in the same way. I also believe I would make some misjudgements about websites, though i have been developing for the web for the past 5 years or so, I still find something new to learn every single day.


Let’s start with my brief summary of galleon.ph @ galleon.ph.
This is a store actually built by the good guys at openovate labs.

At first glance, there may be some price difference between buying from galleon or buying from someone on ayosdito or sulit. This is expected, since the items on galleon are sure to be delivered, and since it is a store, you don’t have to bother with checking the rating of a person on sulit or tipidpc. You just buy from them, pay them, get the gadget thing you need sent within 10-15 days, and done. No messy negotiations about the price, what you see is what you get.

In sulit or ayosdito, you’d have to text back and forth, how much was it, how’s the condition. Then you’d have to get the item either hand-delivered (meeting up) or having the person send via LBC.
So I think galleon is better in that sense.

Just a side note, I think they’d enjoy more success if they’d open it to sellers who want to sell their own unique gadgets. An army of many is b etter than an army of one.

Here’s how I think other people can set up their own ecommerce store and benefit from the long tail end of the market.

Find a niche.

In galleon, I believe there aren’t really a lot of geeks or alpha geeks who want to get their hands on the latest stuff, but if Galleon could get a better deal for stuff from Google, and with more people attending tech conferences and hackathons, they should highlight the more “popular” in terms of use instead of trivial things like Baby-ware and luxury items. It depends on the market really, but if you are going to be a catch all for everything, you will end up a niche of nothing which is what most ecommerce stores fail to catch – the way to differentiate is not by having everything, but by having a single focused lineup, from which consumer interests would peak from.

Keep the wheel and don’t reinvent it

In essence, don’t oversimplify.. I like galleon but I really still have to type what I want into search? Say there is a market for droid nexus phones, there should be a highlight on that.

Contrast galleon with a bigger store, Lazada, and you’ll find the huge difference. Lazada, an amazon clone, is effective to search thorugh because they’ve categorized everything into special links at the top, which is actually a really deep menulink summarizing things into neat little categories. Though the interface may be really really just a clone of amazon, I think it’s an interface that just works.

In conclusion,

For me, I think people should focus more on finding a niche and bank heavily on that,and keep sites clean but easy to fiddle around – i.e. the menus, the categorization of stuff.

I think the pinterest style is just a fad, it’s really hard to look for something you want, as a guy. If you’re marketing to women, then pinterest style is okay since women are into liking pretty things. Guys tend to look for the special item that they want, and don’t usually look around for other things to buy.

Startups In Southeast Asia – an interview by Zan Azlee with Cherish Leow

Cherish Leow discusses what startups are about, and interviewed entrepreneurs in Singapore. She meets with top entrepreneurs in SG including TradeGecko (JFDI 2012), Flocatations(JFDI 2012), along with people like Keith Ng, Mohan Belani (e27/Echelon), as well as people from funding ventures like Golden Gate Ventures and JFDI (Joyful Frog Digital Incubator).

How to Find the Ideal Technical Co-founder

Lately, people have been discussing how one must go about searching for a technical co-founders. Like many things, it takes some homework and preparation before finding the perfect tech co-founder.

I think founders who are starting a tech startup, should understand that when you enter a business, you should know in detail what things the technical guy will be doing. Having no idea of what your tech lead will be doing could lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

I think that a tech co-founder’s goals and expectations from joining should be talked about. They should always keep in mind that people are not going to program away for free if there is no excitement/feeling passionate about project. It should be clear what a startup is all about, and both founders to similar ways of thinking about how to run the startup.

Check the potential technical candidate’s motivation for joining the startup. With the right motivation for joining, a technical co-founder can ensure that working with him will not leave you in the air when the going gets tough.

Finding a technical co-founder is hard, but by finding the candidate who matches your motivations, expectations, and intellectual capacity as well as emotional quotient as you are the primary things you should lookout for.

Squawknet’s history

The Beta:

This, http://www.squawknet.net/bita/ was what I was doing with my website before it became a blog.

It was cool, an http://pinboard.in / delicious / digg thingy for myself, I really wanted a twitter thing for myself.

Why squawk and not tweet something?

