I interview WooThemes

woothemeslogoWooThemes is pretty well known, they have delivered 44 wordpress themes in to the commercial theme market. I wanted to ask a few questions to the guys about where things were headed with business and personal life. Mark and Magnus were kind enough to answer some questions.

Just in case people don’t know, could you list the names and roles of persons involved within Woo?

WooThemes was started by Adriaan Pienaar in Cape Town, South Africa, Magnus Jepson in Stavenger, Norway and Mark Forrester in London, England – with the internet being the life blood of the company.

It’s quite evident that WooThemes has a very big voice amongst the web community and beyond, if you’re ahead of the rest, what is keeping you motivated to achieve great things everyday?

Mark: I think all 3 of us are quite competitive, both amongst ourselves and our competitors. We are always trying to knock each other off top spot for best selling theme, or studying our web traffic and blog posts were we are mentioned and planning how we can strengthen our position online with great themes, content and competitions. I think that definitely helps in achieving bigger things each month.

We also are lucky in the fact that we can collaborate with industry leading designers, so we get their personal styles infusing with ours to really create unique and trend-breaking designs.

Magnus: I think the advantage we have over “the competition”, is that we have a unique team composition, and that we all want to apply our ideas, to make Woo an inch better. Both Mark and Adii have also felt the heat, since my first themes proved to be the most popular 🙂

Adii has recently been involved in an interview stating that 90% of the marketing activities are down to him, would you say that your known more for quality themes or your marketing activities?

Mark: Definitely a combination of the two. Marketing poor quality themes wouldn’t exactly work in our favour especially with our rather viral Twitter profile. We pride ourselves on unique designs, built on a very stable theme framework boasting lots of useful functionality.

Magnus: We have all found the parts that we enjoy the most in Woo, and Adii has a knack for marketing, as I have a knack for doing support, so people sometimes only think Adii is running Woo, as his voice is so prominent 😉


Woo2 was hyped to the max, has your marketing since the Woo2 launch increased your hits/turnover?

Mark: Definitely. Woo2 launched with a much more competitive pricing structure for the club membership, that coupled with a far more sexy and usable company website has definitely done wonders for our traffic and sales.

Magnus: Yeah again I think the marketing we did through ads, twitter and other interactive marketing was spot on, and it’s really helped take us to the next level.

What would you say are the reasons why you have such a good reputation in the industry?

Mark: We were lucky enough to have got in early to the commercial theme market,  that said it was not all down to luck, we identified a big gap in the market and pounced on it. We were therefore mentioned quite a bit online amongst the early WordPress adopters.

We are also extremely vocal as to our plans, we love engaging with our community and getting their feedback on our next moves. This is directly related to our reputation. We adapt and mature quickly, but always do so to offer something better for our loyal users.

Magnus: I think the advantage we had at being early in the game, and having a great team has made us get a good reputation. I also believe that our designs, both self produced and those done by top designers, have elevated our themes above the rest.


44 Themes and more on their way, where do you see theme design going?

Mark: We are exploring so many different types of themes at the moment – business, multimedia, magazine/news, and personal themes so there is definitely not one direction we are moving in. That said more and more businesses are turning to WordPress for an affordable and very usable content management system so with every theme we try produce something breaking the traditional blog format of WordPress themes.

Magnus: What amazes me is how good the first few themes like Fresh News and Gazette are still doing. These themes have become the building blocks for us, and I think our main focus will still be around magazine, business and multimedia themes, but I’d like us to explore more niche themes as we keep growing. I think our customers crave updated designs, but with similar functionality, so that allows us to reinvent our older theme designs, while not reinventing the functionality behind them.

The Magento themes seem to be on the back-burner, what are the reasons for that happening?

Mark: We at WooThemes are big on ideas and quick on communicating them to our users. Sometimes probably a little too quickly. We’ve certainly learnt to take things one step at a time, developing 44 WordPress themes and now entering the Drupal market is a huge amount of work. Now that the platform has been built with Woo2 to support the sales of different CMS themes we can focus our attention to Drupal and Magento, with Drupal being the guinea pig.

Magnus: We like to think big, and it all sounded so good when we discussed it, but in retrospect I think we should have focused on taking one CMS at a time, and not promise to evolve to 3 other CMS off the bat. Hopefully we’ll get there in the end though.

