Video Of The Week: Alexis Ohanian Visits WattPad

Late last year, Alexis Ohanian visited our portfolio company WattPad as part of The Verge’s Small Empires series.

If you want to know how a small scrappy Toronto based startup competes with Amazon, this 20min ish video will tell you how.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    Wait. Wut? You’re not posting about the blue and black dress? Or was it white and gold? OK, I guess other things happen on the internet too. Let’s focus on something else like this video.

    1. Supratim Dasgupta

      The Blue and Black dress tells me how much free time ppl have these days!

      1. LE

        Understanding how the mass of people think, and what is important to them, is really key to getting main stream press that is free and valuable publicity for your company. They ran something on the NBC Nightly News last night as an end segment. I didn’t watch it just seeing the promo was enough to know why it had the appeal that it did.

      2. Emily Merkle

        All I see if white and gold; it’s ugly, and I wouldn’t wear it, and that’s my position.

        1. Rick

          You’re always relativly steadfast with your opionions.

      3. Matt Zagaja

        I actually would disagree and argue that broad topics like the dress are not predictive of free time, especially compared to say someone having expertise in ham radio despite their day job as a plumber.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      I hadn’t heard of this yet and a guy came over to me in the cafe I was in and asked me what colour I saw.. I was confused, played along, but confused.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Still confused?

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Always confused, clear about the dress now though.

    3. Matt Zagaja

      Jim apologies for the brain dump below, but you got me thinking. Some of it is probably obvious or wrong, but I figure it’s just a comment so I keep my drafts rough.I think that this comment is especially on point. The dress thing happened on tumblr, but at least as I experienced it, blew up on twitter, migrated to facebook, and buzzfeed was the one that hit the jackpot on it. I’m not sure if more people became aware of and signed up for tumblr because of the dress, my guess is likely not. In the video wattpad expressed pride that one of the pieces of content their was being turned into a movie, but it wasn’t clear that it was going to drive more people to wattpad.Ironically it seems that a lot of these discovery tools and streams are increasingly homogenous. Facebook used to be thoughts and updates from my college friends and classmates. Now it’s The Verge and Vox and baby pictures and marriage proposals. I see a huge dropoff in the amount of content creation people engage in once they leave school. Similarly I see a big uptick on people that were in the working world but then suddenly went back to school to get an MBA or other advanced degree. Also television and the weather still seems to drive lots of posting as well.My point is I think there exist two kinds of content. The first kind is content based around shared experiences and feelings. It’s the answer to the question: if I go to a dinner party with friends what thing can I talk about that is neutral and that people are likely to know about. Taylor Swift and football are both highly known and can be quite divisive. While a content curator that gives you Taylor and football is filling a need and it should exist, it’s not providing much above its competitors unless it can also figure out that you would enjoy Jim’s stand-up comedy and serve you that. Jim’s comedy being the second kind of content which is not as known but something that you enjoy, and is good, and that you might also be willing to share or introduce to your friends.I don’t think people generally like music because it is inherently good, but rather because they connect with it emotionally and/or it reminds them of an experience. If you’re on a first date with your wife and Tiny Dancer is playing in the restaurant speakers in the background suddenly a lot of meaning and context is attached to it. Soundcloud artists don’t stand a chance against Tiny Dancer unless they too can be playing in the restaurants and clubs.A lot of platforms has realized that exclusive good content keeps people going there. That’s why we get House of Cards on Netflix, Amazon Originals, and whatever YouTube’s equivalent is. But once the people are at the platform, the platform itself has to impress and be sticky to keep people there.As far as monetizing, I think that the simple answer is to ask people to pay for it. I think ad supported works for things like news, but the best content is paid for by its users whether it is a Netflix subscription, HBO, or iTunes music. When your brain is in Middle Earth you don’t want to have your attention moved to Pepsi or Pizza Hut.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Thanks for the stream of consciousness.Platforms that are used to create are not always the platforms that host.. which are not always the ones used for discovery… which are not always the ones that draw the crowds. That’s a big point I took away from what you’re saying.

        1. LE

          To me telling someone that they have done a “stream of consciousness” can be interpreted as put down (the way I interpreted it). He took the time and effort to offer his thoughts which is good.STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: Writing in which a character’s perceptions, thoughts, and memories are presented in an apparently random form, without regard for logical sequence, chronology, or syntax.[1]

          1. JimHirshfield

            His own first paragraph fits the definition of a stream of consciousness, so I see no issue in calling it that. Nor does it imply a put down, IMO.

          2. LE

            IMO is my IMO which differs from your IMO.Anyway, the next time you are having a meeting with an important client (and trying to make a sale) and they tell you they are going to give you a brain dump, when they are done say to them “thanks for the stream of consciousness” and see how they react. Try that.I’ll give you an example (as I always do of course). You will probably laugh at this as well so I am glad to entertain you. My ex wife had an uncle who was a bit uneducated although he did earn a decent living selling used (yes used) mattresses to poor people in a shitty neighborhood. Price depended on how many stains it had. I am not joking.Anyway, like the pinball wizard he played by sense of smell. One day after we were recently married, we were at his house for some boring fucking family thing and some discussion came up and I gave my thoughts. And he turned to me and said “you know what your problem is? you think to much”. And he laughed. So here’s the thing. I want to be around people who “think to much” not people who don’t.