I was thinking of building something like twitter. It was my dream that I’d have tons of visits and the site would be popular. Besides, who wouldn’t want another twitter? I built it in like 3 days.

Why the word  Squawk?

It’s from a movie, I think Transformers. It’s about airplanes which I used to have magazines of. I find jets cool and the phrase “squawk ident” is like to identify yourself to an air traffic controller.

Whats with the two ‘net’s (squawknet, dot net)?

I originally wanted squawk.net – it’s taken. And so squawknet. Kinda like technet. Or techrepublic.com.com (before, when its IP was hacked or something).

Why did you blog?

Long story short, it was Terence Pua’s suggestion (the guy who started Insync, the company, (not the band Nsync! :D ). He invited people from the first Startup Weekend Manila to ask him questions and get suggestions. Pressed to find out what to do about pitchapie and finding out it won’t be profitable, I was asked what do I really want to do.. And well I did like to write from time to time. And there was this thing (asked about in quora, in 2011) about there not being a Philippine or Asian TechCrunch  kind of blog (mainly because startups are a new thing here in Asia, new in the sense of being popular). And so Squawknet.net became a blog.

Got more questions? Feel free to  Comment  :)

We are the top three in JFDI applications

We seriously are (see comment on the other post). What does that say? We really have these dreams of startup conquests. We want to win.

But, (as usual) I am going to disagree. Not a lot of Filipinos are going to continue chasing the dream if they did not win. Some will continue on but without the validation of winning some funds, will pursue it half-heartedly. Now I’m now sure, maybe the next batch is the lucky batch where a Filipino startup gets funded.

How can we help? By giving the frankest piece of advice before they even got started.

It’s an idea I have in my mind, that all pitches should be seen by everyone and screened before they get pitched. By the time someone pitches, they already know all the loopholes of their idea to change them and pivot their idea into something that doesn’t suck.

Anyone want to help me rebuild pitchapie? It’s going to be the reddit for startup pitches basically. I need mentors, marketers, experienced user-interface people and gamification experts.

Re-store PH

We recently interviewed Mark Agana of the Re-store.ph Project.

What is the Re-store Project all about?


The restore project banner

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” With this saying in mind, I came up with Re-Store Project, an online community that could tap and offer a reuse-and-recycle platform using technology and the internet.

I started to work on the idea of Re-Store Project last year when I attempted to join British Council’s I AM CHANGEMAKER 2012 but I failed to complete the proposal and wasn’t able to submit an entry. It was put on hold for few months until last May 31, 2013 when Global Shapers Manila organized C@talyst, a call for ICT-based project proposal to address today’s social problems. I developed the proposal with the concept of Re-Store Project as my brainchild brand to address “trash” management through a reuse-and-recycle platform. Luckily, the entry was shortlisted as one of the top 15: http://www.catalyst.com.ph/mark-aethan-agana/ but I failed to make it to top 5, where funding is given as award.

Given the result, I still pushed to make the idea possible by pitching it to other investors. Some of the judges in the C@talyst panel contacted me that they wanted to help me in developing the platform for Re-Store Project.

about metro manila and its garbage

Metro Manila alone produces 8700 Tons of garbage – Every Day!

I went public also in the startup community to get support and to call for possible collaboration. The response was overwhelming and I got right people as part of the team helping me in making this real. The project got also funded by two private VCs (Venture Capitalists) who believed in the cause of it.

Who is your team is composed of?


Mark Agana,
Technical Consultant, USAID Projects

Ton Alcantara
Managing Partner, ABX Digital Solutions Incorporated

Marketing & Strategy

Mark Bantigue
Marketing Manager, Groupon Philippines

Bryan Zarzuela
Systems Specialist, Teleserv

Web Design & Development

Jerome Blanco
ABX Digital Solutions Incorporated

Nestor de Jesus
ABX Digital Solutions Incorporated

How do you plan to attract traction?

We haven’t done any active marketing yet. So far since we have the launch site up, 346 signed up for beta launching on Dec. 25, 2013.

We will focus on building the community first before transitioning to Phase 2. More of marketing and promotion of the platform to schools and businesses.

We are planning to organize startup meetups and talks in universities and colleges by first quarter next year.

