Emerging New Channels to Market for “Creative Class” Microbusinesses

For a start-up, one of the biggest challenge is gaining access to customers and being able to transact business with them as easily and quickly as possible.  In the last 5 years,  new business models have been emerging that help reduce that challenge, referred to as Ecosystem business models.

These new business models are providing knowledge workers (aka the “Creative Class“) access to ready-made delivery platforms and selling channels to a well-defined market.

These emerging channels to market typically provide a means to connect suppliers with consumers, usually handling the transaction between the two as a trusted mediator (taking a percentage in return for the channel services, e.g. selling platform, marketing, customer management, fulfillment, transaction handling):

  • Apple Apps Store – sells applications to Apple iPhone phone users, handles delivery and payment, payment is via iTunes account
  • Google Android Market – sells applications to Android mobile phone users, handles  delivery and payment using Paypal
  • Amazon Webstore – sell your wares online, access Amazon shoppers and Amazon store tools, handles payment using Amazon account
  • 99Designs –  companies/individuals post requests for graphics designs and designated “prize money”, companies/individuals post responses, the winning design selected gets the “prize money”
  • oDesk – teams or individuals post skills/availability, companies/individuals post jobs with desired fee for completion (fixed rate or hourly)
  • Shutterstock – royalty-free photographs, individuals/companies provide photos and get paid based on sales
  • Innovation Exchange – companies/individuals post challenges and cash, suppliers post responses
  • Mechanical Turk – people post questions/tasks, suppliers post answers/accept task
  • Cafepress – individuals/companies generate graphic content, Cafepress puts it on mugs, shirts, etc and handles all fulfillment for the supplier
  • Amazon Kindle – sell eBooks via Amazon and their new eBook reader
  • uTest – on-demand software testing
  • Crowd Spring – similar to 99Designs
  • Lulu – sells self-published books
  • Beta Test – links beta-testers with software publishers (e.g. iPhone)
  • Eclipse Foundation – links Eclipse IDE consumers with suppliers who build on top of the Eclipse open source IDE platform
  • Just Parts – links consumers of auto parts with suppliers
  • Top Coder – links software designers with companies who respond to contest proposals
  • Article One Partners – offers rewards for finding prior art against posted patents
  • Spot Us – allows journalists to post story ideas and solicit funding from public

One channel which can be very significant for Microbusinesses is Paypal –

  • Paypal – “one-click” purchasing between suppliers and consumers.  Many niche sellers, e.g. 3rd party add-on suppliers for Joomla! use Paypal as their transaction vehicle.  Most eCommerce solutions provide a gateway to Paypal as the payment means.  Paypal itself also can accept credit cards on behalf of a seller.  Paypal by itself provides access to a group of consumers who are comfortable transacting business online.  Paypal provides a trusted supplier relationship between the buyer and the supplier.  I have to confess I never thought Paypal would amount to anything when I first heard about the business many years ago…

Recommended Joomla Extensions

Some of the best Joomla! content management system add-ons are listed below:

A complete list of all available Joomla! 3rd party extensions is available at http://extensions.joomla.org/

JoomlaPack Website Move from a Godaddy Website Hosting account to GoDaddy Virtual Dedicated Server Account

I like playing with technology as a hobby, including virtualization, Web 2.0 technologies, networking, etc.   If you don’t know what Joomla, or Virtual Servers are – you can move on to the next post.

If you are using GoDaddy Website Hosting, you may want to upgrade to the more flexible GoDaddy Virtual Dedicated Server (VDS) service. The following steps are intended to provide guidance to how to use JoomlaPack to simplify the transfer.

  • Prepare a backup of the shared hosting site to be moved using JoomlaPack

  • In the VDS Master cPanel, configure and compile PHP to match the needs of your website applications, e.g. Multi-byte String Handling

  • In the VDS Master cPanel, create a new account (new virtual server) with the associated domain name <vdstargetdomainname>

    • If possible, if you have a xxxx.com domain, get another xxxx.net, xxxx.info of the same name and use that as the domain for the target VDS virtual server so you can keep the other site active while you do the transfer, then you can change the DNS records to point the old domain to the domain of the target VDS virtual server (and you can park the domain on top of the target VDS virtual server using the VDS Master cPanel) the old domain name once the transferred site is up and running

  • In the VDS Master cPanel, ensure the target VDS server’s root account <vdsrootuser> has “wheel” authorization to allow su for chown functions

  • On the target VDS virtual server make a .htaccess file with “Options All -Indexes” to turn off directory browsing by anyone while you are doing the install

  • Connect to the target VDS virtual server using SSH and use ftp to transfer the JoomlaPack backup archive to the target VDS virtual server public_html folder from the shared website hosting account

  • Upload kickstart.php to the target VDS virtual server into the public_html folder

  • In the target VDS cPanel, create the Joomla databases and associated database user/password, create any 3rd party databases and associated database users/passwords

  • Open your webbrowser http://<www.vdstargetdomain.xxx>/kickstart.php and restore files and databases per JoomlaPack restore instructions

  • SSH into the target VDS virtual server and “su”.

    • Update the owner and group of the files “chown –Rf <vdsrootuser>:nobody public_html”

    • Update permissions to 775 (or 755 if you apps will take it) using “chmod -R 0775 public_html

    • Selectively change permissions of folders according to the recommended Joomla security guidelines and as required by any installed Joomla 3rd party extensions

      • If you are using the JSN Imageshow Pro extension, you will need to ensure that WRITABLE (CHMOD 777) {joomla_root_folder}/modules/mod_jsn_imageshow_pro /jsn_imageshow_pro

  • Connect via webserver to the Joomla administrator back-end of the target VDS virtual server :

    • Update hard file paths in configurations of various Joomla extensions such a JoomlaPack and DOCMan

    • For non-Joomla applications, ensure you go to their configuration files (e.g. config.php) to change database name, database login info, root directories

    • Update any Joomla 3rd party extension license files that are linked to IP address

  • Check the target VDS virtual server php.ini configuration to ensure settings for upload_max_filesize match configuration needs for any Joomla 3rd party extensions such as DOCMan, e.g. upload_max_filesize = 8M

  • If you had SSL certificates on the original hosted shared site you will need to revoke the GoDaddy SSL certificate and generate a new one for the Master VDS cPanel. Also note that if you want to use https on the target VDS virtual server you will need to use a dedicated IP address for that VDS virtual server (rather then a shared IP with multiple hosted domains)

  • In the Master VDS cPanel, remove “wheel” privileges from your target VDS virtual server <vdsrootuser> account

eCommerce Solutions for Microbusinesses

I’ve talked to several people recently who have been wrestling with eCommerce.  In one case the company was wanting to sell downloadable products online but not sure whether to build, contract or host.   Another had deployed an open source based solution and had engaged an off-shore contractor company for installation and ongoing support – they were wrestling with the challenge of growth and software maintenance support costs.

Today,  there is little reason anyone should be funding custom-coding or software maintenance for eCommerce solutions.   The only effort should be focused on eCommerce storefront  product catalog, related content, community – and fullfillment!   In this regard, there are some very high quality hosted eCommerce Merchant solutions available, of which I suggest people evaluate when looking to deploy an eCommerce solution for their microbusiness: