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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰


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,Β  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 πŸ™‚

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.

The Theme Business

Today Woothemes released a brand new theme called Feature Pitch and Obox released a full preview of their Arcade Theme which will be available on the 7th July.

I’ve been thinking about the WordPress Theme market for a while now, and whilst not getting directly involved I do communicate with Adii from WooThemes and David from Obox when I can. Online businesses and business models have always intrigued me which is one of the biggest reasons we at carrotmedia have started the eCommerce experiment. Overall the WordPress Theme market is a lively one and with more and more “theme businesses” jumping on the bandwagon it has the likelihood of becoming over-saturated.

Saturated Market

I believe it will become saturated in different ways;

  • There will be the companies who want to make a quick buck, the fly by night individuals who will hang around until they’ve made some money.
  • The companies that have been there from the start who continue to provide fantastic support and constant theme releases.
  • The smaller theme companies dedicated to provide new and unique themes for a niche market.

Looking at the bigger picture of the Theme business, from my perspective I would expect a successful business to be able to create themes which the users want and need which can be customised aesthetically and functionally to the users requirements as long as the basics are there. Technically that’s where the mass sales would come from. It amused me somewhat to see a commenter on Adii’s post about “Feature Pitch” dissing the design and how it should have been made one of the free wordpress themes because he didn’t like the design, the guy led a pretty scathing attack without providing constructive criticism which is about as much use as a pocket in a sock.

Surely there wasn’t need for such an attack and the person just misunderstood the whole point of a theme?

On the other hand, Obox’s Arcade Theme is highly detailed and graphical but will not be to everyone’s liking. Even though the guys over at Obox have an incredible eye for all the little things in design and they’re sure to fill a niche market but this will also restrict sales?

What would you do?

So my question to you as a user is, what would you like from a Theme company. Expand this discussion past WordPress and think about it across any platform. Would you like the niche designs or good service and more themes?

From a business point of view which would you like to operate? Niche or mass markets?

I interview Adii from Woothemes

This is one of the first posts to be ported over from Floobe.com, I’ll be posting shortly about the reasons I’m moving everything to here so keep an eye out. The original post went live on the 15th December 2008, I’m looking forward to doing a follow up interview with Adii in the future.

Hey Adii thanks ever so much for taking the time out for this!

1. Full Name and Age please.

Adriaan Pienaar, 24.

2. Favourite Biscuit and Drink.

Shortbread biscuits & Cream Soda.

3. Last Book you read and last movie you saw.

Getting Real by 37Signals & last movie I saw (on the big screen anyway) was Eagle Eye.

4. Where and when did your career start?

I started freelancing at the start of 2007 and basically worked out of my 1 bedroom apartment whilst still studying.

5. Is there anyone in the industry who you look up to?

Yup – and there’s too many to mention… πŸ™‚ From a business perspective, I really like the way Ryan Carson & Jason Calacanis run their respective businesses and how they’ve almost established a new way of running one’s business. It’s really their progressive ideas that have turned them into amazing role models in the online, business world. And from a design perspective, I really love Jason Santa Maria’s work – the guys is an absolute genius!

6. What was a key factor in your professional growth and development?

I think my own ambitious attitude is the major driving force in this regard, as I’m always looking to improve myself and my skills. I would not have been where I am today without challenging myself on a daily basis and continuously try new ways of doing daily tasks.

7. Where does your heart lie, with woothemes, your blog or radiiate and why?

Neither of them specifically. My heart lies there where I’m being challenged and at the moment the challenge is maintaining 3 established web properties, whilst also sustaining their respective growth. I see all 3 of these properties as part of my online presence and thus invest an equal amount of energy in each.

8. Out of these 3, WordPress, Light CMS and Expression Engine, which do you like the most and why?

It’s gotta be WordPress, simply because I’ve built my reputation and my business around it. I love the ease of use thereof, whilst the increasing ability to use it as a fully-fledged CMS excites me immensely. That said however, I also look forward to expanding my skills to EE once they release version 2.0 early next year.

9. Do you see WooThemes as work or just a way of life?

It’s probably more a way of life at this stage, because working on WooThemes has become part of my daily routine. That said, it most definitely feels like a job at times; especially when I have to spend hours on yet doing e-mail and other nasty admin stuff.

10. What is the biggest project you’ve worked on so far?

Probably the design & development for Fairlady Magazine. It’s got to be the most complex WP site I have ever developed…

11. Throughout your entire career to date, is there any particular problem you’ve ran in to more than once? Clients, Jobs, Work, Family?

I think there’s a recurring theme in every problem: a dodgy client… πŸ™‚ Some clients don’t pay, pretend that they know everything and delay the project for weeks on end, because they couldn’t care about your schedule… But that’s just the standard problems that web professionals deal with on a daily basis, right?

12. What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?

Hard work and not being afraid of trying new things.

13. Where do you get your inspiration from and where do feel most inspirational?

Anywhere & every where… I get ideas at the most random of times in the most random places! πŸ™‚

14. What are your 3 favourite apps?

Currently: Things, 1Password & Versions App. All on Mac obviously…

15. Premium themes are exceptionally good, do you think that type of work will become over populated and the profit will disappear?

Maybe. I think many designers (especially) would never get involved with template work, as they feel it devalues their creativity and reputation. But more and more designers / developers will get involved and I believe that instead of decreasing the profit, the increased supply will simply increase the size of the market.

16. How do you balance your time between family, radiate, WooThemes and your blog?

Chaos Management. πŸ™‚ Nah, I think it’s all about having priorities, re-evaluating them on a daily basis and making sure that you go to bed at the end of the day feeling happy about how you spent your time during the day. I can’t go to bed if I feel that I haven’t done enough work or spent enough time with my fiance for example – so it’s all about deciding what you want to get out of the day.

17. Where do you see the future being?

Dunno. Things move to fast for me to even attempt at planning too far ahead… My immediate future lies with growing both {radiiate} and WooThemes into even more sustainable businesses, whereafter I don’t know what kind of ideas I’ll pursue in 2009… πŸ™‚

18. You’re a well known individual, do you class yourself as famous?

Not at all. I’m only a little avatar in a very, very big pond. I do however appreciate my following and I do believe that I’ve got enough of a backing base to launch new ideas of.

19. Do you see yourself doing speaking engagements in the near future to talk about the industry?

I’ve done a few locally before and I absolutely love doing public speaking – so I wouldn’t mind to get a few international gigs in 2009. But I also think that there’s still a lot of hard work that needs to be done, before I can consider myself as a well-known international speaker and industry expert. This is however something that I hope I can achieve in my lifetime! πŸ™‚

20. If you had one goal to reach (anything) within 3 years, what would it be?

This might sound arrogant, but what I’ve achieved in the last year, was probably 3 years’ worth of goals… πŸ™‚ So I don’t really know how to answer that question, as I haven’t really thought about it. As mentioned in #17, I’d really like to continue growing {radiiate} and WooThemes and this compromises most of my strategy and goals for 2009.

21. If you had one piece of advice for anyone wanting to venture in to your industry, what would it be?

Make friends and be as transparent as possible during your journey.

Adii’s Blog: http://www.adii.co.za

Woothemes: http://www.woothemes.com
Radiiate: http://www.radiiate.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/adii