Re-Store Project

Like us at facebook.com/restore.ph

Follow us at @restoreph

Watch Project Video:

On my free time

Aside from working for my brainchild startup, I spend my extra time on running, and training for triathlon next year. I’m a water sports junkie; I jump in anything wet and fun sports.


The next part of the Re-Store PH Interview will be published next post. 

Welcome to Startup Life

Do you have an interesting idea or have something to share about your experiences in the startup life?

Tired of reading endless tech blogs about the latest gadgets and reviews, and want to read something more substantial?

Send an email to jose.palala@gmail.com , with your article – and I’ll quickly create an account for you to start posting :)

About Startup Life

Startup Life Text Logo


Startup Life started in December 2013. It’s inspiration is http://medium.com, a blog that goes against most blogging convention, was  popular and full of post-ideas — the kind of posts that are all about opinion and ideas, not about just yourself but ideas which people can get more meat.

We hope to become somewhat like medium, where independent journalists – entrepreneurs – can write their thoughts about their startup, their life, and share some startup ideas.

StartupLife was created by Jose Palala, an alumni of Startup Weekend Manila, and has been working as a web developer for the past 6 years, as well as on his startup ideas.

It’s all in the UI

I’ve always imagined the web the somewhat become more homogeneous yet allow for some creativity. Think how mobile and desktops now work together seamlessly. On the mobile, the website will show off only the most important information.

I’m not really a Microsoft fan, I regularly use Linux, but with the latest Productivity Future videos, I really love how they focus on the User Interface rather than the technology running behind it. People like to Touch things, they like things to move smoothly.

As a web developer, startups should embrace the User Interface changes that are sweeping every new user who buys into Windows 8. Things that look like accordions, flippable menus, it is truly amazing that we’ve finally reached a point where things are becoming much more easier to use.

I suddenly am thinking about those interfaces, and wondering what language will drive that? HTML + Javascript? COME ON.

More likely than not, someone or something (a big company, or a small opensource genius coder) will recreate the way we program into something really much more easier to do. Something like action script and drag-drop like Flash.  Something that you just write a bit of code “use flow style” then write the various parts which will run according to the flow style, and Poof! you have something that behaves as it should on a touch device, and automatically on a desktop with a mouse it will still be the same behavior.

In the future, every web developer who still codes the old way will have to learn quick on how to make the UI even better.

There’s only one thing that they could possibly help – by building API-centric websites. That way from the ground up, if they decide on a new language to make things show up in a Windows 8 app, you can just migrate it to the new code for the view. It isn’t just MVC, it’s more than just MVC, it’s more like a structured MVC where models and their API are King.

I think over the course of the next few years, I’ll go more into those kinds of projects which aren’t boring. It’s going to be tough, and the move from just plan old PHP programmer to more UI-centric development and API-centric development will be a challenge, but I believe that’s the way to go.

And API’s don’t just allow you to have flexible UI. They also allow you to connect your data to another website that wants to use that data. And that’s the future of the Web. Imagine being able to tell your Arduino or Raspberry Pi device that if the boss is about to leave for work, to set the Alarm earlier.. Think of a driver-less car informing you where it is and actually telling you the traffic situation even prior to taking a drive. Imagine if students didn’t have to wake up and find out that the school will most likely cancel classes.

Honestly I think the future is not spent staring at a computer screen eight to five. It’s more collaborative and more social. Startups should take advantage of the trend even before the future comes, so they can come out the leader when that time comes. They should focus on not only what devices are available today, but envision a future where the delivery of timely and practical information help people from the lowest rank to the management level help them create more meaningful companies rather than silo’d departments and meaningless grudge-work.

Stop focusing too much on time tracking tools. Stop focusing on the tracking of story points. I’m still rethinking agile in my head, but when I do get a job –  a more management level job, or maybe for my own pet projects, I’m thinking of things like efficiency ratios – is the employee not in a good mood to finish his part because of some problem? are my team-mates okay with a programming change I introduced. 15 minute Standup meetings are just standups, what’s better is probably pair coding – where better coders improve the process of coding by actively participating in each and everyone’s code.

