Wattpad is set to open a second headquarters in Halifax.
The move comes at the end of a busy year for the online entertainment platform company, which has seen significant international growth.
“We are entering a rapid growth phase of the company.”
– Allen Lau, Wattpad
Wattpad is set to announce plans on Monday to open its second headquarters in early 2020. The company will establish a team in Halifax-based Volta Innovation Hub. Founded in 2013, Volta touts itself as one of Canada’s largest innovation hubs. Offering programming and space for startups, it has housed more than 50 tech companies.
“We are entering a rapid growth phase of the company,” Allen Lau, co-founder and CEO of Wattpad, told BetaKit. “In that context, having another second headquarters in Canada would allow us to have more leverage to grow.”
Wattpad was founded by Lau and Ivan Yuen in Toronto, in 2007. It began as a way to make reading accessible on mobile. Wattpad, which grew from 140 employees last year to 163 in 2019, has its headquarters in Toronto. And, having developed a global platform for readers and writers to find and post original stories, Wattpad also has teams in Los Angeles, the UK, New York, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Jakarta, and Manila.
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This past year has been a significant one for Wattpad, with its platform reaching 80 million monthly users. Wattpad also introduced new monetization models this year, and launched its publishing arm Wattpad Books (signing a deal with Penguin Random Hous UK).
Wattpad has also made moves to further its reach in the entertainment space. Having announced a partnership and strategic investment with Indian media conglomerate Times Bridge in addition to Sony, earlier this year, Wattpad also signed new deals in Latin America and to produce stories from its platform for television and movies.
Since 2018, Wattpad Studios has signed a dozen international entertainment deals, with partnerships with studios across Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. The startup’s films have won Teen Choice Awards, and received Daytime Emmy nominations.
Lau explained that the decision to open Wattpad’s second headquarters in Halifax was driven in part by being a global company that is firmly rooted in Canada. He pointed to Halifax’s thriving tech ecosystem, the availability of talent thanks to the local post secondary institutions, strong provincial government support, and its relative proximity to Toronto, as key reasons to chose the city.
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“It is really wonderful to see innovative tech companies like Wattpad choose Halifax,” said Andrew Rau-Chaplin, dean of the faculty of computer science at Dalhousie University. “The technology and innovation sectors are booming on the East Coast and, along with our partners, we are supporting this growth by educating the digital talent organizations need to thrive here. As we ride this digital wave, we need great companies like Wattpad to look to Halifax to ensure we can continue to attract and retain the digital workforce of tomorrow. We look forward to working closely with Wattpad in talent development and research as they make this exciting move.”
Wattpad did not disclose the number of employees it is looking to house in its second HQ, but Lau noted that the company wants to the location to be fully equal to its Toronto office.
“Wattpad’s decision to open their second headquarters in Halifax is an exciting addition to the Atlantic Canadian innovation ecosystem,” said Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta. “We are thrilled to have Wattpad join Volta’s community of innovators, and to act as a landing pad for the company as they get to know the region.”
“In terms of the expansion at the business, the few areas that we’ve started in the past two or three, they are working,” said Lau. “If there are three things that we want to focus on it is that, scaling, scaling, and scaling.”