Ryan Holmes began his rise into the business world by opening a pizza restaurant and a paintball company when he was in his mid-teens.
He's now offering a total of $100,000 in grants to 10 youth between 17 and 22 as part of his recently launched non-profit foundation The Next Big Thing.
"About 100 kids have applied from all over the world," he said of the competition, which is open until Dec. 15.
Winners will get the kind of hands-on training that junior entrepreneurs need but can't access through the typical education route, Holmes said.
"I think there's a bit of a disconnect between traditional education programs and entrepreneurs," he said at Hootsuite's headquarters in Vancouver. "Often you hear about amazing entrepreneurs who ultimately are college dropouts."
"A lot of entrepreneurs are very experiential and hands on learners and they need to just go and get into things. The goal of TNBT is to just get people into things, help accelerate them into a successful venture as soon as possible."
Holmes launched the foundation with fashion and film entrepreneur Meredith Powell, who also forged a business path at a young age.
"We're really looking for teens who might have started a business or have an idea to start a business," she said.
Along with $10,000 in grants, each innovator will learn skills from "top names" in the business world and get six months of education at Hootsuite's headquarters, where they'll learn about investing and understanding how to start a business, Powell said.
"We're bringing in incredible mentors, doing one-on-one sessions with them."
Hootsuite, known as a "dashboard," allows users to send messages to various social networking sites or groups — such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin — at the same time and also attach images or documents.
This week, Hootsuite, which boasts seven million users around the world, was named the only Canadian company on technology blog Mashable's list of top tech companies in 2013.
Google, Twitter and Netflix were among the other notables to be recognized.
Ambrosia Humphrey, Hootsuite's vice-president of Human Resources, said everyone from moms to musicians to presidents of companies has the opportunity to use the analytics firm's platform as a marketing tool.
"The Mashable recognition was huge for us as a company," she said, calling Hootsuite a "scrappy underdog" that's become part of an online social revolution since it began in 2008.
In August, Hootsuite announced it had raised $165 million, making it one of the biggest venture capital financings in Canadian history.
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