I'm Adii Pienaar, Ask Me Anything :)


Hello Radar community. I’m Adii Pienaar, a Cape Town-based entrepreneur.

I co-founded WooThemes (recently acquired by Automattic), and I’m currently working on a seven month old startup called Receiptful that helps merchants turn receipts into customer engagement opportunities.

I’m also full time dad and husband, hipster-curious and obsessed about great wine. I believe that everyone should strive to make new mistakes on a daily basis, because that’s the way I think we learn best. :smile:

With that out of the way, please go ahead and ask me anything.

Ask him anything: An interactive chat with Adii Pienaar
Ask him anything: An interactive chat with Adii Pienaar
Adii Pienaar Today!

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This topic is now opened. You may now ask your questions!

I’m just gonna jump right in and ask a question, @adii We had no idea that Automattic was about to acquire WooThemes when we were comtemplating this interaction, what are the odds?!! Even though you already exited the company, this must be a proud moment no less. Could you tell us about your time at WooThemes and helping to build a globally recognised and relevant product?


Hi Adii. I am really proud of your achievements. Please what do you think about the future of ecommerce in Africa? And how do you feel your new Receiptful would address a real African issue?


Hey @adii thanks for this. I’ve always been fascinated by bootstrapped businesses. Why do you think you succeeded with yours and were able to scale what is essentially a free product?


Thanks for the the kind words. :smile:

RE: Future of eCommerce in Africa.

This is interesting… Whilst there’s been a few breakout successes, there’s also been many failures. Take a company like Kalahari (South African) for example, who made losses for 11 (or 14?) years and just merged with Takelot.com.

My gut-feel is that it’s gonna take some time still for broadband penetration & web adoption to grow to the point where eCommerce is viable to most new ventures. That said, I think mobile commerce is where all the growth will be. Figure out how to make African people spend (more) money via their phones…

RE: Receiptful solving African problems.

I think at the core we’re about two things:

  1. We want to democratise a set up features at a price point that makes it accessible (and viable) for most eCommerce merchants to use (i.e. not just the big guys with big budgets).
  2. Our receipts are about maximising customer lifetime value. In my mind this is also a nice bootstrapped approach to growth & marketing, because you’re leveraging your existing customers without spending loads of $$$ on marketing.


Hi @adii, love your work - a real inspiration. I have two questions…

1.) Did you have any shares or role in WooThemes in the recent acquisition?

2.) Where and what is you primary market for Receiptful?


Happy to be here. Thanks for having me! :smile:

There’s a couple of things that helped us:

  1. We focused on revenue on day 1.
  2. We made a product that was available for a much lower price to the alternative (i.e. initially we had $50 or $100 themes compared to $1000 or $2000 it would cost to have it custom-built).
  3. We really invested in our customer experience & support, which helped us build a very loyal customer base.
  4. We build a really cool brand (on the values of building great, innovative products backed by delightful customer experiences).

  1. Nope. Nada. Nothing. :slight_smile: I sold all of my shares at the end of 2013 when I decided that it was time for me to challenge myself (as an entrepreneur) and create something new.

  2. In terms of geography, we’re agnostic and have a global focus. Right now, the bulk of our users are from North America and Europe, but purely because our multilingual support is basic. And at the moment, Receiptful is perfect for eCommerce retailers that fall into the SMB category.


Did you try raising VC/ Angel capital? No - why not? Yes - what could you have done differently?


Hey @adii! One the biggest complaints VCs in South African and (sub-saharan Africa) have is that entrepreneurs are too big on NDAs – do you think that is down to how easily things can be replicated here? Can this be solved with a happy comprise on both sides for investors and entrepreneurs?


Hello Adii,

Both WooThemes and Receiptful has shown that startups can function across borders.

What would you say is the biggest challenge with collaborating across multiple countries / timezones?

And what are some useful tips when it comes to finding, hiring and managing a highly distributed team?



Nope, external funding was never something we explored with Woo.

Initially it was mostly just because we didn’t even know that it was an option for us to consider. But because we were cash flow positive since Day 1, we always grew organically.

Towards the end of my journey with Woo at least, I also think there’s the consideration of what impact external funding would’ve had on our culture and the lifestyle that Woo created for us. At that stage, we’d gotten used to doing things in a certain way and a significant, external investor might’ve jeopardised that.

We could’ve probably used external funding to accelerate growth, but it was never a requirement and we were happy to stick to our lifestyle and grow organically.


Hello Adii, Can you share your thoughts on the place of incubators and accelerators in Africa - (working, not working) and your opinions on how they should function in terms of focus and objectives taking account local realities?


oh one more @adii :slight_smile: – African entrepreneurs don’t generally give their first employees shares in the company. I find this breeds disloyalty in some cases and good employees leave for more money because of a lack of ownership. Does this stop Africa from developing a world-class startup ecosystem? Does it require cultural mind-shift to happen in the economy of trade were we retain and nurture good employees in the startup ecosystem?


I just think that any entrepreneur that is that attached to their idea is more likely to fail than they are to succeed. Unless you’ve cured cancer, your idea doesn’t need a NDA before you talk to anyone about it.

Investors don’t steal ideas. They hear & see thousands of ideas hourly.

All roads to success require execution & hard work. Not NDA’s. This is a good read in that regard: http://avc.com/2006/02/why_vcs_dont_si/.

(As a FYI - I have never signed a NDA when an entrepreneur has pitched me. I flat-out refuse it, because it’s stupid.)


Hello @adii looking back and seeing how successfull WooThemes is, was there any time you felt disappointed and rejected. If Yes, How did you handle the rejection and disappointment? If No, what do you think you did right to avert that.

Secondly, how are measuring your success/growth with Receiptful?


The only way to collaborate across timezones is to work with people who don’t require micro-management. If someone requires micro-management to get their job done, you’ll want to be in the same timezone as them, because you’ll need to check up on them hourly.

And for hiring, I think it’s just all about finding like-minded people. For Receiptful, I targeted two personal characteristics for my team members:

  1. A thirst for learning; and
  2. A love of a challenge.

I generally think those two attributes makes for good, distributed team members, because it also implies that they’ll be accountable to themselves to do a good job.


You just raised some money for Receiptful. Is there a reason you chose to go this way this time? What was the experience of using Angel List? Do you think there’s any upside/downside to having a (relatively) large number of investors in one round?