Fri 7 August 2020
In the Media
Digital Reading
Young Writers in the News
Books & Reading
Goings On
You are here: Home > Young Writers' Hub > Blog > Can Wattpad Save Reading?
Can Wattpad Save Reading?
In the fall of 2007, less than a year after Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen co-founded Wattpad, Lau sat across from his business partner and placed a cup of coffee on the table. “Last month, we earned $2 in revenue,” he told Yuen. “Just enough to buy this cup of coffee. We have to share"

Less than five years later, Wattpad is a darling of both the tech and publishing worlds, securing millions of dollars in venture funding and attracting endorsements from the likes of Margaret Atwood. It is a site where authors can share their work, encourage other writers, and potentially reach a massive audience. From the eighth floor of a nondescript office tower in north Toronto, Wattpad wants to do for writing what YouTube did for video.

“Gutenberg invented the printing press 400 years ago, and it’s about time to retire that invention,” Lau says, sitting at the Ping-Pong table in the company’s boardroom. “We want to invent something that can last that long. We want to be the next generation of the printing press.”

The company has been around since late 2006, though the idea is even older than that. A decade ago, Lau was co-founder of Tira Wireless, which helped port mobile games to various phones. Lau, who is not a gamer, wanted to develop a product he would use himself. He’s not much of a music fan, nor does he watch a lot of movies. “Reading is my life,” says Lau, 43, who was born and raised in Hong Kong and moved to Canada at the age of 19 to study electrical engineering at the University of Toronto.

In his spare time, Lau developed a mobile java reader for his Nokia, but the pre-smartphone screen could only display five lines of text. He set the idea aside until 2006, when, bored with his job at Tira, he resurrected the idea. Around the same time, Lau received an instant message from Yuen, his former Tira colleague, who’d moved to Vancouver in 2004. He was working on a mobile reading project of his own, and sought Lau’s feedback. Yuen sent Lau a link to a prototype of what would eventually become Wattpad. Two days later, Lau was in Vancouver.

“We saw this coming,” he says of e-reading, pointing out neither the iPhone nor Amazon’s Kindle was announced until the following year.

The company struggled at first. “The traction was embarrassing,” Lau says. “I’d know every single new user. I even knew where they lived. That’s how bad it was.” After meeting over the cup of coffee, they put Wattpad on the backburner once again, and started up a mobile advertising company, which they sold a year later; the proceeds kept Wattpad afloat during those years.

The first year was “really bad.” The second year was “bad, but not as bad.” The third was “OK.” The fourth year was like being “on a rocket ship.”

The ship shows no signs of slowing. To illustrate Wattpad’s meteoric rise, Lau produces a card, printed just three months ago, stating users spend one billion minutes on the site each month, that it receives eight million unique visitors each month, that Wattpad is home to three million uploaded stories, that 300,000 new stories are added each month, and the site receives one comment every second. The latest figures show users spend 2.2 billion minutes on the site each month; 10 million monthly visitors; six million stories; 750,000 new works are added each month; and that two comments are added every second. This puts it in the same league as Pinterest.

Complete article here.