      2. Rick

        “I see a huge dropoff in the amount of content creation people engage in once they leave school. Similarly I see a big uptick on people that were in the working world but then suddenly went back to school to get an MBA or other advanced degree.”.Many times I figure you’ll find that classes require people to engage on the web. That would certainly explain why, while attending classes, people are consuming more web services and/or finding others who want them to.

        1. Matt Zagaja

          Maybe contributes to it, but based on the content I am not sure that it’s the main driver.

          1. Rick

            I imagine the main driver is different for everyone. I think some will get online due to requirements in a class. Some will then get online because they see others doing it. And others will get online for even different reasons..But, I think, the class requirements are the force behind the timing of the boosts.

  2. Robert Heiblim

    Alexis rocks. He has the true spirit and a lot of good ideas.

  3. Rick

    The dialog starts out with the guy saying “Oh I didn’t see you there…”.That’s where I had to stop watching. Pretending you’re not making a advertisement when you obviously are is my queue to move on. I can’t trust any of the information now.

  4. William Mougayar

    +10×10 for Toronto x Wattpad.I heard they are more popular than Facebook in the Philippines.

    1. pointsnfigures is next!

      1. William Mougayar


  5. Matt A. Myers

    Maple-scented money. I would love it if this happened..

  6. Chris Phenner

    That video was the perfect antidote to staring at while waiting for tickets for The Dead — great share and good for them.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Did you get tix? I am forced to deal with scalpers.

      1. William Mougayar


    2. JimHirshfield

      Over subscribed?

  7. LE

    They need to get these videos syndicated on netflix. I would totally watch this type of info on netflix. I didn’t even know this series existed. (And I’m only 2 minutes in at this point I also see there is one on Vimeo… (not “on” vimeo but “about” vimeo).Add: The reason for netflix isn’t that I can’t go to Verge and watch which I can on my laptop at night. The reason is if it was on netflix I woulda) know about it and b) Netflix is where I am already.c) I would constantly be reminded about new offerings (it’s not out of sight out of mind it has shelf space).I’m not interested in hopping around to multiple places to find something to watch. For lack of a better way to put it Netflix is my “portal” along with at night and on rare occasions Amazon video.

    1. LE

      Not only that but getting a series like this (or similar) on Netflix (giving them free content) is a great way to bring mainstream flyover attention to startups that nobody knows about (like Wattpad for example).

    2. Richard

      Really amazing how many online communities there are that have 10-50 million users. Many who seem to do this outside the US. What’s the secret sauce of dividing and conquering the international market of a small budget?

      1. Rick

        Good question. You first have to ask yourself if there are 10-50 million active users or just 10-50 million sign ups. If you have 50 million sign ups but only 100K of them are accesses daily and another 100K once a week and another 100K once a month. Then you really don’t have 50 million users.

  8. David Semeria

    Not too sure about the free for always model. I really thought Aime St were on to something before they got bought: start off with free, but the price rises in line with the aggregate consumption for a given piece of content.The real cost (at least for me) in consuming content is wasting time on rubbish — which basically boils down to the cost of discovery.People don’t talk so much about discovery these days, but it fits in well with USV’s thesis regarding the impact of software on labor. Let people with more time on their hands discover content and then allow busy people to repay them for this work.For example: allow wattpad readers to invest $1000 virtual dollars a year in writers they like. Then allow them a share of the (real) dollars which would flow from an Aime St model.

    1. David Semeria

      I must say posting on AVC is not what is used to be. I suppose it’s unreasonable of me to expect things not to change.

      1. fredwilson

        i think you should expect things to changethat’s been my experience

  9. Sebastien Latapie

    I love the small empires series, always well done and incredibly interesting.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree

  10. vruz

    I really like Wattpad. They may need more patience than other startups, but they’re onto something genuine and lasting.

  11. awaldstein

    Big fan.Would love to understand their business model and see whether they are doing what most consumer facing sites or services do which is massage a traditional media model to fit, or find something with deeper hooks.

  12. Salt Shaker

    I use a pseudonym here because I’ve been a victim of serious identity theft. I’m talking 5-figure theft (starting w/ the number 9). Once bitten, twice shy. Although I believe the risk level of my being violated again is now relatively low (because of how I engage), the downside is it’s made me more of a paranoid New Yorker than I ever was before. Salt Shaker prob is a pretty accurate descriptor of my personality, although some of my former colleagues might suggest Tabasco Sauce is a tad more apt :).

  13. cdh195077

    I wanted to wish all the luck in the world. I still wanted to read a story from the book format instead of kindle device.

  14. stephane galzin

    am i wrong in seeing a link with ? especially as monetization is still unclear (to the public at least), i would naively think synergies could be strong…

  15. george

    I’m convinced that millennials are the DIY generation. They have so much to reference at their disposal and they are supported by technology, which continues to provide to essential parts – virtual worktables (framework so talent can emerge) and the internet distribution channels for individuals to build self-made brands.