Wattpad Announces Dexter Ong as Head of Asia for Wattpad Studios

Ong Joins as Wattpad Continues its International Entertainment Expansion with New Roles for Europe and Publishing

TORONTO - April 5, 2018 - Wattpad, the global multiplatform entertainment company for original stories, today announced the appointment of Dexter Ong as Head of Asia for Wattpad Studios. Ong will oversee Wattpad Studios’ expansion in Asian markets, where he’ll work with local entertainment studios, producers, and writers to turn Wattpad stories into film, television, print and digital projects. He will be based in Hong Kong.

Ong joins Wattpad after the company recently closed $51 million in new funding from high-profile Asian investors, including China’s Tencent and Globe Telecom’s Kickstart Ventures in the Philippines, as well other international partners. Wattpad is the largest social storytelling platform in nearly every market on the planet, with a global community of more than 65 million users, including more than 17 million people in Southeast Asia who spend billions of minutes on the platform every month. The company has previously partnered with the TV5 Network in the Philippines to co-produce the Wattpad Presents anthology series. The show produced 250 episodes based on Wattpad stories.

“Southeast Asia is one of our most important regions globally, with some of our most dedicated and passionate users,” said Aron Levitz, Head of Wattpad Studios. “Not only have users across the region spent billions of hours on Wattpad, they’ve embraced Wattpad film and TV adaptations, making them into local hits. Dexter’s regional expertise and global perspective are the perfect combination to help us expand our entertainment footprint in Asia.”

Previously, Ong was the Director of Corporate Development for 21st Century Fox Asia, where he developed corporate strategies for production and digital video products. Prior to 21st Century Fox, Ong was with CA Media, the Asia arm of The Chernin Group, where he led content development for NET TV.

“With so many content options for consumers, entertainment companies need to find stories that people actually want to watch,” said Ong. “With more than 400 million stories from original voices from all over the world and built-in audiences, Wattpad’s data and insights make it possible to uncover the next bingeable series, bestselling book, or blockbuster hit. I’m looking forward to helping Wattpad bring more original stories to market that will captivate audiences in Asia and beyond.”

In addition to Ong’s hire, Wattpad also recently promoted Kelly Steen to Wattpad Studios’ Director of Business Development for U.S. and Europe; Ashleigh Gardner was promoted to Deputy General Manager, Wattpad Studios, Publishing. The company plans to add 40 positions in 2018 to support its expanding international entertainment business, as well as work in Machine Learning and interactive storytelling

Ong is the latest industry veteran to join Wattpad. Last year, Eric Lehrman joined the company as Head of Content Development, Production, moving from NBCUniversal’s USA Network.

Wattpad Studios partners with the entertainment industry to co-produce Wattpad stories for TV, film, digital video, and print. Wattpad Studios takes the guesswork out of the development process, transforming entertainment and publishing with data-driven decision-making, and leading these industries to new audiences, new stories and more wins, all with data. Current partners include Universal Cable Productions, eOne, CW Seed, Hachette Romans, HarperCollins Children’s Books, to name a few.

 

Transforming Entertainment with the Best Minds in Arts and Sciences

For close to 12 years, Wattpad has been disrupting entertainment and transforming how people find and experience stories. Our roots are in social storytelling--something we continue to dominate in nearly every market on the planet--but today, we are so much more than that.

Throughout our existence we’ve continually evolved, reshaping other industries along the way. Wattpad is now a global, multiplatform entertainment company. We partner and co-produce with some of the biggest names in entertainment to turn Wattpad stories into TV shows, films, and digital media. And we’re working with more publishers every day to turn Wattpad stories into bestsellers around the world.

We’ve done all of this by bringing together the best minds in the arts and sciences. Our team is unlike any other in the tech community, with people from all sides of technology and entertainment. Our product and engineering teams include some of the brightest minds in computer sciences, engineering, product development, design, and Machine Learning. At the same time, we have an extraordinary group of people who work with the creative content side of our business, working with creators and entertainment partners to turn Wattpad and Tap stories into international sensations on every platform. This combination of skills and passions, connected by our shared passion for the power of stories, is what makes Wattpad a special place to work.  

In 2018 we’re looking for more people to help us achieve our vision to entertain and connect the world through stories. This year is already a milestone for Wattpad. Our community has grown to more than 65 million people--up 40% from just last year--who’ve shared more than 400 million stories. We’ve raised a new round of funding from international investors, we’re building on our work and success in in Machine Learning and interactive storytelling, and we’re expanding our entertainment footprint in new markets. Like the greatest stories, our ambitions are epic, and and we’re hiring more than 40 people this year, across all departments, to help us achieve our goals.    

Wattpad was founded on the idea that technology can and will provide new ways to tell and share stories. The implications of this idea are profound for readers, writers, and the growing number of traditional and new media industries that rely on amazing content. Companies like Universal Cable Productions, eOne, CW Seed, Hachette Romans, HarperCollins Children’s Books--to name just a few--have joined us as partners because we are the global leader for original content and trends.

