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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

The Real Risk

Are you avoiding failure or pursuing success?<...>

I've learnt a lot in the past year and I'm probably spot-on in my perception that I learnt more in the last year of my life, than I did in the 5 or 6 years prior to that.

This applies especially as to how well I've gotten to know myself: my passion, my natural instinct, my weaknesses and my fears.

What's specifically fascinating about this is how exactly all of this played out as I attempted to start a new business (PublicBeta).

From the out-set, I took an extreme approach to validating my ideas and assumptions. And after three (unsuccessful) pivots (which I called roadmap tweaks at the time, FML), I can honestly say that my mindset was one of avoiding failure and not pursuing success.

Whilst both of these have the same end goal in mind, the route there is very different. As an entrepreneur, it also had a counter-intuitive effect on my psyche and execution which I believe ultimately contributed to my eventual burnout.


It's on that background that I've found a significant contrast into how I've approached my new business, Receiptful.

There's definitely a cool backstory (to be told soon) to tell about how I got started when I read a single article about two months ago now and things just clicked into place. It was at that point that I decided to drop everything else and focus exclusively on building Receiptful.

What was the first thing I did thereafter? I invested a bit of money and immediately started to build the product. No (external) validation required. I only needed a hunch about my idea and the opportunity that I'm hoping to grasp.

It wasn't until the building process was well underway that I even reached to a couple of close friends to get some feedback on the idea.

And when the product was about 80% completed, I decided to publish a landing page to capture some beta signups. If this was last year, I would've used that traction to make a decision on what to do next. Instead I took the 150-odd qualified leads and I started selling to that audience hard.

The aim wasn't to gather feedback to iterate on what we were building; the V1 spec was signed off and wasn't gonna change until I could get that version into the hands of real customers.

I can also proudly say that I shipped a beta to 8 customers this morning and that I've not compromised on that initial vision or plan once.

This may be contrary to what other entrepreneurs regard as best practice, which is a trap that I specifically wanted to avoid.

Instead I've learnt (about myself) that the real risk is not trusting my intuition and doing things my way. Whilst that means I'll be making loads more new mistakes; it also means that I'll have a major success somewhere in the future.


There's a part of me that believes that entrepreneurship can't be boiled down to a systematic process. There's just too many variables at play at any given time.

It's about accepting that part of my competitive advantage will always be the way I think and the way I do things.

Couple with that the fact that the entrepreneur is the most important cog in any business and it becomes clear what the real risk is.

For me that risk closely resembled a mindset of avoiding failure and trying not to lose, when instead I should've doubled-down on the uncertainty, gone with my gut and risked (almost) everything in the pursuit of passion and success.

That's at least what I most want(ed).

It's not about seeking validation or trying to avoid risks. Heck, it's probably not even about risk mitigation, but instead running head-on into it.

The real risk is not being the entrepreneur that I am and that I continue to want to be.

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