I came across an excellent “behind the curtains” series of blog posts, telling the fascinating story of the Page.ly project. Page.ly is a user-friendly WordPress hosting, providing hassle-free setup and configuration of WordPress websites. I haven’t used the service myself – being a fan of WordPress I do enjoy diving into the code and learning the details – but I’ve heard a few good words about it.
For me personally, the interest in this story is not only in technology, but also in the ways of thinking. Running a profit-oriented company (and a small start-up at that) on and around Open Source Software is guaranteed to provide a number of challenges – from competition and marketing to community managing. And even though there are many companies that do business around Open Source Software, an insight into ways of thinking, the system of values, and into specific challenges is rare. Building Page.ly series has plenty.
In 2010 we saw the arrival of a handful of what most would refer to as competitors, it was inevitable. We did the hard part proving the space had legs and there was revenue to be made. And no good idea goes un-copied for long. We were also starting to make a name for ourselves in the WordPress community and that helped quite a bit to get the word out.
A couple interesting points regarding these new arrivals. At SXSW in 2010 I went to the WordPress BBQ at a co-working space in Austin where I handed out a few shirts and were talking to folks about what Page.ly was. One fellow I distinctly remember talking to must have really been listening, a few months later he was a co-founder of a competing company. Around the time this company was launching their other co-founder solicited us about using our technology to power their new offering rather than ‘re-inventing’ the wheel. I was amicable to the idea (fits squarely with our collaboration over competition philosophy) and agreed to a phone conversation which never took place. They decided to roll their own and off they went.
One of the other new players was not happy merely re-factoring our idea, but went so far as to be heavily ‘inspired’ by our marketing to the point I had to have a private conversation with them about the overt similarities between our website copy.
At the end of the day, we did not then and we still do not see any of these chaps as competitors at all. We work from a mindset that with 30+ million WordPress powered sites out there the space is deep enough to support 5-10 page.ly’s and we rather pull clients over from the econo-hosts like bluehost, mt, and godaddy and provide them with a better product.