This original series documents the stories of Canada’s modern tech companies from inception to today.
Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen started building a mobile gaming company called Tira Wireless. Lau was also developing a a mobile reading platform in his spare time on his Nokia phone, a device which displayed just five lines of text at once.
Wattpad was cofounded by Lau and Yuen in November 2006 in a garage “with a vision to change the way we share stories.” The idea behind the company was that readers could download an app to read and chat about fiction shared by professional and aspiring writers from around the world.
Wattpad’s idea for digital reading came before the Kindle and the iPhone. “We knew that the paper format would become obsolete,” Lau recalled. “We knew people would read digitally. Exactly how—it was kind of fuzzy.”
Wattpad bootstrapped for more than three years before quietly raising a modest seed round.
In 2011, Wattpad hit one million users. Its app had five million downloads supporting 1,000 phone models from 600 mobile operators.
In the fall, the Toronto company raised a $3.5 million Series A round from Union Square Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, and W Media Ventures.
In the summer, Wattpad raised $17.3 million. The Series B round was led by Khosla Ventures of San Francisco and included Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, with existing partners Union Square Ventures and Golden Venture Partners also participating. Omers Ventures later joined this round.
Wattpad celebrated its seventh birthday by launching a new feature called Stories, which profiles people whose lives have been transformed by stories.
“Seven years ago we had a few hundred stories on Wattpad; today we have more than 28 million uploads and we’re on track to surpass the total number of books that have been published since the advent of printing,” said Lau.
In the spring of 2014, the Canadian company raised $46 million in Series C funding led by Omers Ventures with participation from August Capital, Raine Ventures, and Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund. All of Wattpad’s existing investors also participated in the round.
At the time, more than 25 million people spent upward of six billion minutes per month on Wattpad. In 2014, 20 billion words were written on iOS and Android devices.
Eight years and four rounds offunding it, Wattpad started monetizing its platform.
At the turn of the year, users were spending a combined 11 billion minutes on the platform. Now they spend 13 billion minutes.
“Before the iPhone, before Kindle and before the rise of ebooks and self-publishing, there was Wattpad,” Yuen once said. “It’s incredible to have created a platform that empowers people to read, write and socialize in a way fits their mobile lifestyle.”
Today, Wattpad employs 115 workers.