At the same time, we’ve created a culture unlike any other. Based on the principle that diversity is our strength, Wattpad’s company culture reflects the Wattpad platform: a safe space for every voice, where different people and perspectives are empowered and uplifted. We’re an industry leader in diversity and inclusion with the numbers to back it up: 50% of our team are women; we have a kick-ass all-female product team; 62% of our leadership team are persons of color; and nearly half (41%) of our leadership team identifies as female. At Wattpad, our inclusive company culture is about creating a better business, a better product, and a better world.

If you’re reading this and share our love of stories, and the belief in their fundamental power to make the world a better place, reach out to someone on our People Team at people@wattpad.com.  



 

Wattpad Raises $51 Million in Funding from Tencent, BDC and Other Partners

New funding will be used to expand the company’s global entertainment footprint and machine learning capabilities

TORONTO - Jan. 17, 2018 - Wattpad, the global multiplatform entertainment company for original stories, today announced USD $51 million (CAD $61.25 million) in new funding. Investors include Tencent Holdings Limited, a leading provider of Internet value added services in China, BDC, Globe Telecom’s Kickstart Ventures, Peterson Group, Canso, and existing investor Raine. The new funding will support continued investment in machine learning and interactive storytelling, expanding the company’s global entertainment footprint in TV, film, digital media, and publishing as it adapts Wattpad stories for new formats, and other innovations. The company also plans to grow its team across all departments.  

The global Wattpad community grew by more than 40 percent in 2017, and is now made up of more than 65 million people around the world. Story uploads climbed to more than 400 million. The company’s investments in machine learning have enhanced its personalization and recommendation systems for readers, increasing reading times for more engagement; similar story analysis tools are helping Wattpad writers build audiences and monetize their work. Wattpad’s work in machine learning, deep learning and recurrent neural networks have also enhanced its ability to discover stories for adaptation and content trends that are now used across the entertainment industry.   

Wattpad has major TV, film and digital video partnerships with Universal Cable Productions (UCP), a division of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, eOne, CW Seed and others. The company works with publishing houses such as HarperCollins, Hachette Audio and Hachette Romans. Hundreds of Wattpad stories have been published as traditional books--many as best-sellers--and dozens have been adapted or licensed for TV, film and digital video, appearing on screens around the world.  

In 2017, Wattpad launched Tap by Wattpad, an immersive storytelling experience that delivers short, conversational-style narratives. Tap offers interactive entertainment experiences that digital natives love, using a chat-style format, combined with multimedia innovations designed specifically for Tap Originals. Since launch, users all over the world have devoured Tap stories, with more than 3 billion taps to date on over 300,000 stories available.

Wattpad has raised USD $117.8 million from international investors in Asia, the US, and Canada. Previous investors include OMERS Ventures, August Capital, Union Square Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund and Version One Ventures.

Quotes

“Entertainment is in a period of disruption, and how people find and experience stories is evolving,” said Allen Lau, CEO and co-founder, Wattpad. “With our global community of users, hundreds of millions of stories and data-driven approach to helping people and partners find great content, Wattpad is leading both sides of this equation. We empower diverse storytellers all over the world, helping them build a community of passionate readers; at the same time, we also connect Hollywood with stories that have massive built-in audiences. This new funding from Tencent and our other investors shows that confidence in our vision is growing alongside our revenue, our success and our community.”  

“Wattpad has built a creative community for storytellers and story lovers,” said Martin Lau, President of Tencent Holdings Limited. “The company is providing opportunities to new and established writers, transforming how entertainment is discovered and produced. We are glad to support Wattpad, a leader in digitizing and data enhancing the entertainment industry.”

“Wattpad is the future of entertainment,” said Peter Misek, Partner, BDC’s IT Venture Fund. “By harnessing the power of verticalized data and AI, Wattpad has unlocked the true value of content creation, enabling discovery, production and distribution in exponentially new ways. The future can be found on Wattpad.”

“Wattpad has developed something truly special: a community that cares deeply about stories of authentic human experiences, a technology platform that unlocks the universal desire to share those stories and connect with other people, and a data set that enhances the value of these shared stories for writers and readers alike,” said Minette Navarrete, President, Kickstart Ventures. “We’re proud to join Wattpad as an investor, helping expand its vision to entertain and connect the world through stories.”

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Killer Clowns, The Next Superstar Boy Band and #NoMoreBullying: Wattpad’s 2017 Year in Review

Wattpad’s global community of readers and writers supported social causes with stories, love fantastic narratives that mix genres

What do werewolves and K-Pop have in common? They are both among the biggest Wattpad trends that inspired readers around the world in 2017. Wattpad today released its 2017 Year in Review, highlighting some of the most interesting and unexpected trends this year. Up-and-coming pop bands, fantastic creatures and genre-mashups are all among the trends that stood out this year.  

Inclusive fiction was one of the most important movements on Wattpad this year, as the global Wattpad community of more than 60 million people worked to create more space for diverse voices, perspectives and experiences in writing. Around the world, Wattpadders stood up to bullying and stood with people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. Each month of the year, Wattpadders spent millions of minutes reading stories that address social issues or include a diverse cast of characters, while writers uploaded thousands of stories addressing these same issues each month.

