Young entrepreneur wins prize at Montreal International Startup Festival

Shaun MacLellan says he was on the fence about going to the Montreal International Startup Festival.

By Jacob Serebrin

“I wasn’t really expecting much going there,” he says.

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But he ended up walking away with thousands of dollars in prizes and an invitation to attend one of Canada’s most prominent entrepreneurship programs.

Mr. MacLellan, a student at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, is the founder of YouCollab, a startup that connects content creators on YouTube.

His startup received a $35,000 investment as part of the startup festival’s main pitch competition along with an invitation to attend the Next 36, a Toronto-based program that provides networking opportunities and mentorship to young entrepreneurs.

“It was quite an enjoyable and unexpected weekend,” Mr. MacLellan says.

He says he thinks the prizes will help open doors for him in the future.

“The money is great, obviously, but as well the exposure is great,” Mr. MacLellan says. “It’s a lot of validation.”

As an 18-year-old starting his first company, Mr. MacLellan says that getting that recognition from top-tier investors at such an early stage should help build his reputation and his company’s credibility.

YouTube content creation has become a big business – some of the most popular “YouTube celebrities” make millions of dollars in advertising revenue and attract tens of millions of viewers. Thousands more have turned making YouTube videos into a full-time job.

But Mr. MacLellan says there’s so much content on YouTube that it can be hard to get noticed, and that’s where his company comes in.

Mr. MacLellan’s business is based around the idea that collaboration is the best way to help YouTube content creators build their audiences. By appearing in each others’ videos, creators can help each other reach a larger number of viewers.

The YouCollab app, which is currently available for iPhones, uses a similar approach to dating apps such as Tinder – users are only connected to each other when they both agree to connect, and they can’t see who wants to connect with them.

Mr. MacLellan says that ensures all the collaboration opportunities set up by the app have the potential to be mutually beneficial.

Mr. MacLellan wasn’t the only entrepreneur with an Ottawa connection to walk away from the Montreal Startup Festival with a prize.

Ottawa-based Key2Access won the Videotron/MAtv Prize, which includes a promotional campaign worth $30,000 on MAtv, a network of community television stations in Quebec, and in the Journal de Montreal.

It’s developed a system to help people who are visually impaired navigate intersections in cities and is currently working with the City of Ottawa.

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