If you enjoy immersing yourself in a good story or have aspired to become a fiction writer, then you need to know about Wattpad — a social storytelling platform that has now grown into a full-blown entertainment company. Founded in Toronto by the engineering duo Allen Lau and Ivan Fuen in 2006, the company was a result of the founders’ love of reading. In 2008, they launched the app with the goal of making reading more accessible for everyone. The platform’s user base grew quickly and, seeing the response, the duo followed up by raising more funding.
The platform allows users to publish stories and receive feedback from their readers in real time. Some of the stories have gained so much attention that the authors were presented with book deals or had their stories adapted for the screen. A notable example is After by Anna Todd, which gained attention from Simon and Schuster and later became a major motion picture under Netflix. Another Wattpad success story was author Beth Reekles, whose Kissing Booth series was first published by Random House UK and later became a smashing success as a Netflix production.
The platform now has over 90 million monthly users and has published over 1 billion stories in 50 different languages. The platform’s audience is majority Gen-Zers and millennials who spend over 23 billion minutes on the platform every month — the pandemic being a major contributor to Wattpad’s increase in popularity.
“The impact on us, [looking] at numbers in terms of number of readers and writers, reading time, and number of stories uploaded, increased by 30% to 100% literally overnight when we saw a country starting to lock down,” Lau said.
Moreover, approximately 1,500 Wattpad stories evolved into books or developed into movies or TV shows. To further help its users’ work get recognized, Wattpad launched Wattpad Books and Wattpad Studios. The company helps their most-loved authors publish their work, whether in-house or with external publishing houses, literary agents, or Hollywood studios.
Lau believes the creative freedom that Wattpad allows its users is responsible for its success. It features stories that might otherwise be ignored by other publishers. The most popular stories on the platform are angsty teen dramas, but queer vampire and apocalyptic love tales also make their way. The company’s business model creates incentives for publishers and studios to invest in authors and stories with sizeable fanbases.
Wattpad has received several awards. In 2014, it was named the top Canadian Startup and Employer of the Year by Techvibes, and Lau and Yuen were awarded Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2017, the company won Startup Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year. The company continues to grow and is always in the process of publishing new books or adapting stories into an on-screen movie or TV show.
Mursal Rahman | Contributing Writer