“With more than 400 million story uploads and billion of reading minutes each month, we see global trends rising in real time, anticipating cultural phenomena before they hit the wider popular culture,” said Ashleigh Gardner, Head of Partnerships at Wattpad Studios. “2017 was a  year of empathy and awareness on Wattpad, as people embraced diversity and inclusion on the platform. Stories have the power to connect people from all walks of life and empower different voices, and we’re thrilled to see the global Wattpad community using stories as a way to make the world a better place for everyone.”

Some of the top Wattpad trends in 2017 included: 

  • Wattpad as the Second Screen: There’s been a lot of talk about TV and second screens in 2017, but for some fans of the year’s most popular shows, Wattpad is the second screen. Wattpadders love engaging with popular TV franchises, expanding their universes and taking characters and plots into new directions. Shows like Riverdale, Game of Thrones and Stranger Things exploded with fan stories this year. Riverdale stood out as a fan favourite, with millions of reading minutes each month, peaking at 7.9 million minutes in October and 54,000 story uploads throughout the year. Strangers Things was also huge this fall, with 7 million reading minutes in October.   
  • #NoMoreBullying: The global Wattpad Community has always been a positive, inclusive space for storytellers and story lovers everywhere. In 2017 Wattpadders spread that positivity like never before, embracing stories that fight back against bullying. Stories tagged with #NoMoreBullying, #BodyPositivity, and related themes racked up an average monthly reading time of 8 million minutes, powered by thousands of story uploads throughout the year. A community favourite story from this movement was @ClaireKann’s #FatGirl Magic, which set out to create more space in YA to celebrate people of color and every body type. The story currently has more than 1 million reads, inspiring people around the world.
  • Increasing diversity and inclusion in every genre: 2017 saw an increase in Fantasy and Science Fiction stories featuring a diverse main cast. Fantasy and Science Fiction stories tagged #PoC had an average of 4.8 million reading minutes each month in 2017. Through the course of 2017 there has been an 84% growth in reading time for genre stories with diverse characters. Diversity and inclusion was a major trend across all categories this year: every month, stories with diversity tags such as #PoC, #Diversity, #DiverseLit, #FreetheLGBT and #LGBTQ+ reach an average of 30 million reading minutes.
  • Why don’t we? Why not!: Trends across the global Wattpad community always hint at the next big thing in pop culture, and 2017 was no different. One of the biggest breakouts in music this year was up-and-coming boy band Why Don’t We. The group’s popularity exploded on Wattpad this year, as stories featuring the band went from under 40,000 reading minutes in January to nearly 20 million minutes per month for August, September, October. Watch out for more of Why Don’t We as they leap into other areas of pop culture in 2018.
  • Cannibals and Killer Clowns: Horror on Wattpad in 2017 was, well, horrific. Cannibal stories were one of the biggest unexpected trends this year, with thousands of new story uploads and readers consuming as much as 3.8 million minutes in a single month. Killer Clowns were also a major trend this fall, spiking near the release of IT in theatres. The sub-genre grew from near non-existence in January before reaching 9,000 new story uploads in September and October.
  • Reading and writing LGBTQ+: #FreetheLGBT was a popular movement on Wattpad this year to increase the number of prominent LGBTQ+ characters in fiction. People spent an average of 13 million minutes reading stories with this tag each month. There was also a surge in stories submitted with the tag after Pride Month, as Wattpad writers took up the cause of LGBTQ+ representation in fiction, adding 2,500 new story uploads in July and doubling the number of monthly uploads from earlier in the year. One of the breakout examples of this movement was @Vapid_Ink’s  story Vigilante. The LGBTQ-led superhero story was among the top stories in Action this year, with more than 2 million reading minutes.
  • Not your Nan’s romance: Genre mashups were huge in 2017, and one of the most popular was the combination of romance and action. This year saw spikes in romance stories featuring mafia figures and bad boy bikers, totalling more 300 million reading minutes each month of 2017.
  • Zombies are forever: True to their nature, zombies never die. Zombie stories are perennially popular on Wattpad, and horror and sci-fi fans devoured stories featuring zombies throughout 2017. Reading time for zombies averaged more than 13 million minutes a month, and The Virus Within, by @CrystalScherer, was the most popular zombie story of the year, with more than 600,000 reads since January.
  • Lycanthropy stays strong: Werewolves remained one of the most hair-raising trends of 2017, popular with readers around the world. Stories featuring werewolves are so popular on Wattpad that they make up their own category, combining narrative elements across a variety of genres, from horror to romance and beyond. On the whole, Wattpadders spend an average of 196 million minutes each month reading werewolf stories.
  • Spanish-language Wattpadders LOVE K-Pop: Wattpad readers in the Latin America were the some of the biggest readers and writers of K-Pop stories. In January, Latin American users shared 12,000 K-Pop story uploads. By July that number had jumped to 21,000 story uploads across the region. For English readers, monthly K-Pop reading time exceeded 50 million minutes for the first time this year.

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