For Adii Pienaar, the tech-life started for him years before he founded his company; WooThemes in 2007. His dad owned a computer shop in Brackenfell in Cape Town called Bits and PCs. Adii usually helped out at the shop during his teen years. His dad was a programmer, which gave Adii exposure to software development from an early age. During his high school years, he was exposed to the internet and taught himself how to code HTML and began building websites for families and friends.
He proceeded to study accountancy at Stellenbosch, where he completed his BAcc degree “I absolutely hated it. From the start, I realized that being an accountant puts you in a box and you have so many stakeholders that impose structure on what you are supposed to be doing, but it was a means to an end.” Adii completed a BComm in business strategy. His entrepreneurial spirit was kindled long before he developed his first WordPress theme. An example of this was a website he launched while at the university that focused on showcasing pretty girls on campus, similar to what Mark Zuckerberg did with Facemash, a precursor to Facebook.
During his final year in school, while figuring out how to pay for his student bills, he got into WordPress development and consulting and this led him to build his first theme and he decided to fully build a business out of it. Through his first theme, he met Magnus and Mark who later officially became his partners at WooThemes.
Adii Pienaar and Mark Forrester had been developing blogs for numerous clients by experimenting with different designs and features and learning how to make WordPress awesome. They saw the need for a slick, professionally designed WordPress themes with advanced functionality. Hence, he founded Woothemes with the dream of sharing this expertise with a broader audience.
Woothemes is a company that designs and develops customizable commercial themes and plugins for WordPress. Adii built the business with a bootstrap budget, and the company today generates over $3 million in annual revenues from the sale of its themes.
Pienaar has since exited the company; he now runs PublicBeta, a service that allows successful entrepreneurs to transfer knowledge to new startups. In 2013, the company turned over more than $2 million that financial year, with Entrepreneur magazine estimating 20% of the web was powered by their software. Any South African developer who has dabbled with WordPress is probably familiar with WooThemes or its spin-off product for e-commerce websites.
After making his early entrepreneurial mistakes at WooThemes/WooCommerce while learning about building software for ecommerce stores. Adii subsequently founded Conversio, a startup whose features include; receipts, newsletters, cart abandonment, follow-ups, recommendations, product reviews, search and feedback. He worked on many other projects and ideas that did not work out.
Adii Pienaar is also a writer, in his words “I am an impulsive writer and I always write for myself: writing has been one of my best, therapeutic tools over the years. When I share my writing, it is because I am seeking connection and I hope that someone learns or realizes something that could contribute to their own journey.” In the past, he has published two books: Rockstar Business and Branding (free download from the archives) and he is presently working on his first collection of poems called ‘Motion’.
Adii Pienaar also runs The Rockstar Foundation to provide underprivileged South African girls with full academic scholarships to attend a top primary and secondary school.