On a personal level, how much time do each of you spend on Woo work, as most of you have your own little businesses behind the scenes?

Mark: All three of us are very entrepreneurial, but WooThemes is our day job and passion. Being internet based we have the flexibility of working the hours we want. Usually we work far too many, but we try to take it easy on a friday, and of course always find time for an XBOX session 🙂

Magnus: I actually find myself working way more now than when I had a 8-4 job. It’s just so much more motivating to spend time working than sitting in front of a TV. I probably spend anywhere from 6-12 hours a day working on Woo.


What are the three top goals for Woo over the next 12 months, considering you’re already reaching 1 million page views per month!?

Mark: 5 million page views per month. No, on a serious note we are not only drived by traffic and sales figures. We want to cement ourselves in the web design industry as the leading theme development company, but all the while having fun, doing what we enjoy, and to keep impressing our awesome community of users.

Magnus: I’m always eager to see growth and stability, as I hope to be working on Woo for years to come. Page views isn’t a goal in itself, but I think that is a result of our hard work with continuously pumping out quality themes. I’d like to continue on that path… Why change a winning formula?

Thank You

Thanks go to Mark and Magnus for answering the interview questions on behalf of WooThemes.

I interview Magnus Jepson

Magnus shot to online fame being one of the founding three partners of Woothemes. I got to chat to Magnus about where it all started, where its going and all things Woo!

Full name and Age please

Magnus Jepson, 30 in a few days.

Favourite Biscuit and Drink?

Stratos (Norwegian choc-bar) and Coke Zero

Last book your read and last movie you saw?

“Anvil! The story of Anvil” and “Angels & Demons”

Where and when did it all start?

For me it started with web design as a hobby, next to my full-time job as a programmer. It evolved to a passion, and eventually I stumbled into WordPress and started making WordPress themes, which led to co-founding WooThemes.

Is there anyone in the industry you look up to?

Since I’ve only been in the web industry for a short time, I never really got to know who the “leaders” in the industry were. But I have a great deal of respect for designers like Liam (www.wefunction.com), Collis (www.envato.com) and obviously Adii (www.adii.co.za) which was the guy I looked up to from the start of my WordPress venture. We are now business partners which is kinda cool.

You’re one of the 3 original Woo members, how did you become Woo?

I started out by myself, creating a few free WP themes, then eventually selling a few of them. I then got in contact with Adii, who was also in the market for “premium” WP themes, and did a collaboration with him. That progressed into another couple of  themes and soon after that we decided to re-brand to WooThemes, together with Mark Forrester.

What does a general day consist of for you?

Mostly coding, support, admin on WooThemes. I’m pretty used to working 8-4 from my old job, so it hasn’t been that hard for me to go freelance, and I really enjoy my daily tasks, which make it a lot easier to get up in the morning. I try to sneak in a few minutes of Guitar Hero every now and again too.

You live out in Norway and have only met your co-founders once, does it get lonely not having the other guys around?

Not really… we have our weekly skype chats, and also text chat on skype every day, so I feel as though I’m part of an office, although we don’t have the physical contact with each other. It’s also a lot easier to get work done when you don’t have distractions around you.

Where does your heart lie, with design or development?

Though question. I think if I had to choose I would go for design, since a web page is something that is so much more visible to others. It’s so much more rewarding when somebody gives you credit for a great design, contra having solid code…

Do you prefer being woo rather than what you were doing?

I wouldn’t trade it for anything… Working at WooThemes is a dream job, as you get to do work on your strong points, and you don’t have to design a theme specifically for a client. It is also so much more satisfying to be in direct control over how much you earn.

What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to Woo’s success?

I think it is a mix of perfect timing, good partnership, hard work and great designs.

You’re known for working on a PC, do you think you’ll ever change to mac?

I dig my iPhone, but I could never get used to the one button mouse on the Mac. I’ve also been running Windows 7 for a while now which is a big step up. And I can never get used to the font smoothing on Mac’s 😉

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Things change very fast online, but I hope that I will be in a similar position as today. I doubt I’ll ever go back to corporate work… Once you see the light, there is no turning back.

Will you be heading to anymore conferences in the near future?

Surely to FOWD again next year, but nothing other than that planned. Conferences are great for inspiration and networking, but I don’t see the benefit of going to multiple conferences every year. The best part of FOWD was meeting the Woo gang.

Thanks to Magnus for taking part!