Adii Pienaar sells Conversio in reported over R100m deal to major US company

SA entrepreneur Adii Pienaar, who helped launch WooThemes before it was acquired by Automattic for a reported over $30-million, has announced that his latest startup Conversio has been acquired by the CM Group — reportedly for over R100-million (over $6.7-million).

Nashville-based CM Group has a family of global marketing technology brands. The firm generates tens of millions of dollars a year.

Pienaar (pictured above), who founded Conversio in 2014 (it was initially called Receiptful before a 2016 rebranding), made the announcement in a blog post earlier this month. He said his startup will be rebranding to become CM Commerce.

Adii Pienaar, a former founder of WooThemes, has sold his latest startup for millions of dollars to the CM Group

The startup claims to make ecommerce email marketing simple, allowing clients to “meaningfully” connect with customers from their “inbox to the shopping cart and beyond, automatically”.

‘Nine-figure sum’

When contacted by Ventureburn today Pienaar, who is based in Cape Town, declined to reveal the amount that his startup was acquired for, other than to say the figure is a “significant” one and that the startup was generating a multi-million dollar annual revenue before the sale was concluded on 5 August.

However an investor, who took part in a 2015 angel investment round in Conversio of over $500 000 and who asked not to be named, said the startup was acquired for over R100-million.

Pienaar said he would be staying on with the startup’s current 12-member team based in the US, Canada and Europe. “I will still be leading the product and team,” he confirmed.

While he said he had no plans to relocate to the US, he would not reveal for how long he would be staying at CM Group, adding that this forms part of the terms and conditions of the deal, which he cannot disclose.

The startup, he said, has a “fully remotely distributed team”. Only one other member of the team is from South Africa.

He said the deal came about as CM Group was looking for a product that services the area of ecommerce, which Conversio’s suite fulfills.

Helping ecommerce brands

Pienaar meanwhile said in the blog post that he had founded the startup with the goal of helping ecommerce brands earn more revenue from a missed marketing opportunity: their receipts.

“Since those early days, Conversio has evolved to help ecommerce brands stand out from the crowd and do profitable marketing,” he added.

Says Pienaar in the same blog post: “Back in 2007 when I started working on WooThemes / WooCommerce, Campaign Monitor was already a few years ahead of us in what I believe was the wild, wild west of software.

“What really resonated was that Campaign Monitor was bootstrapped and building their business with loyal customers. (I’m biased here because I have used Campaign Monitor for each of my businesses and also my side-projects. Conversio has also been a Campaign Monitor customer since 2014.)”

In 2008 Pienaar started WooThemes, a maker of themes and plugins for microblogging site WordPress, with Magnus Jepson and Mark Forrester (see this story).

The Cape Town-based startup, together with its sister site WooCommerce, was sold in 2015 to web development company Automattic in a deal estimated to be worth over $30-million, according to a Techportal article at the time.

Read more: SA founders who’ve sold their startup to a Silicon Valley firm
Read more: How WooThemes built an over $30m business using a remote work team
Read more: Are these the 10 all-time biggest exit deals for SA startups? [Digital All Stars]
Read more: Why Automattic’s WooThemes acquisition is so important to South Africa’s startup space
Read more: WooThemes co-founder Adii Pienaar invests in Obox, comes onboard as team advisor

Editor’s note (21 October 2019) Pienaar emailed Ventureburn subsequent to the publication of this story to say that Conversio had revenues in the “multi-million dollars” and not nine figures, as we had it in the initial version of this story. We have amended this.

*Correction (22 October 2019): We incorrectly stated that CM Group’s annual revenue is $6.3-million, according to an article in May by The Nashville Post. The revenue is actually that of the firm Vuture, which CM Group acquired at the time.

Featured image: Conversio founder Adii Pienaar (YouTube)



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