The ability to nurture that kind of environment, a harmonious environment, is the key goal of any Agile Scrum master or Project Manager. It’s more of an open and honest approach to development. Rather than the current stress-inducing and highly based on scores and maybe even petty politics over who is more vocal and who seems easy to prey on. Seriously, I’m considering leaving this country eventually because of the highly charged emotional nature of programmers here.

Cheap programmers for hire

A rocket company is currently looking for a rockstar developer to be the lead for the entire south east asian region. Take note however, it’s a position that won’t be based here – but rather – in Vietnam. And yet pay them the same rate as what I would rate a junior dev. It makes me wonder- they can’t hire internally because their own people get paid more here and love it here. They won’t offer to pay the additional increase in pay (as an incentive) for a developer to jump countries.

Theres a trend right now that companies don’t hire workers who work on the spot, but through using virtual / remote working.
One company I once joined (Microsourcing) had automated the project lifecycle and hiring and firing process. I think they’d be better off hiring people through that way, so that the total cost of sending someone to Vietnam to handle the team would be minimized. Reality is that Filipinos won’t bother leaving their country unless you pay a higher pay.

BPO’s are really the way to go, and it is a trend that is growing, and will continue to grow, over the next 5 to 10 years.

The challenge for e-commerce in the Philippines

Random thought. Here in the Philippines, we don’t use credit cards much and people shun credit card offers, and most people run away from the credit card booths in malls.

But what about DEBIT cards as credit cards? This promotes saving first before buying, and promotes not being in huge debt.

Finally, about the delivery of goods. Are our infrastructure and safeguards in place for the timely and quick delivery of various goods? With regards to payment, I can attest to the reliability of LBC. I haven’t tried delivery though and I’m not sure people are really trustful of such services. For me, I do usually worry about the goods are really in transit, or will the person deliver the goods, orof any problems on the way here. Although it seems if you own a business and are in like Metro Manila, I’ve heard delivery is reliable, it depends on the area.

It’s only on buy-sell websites that people are more cautious. E-commerce plays a big part for those with practically no social life because they a) work at home or b) work at odd hours.

What are your thoughts? What’s hindering e-commerce from going full blast? And why is there doubt in our capacity for e-commerce?

Right now, I’m really curious as to how well lazada/zalora and others are still doing, regardless of how evil they are perceived for having too much money that they can market their face all over the internet. It would be nice if there was an open discussion on this.

Related links (External)

Feel free to comment as your opinion will help would-be investors finally decide whether we’re good. As to all the Filipino-owned companies which are reluctant to globalization, it’s time to change! Let’s make this country a little more competitive by adding in some competition!

The more investors, better job prospects, enriched lives, better startup communities, and everybody is happy.

How do you find startup co founders in the Manila

Read Quote of Jose Palala’s answer to Startups in the Philippines: How do you find startup co-founders in the Manila? on Quora

Joining techgroups to learn something new

Some people have the misconception that developers are just always staring at their computer screens and facebooking away and tweeting away their time, while coding of course. It is not true. Here are some tips for the company CEO or Marketing or Recruiters to join techgroups to find top talent.

Clueless recruiters, please don’t attend.

Let me be honest developers are not exactly the friendly bunch of geek you think they should be. So, if you are joining for the first time, expect to not really be “in”. Maybe you should bring your head of marketing or recruitment along with you (if you’re not the actual recruiter) and a techie guy who actually knows about the tech you’re meeting up for, to make things a smoother experience.

Maybe you could bring a friend or two over and introduce them to the group, that could be a good idea to sort of let everyone know who you are and what you are doing by going to the group.

The PhRUG (the Philippine Ruby Users Group link here) is a great place to hire ruby devs and has a meetup this January 24 at 8:00pm.

There are many groups available – there’s the Android people, the bloggers at WordPress Philippines. Other Startup and Tech meetups can also be checked out on the listing at thebobbery.com/philippine-startup-events/

If you have social skills problems or just don’t have a life, maybe going to a community of geeks is the next best thing you can also go try out just so you don’t become a Hikikimori (sort of a geek loner worse than a pure academician)

As for myself, I intend to join meetups if I’m looking for a job, or maybe to get people for the next startupweekend, and maybe learn something new on the way.