The next chapter
Engineering grad's storytelling company to be sold for $754 million
Canadian online story-sharing company Wattpad Corp is to be acquired by Korean internet company Naver Corp. in an estimated $754-million CAD cash and stock deal later this year.
It was frustration with not being able to read on the go standing in a grocery store lineup or elsewhere that inspired Ivan Yuen (BASc ’00, computer) to create an innovative app that lets him do just that – and millions of others as well.
Yuen teamed up with his friend and former co-worker Allen Lau, a University of Toronto electrical engineering graduate, to build and launch Wattpad in 2006. For the first year, they struggled to gain traction, mainly because their technology was ahead of its time.
By the end of 2007, the iPhone and Kindle had launched, significantly increasing user accessibility on Wattpad.
What began as a basic platform for people to read stories on their smartphones or other devices has organically grown into a site that now connects over 90 million writers and readers from around the world every month. Stories are available in more than 50 languages, with many translated by the readers themselves.
Wattpad quickly became home to stories from dozens of genres because it allows anyone to share their writing for free and is accessible on phones and tablets.
“Most of our writers are aspiring hobbyist writers – a lot of them are professionals including doctors and lawyers – who want to get better at storytelling,” Yuen said in a 2019 interview. “They start writing and by the time they have the first part of their story completed they’ll have made a connection with their readers.”
One of Wattpad's biggest success stories was After, a fanfiction series produced by Texas writer Anna Todd about One Direction singer Harry Styles. Todd’s stories were developed into books and a film series, which motivated Wattpad to start book publishing and studio entertainment divisions.
Wattpad will continue operating in Toronto under the leadership of Yuen and Lau after the sale is finalized.