Inspired Entrepreneur Interview: Adii Pienaar

We all want to be successful, to make something awesome happen, but how do we do it? How do we turn an inkling of an idea into something grand, something that makes our lives sustainable, something that impacts people for the better?

There’s no set answer to that question, but I think I know something that might help: learning from people who’ve already made it happen.

Let me tell you a funny story.

When I first started blogging years ago, my first blog post a picture of a Nutella jar with a candle on top — all because I wasn’t sure what to write about. But you know what else? Despite my hesitation on what to write about, the blog was well designed … a design by a company named WooThemes. A few months later, when I was getting the hang of the whole “blogging thing”, I switched to another design … a design made by WooThemes. A few years later, I switched to another design … a design made by WooThemes.

My blog’s design lived on WooThemes for years, up until about ten months ago.

I never thought that a few years later I’d be posting an interview with the guy who created WooThemes — who has no idea how much he has contributed to my own journey into entrepreneurship.

We’re doing something new here on TPV, and I’m excited to start sharing this with you today. At the beginning of each month, I’m going to introduce you to someone new — an entrepreneur interview with the hope of getting to know the mind behind the awesome, meaningful work.

Remember my last post about rockstars? I’ve got another rockstar to tell you about today — someone I truly admire, someone I hope you will enjoy learning about.

Let me tell you a bit more about Adii, also known as “Adii Rockstar”…

Adii Pienaar is an entrepreneur, husband and very new father; the combination of these roles resulting in an epic & challenging journey. Unlike the bios of most “serial” entrepreneurs, Adii was a one-hit wonder with his role as co-founder of WooThemes, but he’s working to change that — he’s now working on his new startup, PublicBeta.

I love Adii’s approach to following his passions through his businesses. Ready to learn why?

Let’s hear it from Adii himself. Enter Adii Rockstar!


1. What is your superpower?

I’m a cheerleader.

2. How does you use your superpower in your creative work?

When I’m passionate (and I get to work on stuff that I’m passionate about), I have incredible energy and drive to succeed.

One of my personal motto’s in life is to never be put in a box, but instead design my own box.

This also relates to how I believe that comfort zones are really bad, especially for entrepreneurs. But that means that I’m mostly taking the roads less travelled, where constraints breeds creativity and you need to have that passion, energy and drive to succeed.

3. What are the top 5 things you’ve learned so far in your work?

Only 5 things?

  1. Your family is always #1.
  2. Do more of the things that make you happy.
  3. 99,9% of mistakes you can possibly make won’t be fatal.
  4. Always learn from your mistakes.
  5. When you can, pay it forward.

4. Tell us about a time when you had to start an Adventure against the will of others.

I built the very first WooThemes product in November 2007 (in my final year at varsity) and had committed to taking a corporate job at the start of January 2008. 6 weeks into the corporate job, the product was selling really well and I had already started working with my eventual co-founders. And the corporate job wasn’t working out so well.

So I had made the decision to quit the job and pursue WooThemes full-time. At the time my parents (and especially my dad, who was an entrepreneur and business owner himself) were very cautious of that move and tried to delay my decision: “Just stick to this for at least 6 months.” Similarly, my friends — in their new corporate jobs — couldn’t understand my decision.

But two weeks after that my corporate journey came to an end and I started working on WooThemes full-time.

5. What gifts did you find from starting that Adventure?

I think the greatest gift has been that I’ve found myself.

Through the various ups & downs of this journey, I’ve truly learnt about who I am, what makes me tick, and what the things are that I’m really great at.

This adventure has resulted into so many mistakes made, but it’s also been the best journey I’ve ever undertaken.

6. What are a few things people wouldn’t know by looking at you?

I’m not great at “meeting people”. I’m very passive in the way that I network in real life and I much prefer being approached to approaching others.

I also have an obsessive hate of telephone calls.

7. What do wish you had learned sooner? Or not at all?

I would’ve loved to know that most answers don’t have an absolute right or wrong answer; both in business and life.

Trying to find that perfect answer for every decision you have to make or delaying making a decision to wait to “feel like you are making the right decision” is a waste of time.

And it’s impossible.

I love the lean startup methodology with regards to Build->Measure->Learn, where the only way I can make any decision is to try something that I think is mostly good or right, learn from the outcome and try again next time.

8. What are you working on now? What makes it an Adventure?

I recently “quit” my job as CEO of WooThemes to work on my new startup, PublicBeta.

PublicBeta is an adventure because it is based firstly on my passion to help other entrepreneurs. The pursuit of money and building a sustainable business is only secondary to that passion. This means that I have a completely blank canvas, where I’m hoping to make some new mistakes, learn some new things and hopefully create something that makes a dent in the universe.

Now do you see why they call him Adii “Rockstar”?

Apart from taking WooThemes to an incredible level of success, what I love about Adii’s story is his dedication to his own passion. I don’t know many people who would walk away from a cushy CEO job to tackle a new interest. I admire Adii incredibly for taking that leap, and I’m right there with him in the PublicBeta community.

And a big thank you to Adii for sharing his superpower and heart with us. It’s true stories like this that help us all muster the guts to make our dreams happen.

If you haven’t visited PublicBeta yet, I recommend you do so — I’m already there waiting for you.

Wishing you awesomeness from Managua!

— Marcella

PS. Next month, I’ll be interviewing someone close to home — an Adventurer from our community. I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am!