How I Gamed The YouTube Algorithm and Went Viral With 25M Views

Published: August 17th, 2019
Andrew Stokes - Cameron Vilcsak
from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
started April 2018
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
Word of mouth
business model
best tools
Etsy, Instagram, Facebook
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
42 Pros & Cons
18 Tips
Discover what tools Andrew recommends to grow your business!
social media
Discover what books Andrew recommends to grow your business!

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi there!

My name is Cameron Vilcsak, the founder of Mountain Fire Woodworks, a passion - project - turned - business of mine born from my love of carving and building things out of wood.

The business has grown and evolved towards log cabins, chainsaw carvings, and the main source of income - YouTube videos.


The backbone of my business will always be creating or building things and finding ways to convert that into capital afterwards, or on a commissioned budget. I completed a log home with my brother and grandfather last fall and documented the process in a 12 minute YouTube video for my channel.

With a little luck, and a lot of gaming the YouTube algorithm, I was able to experience the viral effects of the internet. It has now been seen by over 25m people through my channel and other media networks.

What's your backstory and how did you get started?

I grew up surrounded by people who fixed, built, and problem solved for themselves. Always interested in building things and entrepreneurial pursuits, at 14 I had the idea to attach a chainsaw engine to my bicycle for my transportation.

A few weeks later and help from my Grandpa, I was whizzing past cars with an ear to ear smile on my face.

With a little luck, and a lot of gaming the YouTube algorithm, I was able to experience the viral effects of the internet. It has now been seen by over 25m people through my channel and other media networks.


During university I worked on a helicopter wildfire fighting crew in the summers. With lots of time dedicated to chainsaw training combined with my previous knowledge of the subject ( I used to whittle all the time as a kid). I thought I would give chainsaw carving a try. I carved a bear and an Easter Island Moai statue.


My friend placed them in the front window of his store and the local art director saw them while walking by one day. He featured them my home town’s art walk and then purchased them when the event was over. I figured if I could sell my first two carvings, I could sell more if I actually put some time into it.

I went back to school for my final semester and then moved to Montreal for four months. I was hired to make some furniture for a house that McGill was entering into an international eco-house competition. It won first place for interior design & decorating. I decided to take woodworking a little more seriously after this.


Describe the process of launching the business and this famous YouTube video.

I knew I was not interested in renting my time for money as many builders and craftsmen do. I began to brainstorm things that could make this venture a little more scalable, and not leave me at the mercy of who ever was hiring me.


I launched a YouTube channel. I uploaded a video not even I would watch just to experience how the whole thing worked, keywords, meta-data, SEO optimization within YouTube’s framework.

I even paid $10 for advertising on the video just to see what kind of viewers that would bring and how cost effective it was. I went on to make around 5 videos that were all better quality than the last in preparation for the cabin I was building in the fall.

The cabin was a two month long marathon of mental and physical challenges. Filming was often at the back of my mind so most of the documentation was done through time lapse. When the cabin was finished I put all of my footage into iMovie and came up with a 12 minute long video and set it to premiere on Monday November 16th 2018.


I was at my cousin’s house for the premiere. I must have sent the link to over 100 people I knew for the original viewing. It received around 500 views in the first 20 minutes from YouTube’s ‘premiere’ feature. Then the real work began. I had pre-wrote facebook, reddit, and instagram posts and had all the links compiled for where I would share them, I had emails written up, and a massive text barrage to all of my friends. After that was all done I went to bed at around 2:30 in the morning.




I woke up to over 100 e-mail notifications and 15 000 views on the video, which I was completely satisfied by. My blast of sharing the video had worked and the video had ran its course to the top of many sub reddits. I went up for breakfast and left my phone downstairs to share the news with my family. I checked my phone a few hours later and noticed I needed to turn off email notifications as the video had reached over 40 000 views and hundreds of comments, YouTube had suggested my video on the home page.

Since launch, what has worked to attract subscribers to your channel?

Since the cabin video premiered it has continued to bring in around 5 000 views daily, some months over $1000 and some under $500. This is a perfect source of traffic to look at other business opportunities. Ideally the viewer will be converted to a subscriber, however YouTube is full of people hounding you to subscribe. I try and take a little more subtle approach, which seems to be working quite well.

Try hundreds of things to help accelerate your business in a big way not wasting time on directions that seem futile. One of these things, and usually multiple, will work.

This past May (2019) we went back to finish the interior of the cabin. I used a lot of the first videos revenue to purchase nicer filming equipment, professional editing software, and some other gadgets that help with filming in the middle of a construction site. The anticipation for further videos is what I believe to cause most people to subscribe.

It can cause difficulties encouraging people to become fans when your promotion comes through the YouTube suggested and browse features. My video gets suggested to people that would never show an interest in cabin building just because it’s fun and satisfying to watch. It appeals a little more the masses than most of my competitors content.


I have other ways of driving people towards the channel as well. I run a fairly successful instagram page, which drives less than 1% of my traffic. This is the same result as my facebook page. I do think they are valuable as they provide a way to start the initial virality of a video. Many of the followers on those sites like to share the videos to their networks, which is invaluable, but rather hard to track.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today I am sitting on the ocean of the west coast of Canada enjoying my first summer away from wildfire in a long time. I finished my undergrad and took the last year off to travel and poke at Mountain Fire Woodworks in the time between working on the cabin.

It provides me with steady passive income that doesn’t pay all of my bills by any means but it helps noticeably. I have been able to increase the profits of my efforts by 1.5X just by beefing up my channel.

I sell t-shirts, offer plans to projects I complete, and some brands have started to offer me their products which is kind of exciting. I am currently sitting on a wealth of content waiting until the whole series is complete before releasing. It will be a deeper dive into the interior of the cabin finishing in around a 7-part series which should be out before the end of August 2019.

I am also facilitating a move to Vancouver Canada in mid August which will provide me with more video opportunities. I plan to make a secret room in the house which will be documented as one of my first projects there.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

My business strategy has always been essentially this - try hundreds of things to help accelerate your business in a big way not wasting time on directions that seem futile. One of these things, and usually multiple, will work.

A mistake I made was not being prepared for one of these things to work. I never would have guessed that the video would draw that much traffic and I should have been a little more prepared to double down on that outlet. I have only released two videos for the last six months because I had travel plans and other things going on in my life.

Playing in the scalable business model is a real grind at the beginning. If you can experience some luck it expedites the process and usually saves patience.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use a the obvious platforms to promote the brand, instagram, YouTube, Facebook. My website was made through square space so I use their built in email marketing tools to manage my mailing list. I use a Google Chrome extension called VidiQ which gives some more in depth analytics on the SEO optimization of my videos.

For completing my day to day work I use Trello to manage tasks that need to be done. I do all of my editing in Final Cut Pro X, with some motion graphics completed in Motion 5. All of my designs for builds are made in Google Sketchup - the free 3-D CAD software, and my t-shirts are drop shipped from Teespring.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I was listening to about 20 episodes of Side Hustle School a day when I was launching my business. A feeling of success came with being featured on that podcast half a year later. I follow a few motivational figures, but not many business minds.

I read some basic financial management books ie. Rich Dad Poor Dad, things like that, but they didn’t really connect with me much. I found them very broad and reaching out to people with more standard financial lives.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

The biggest advice I can offer is to just start. There is always something you can wait for better timing, more experience etc. etc. Just start and you will figure it out along the way.

People are friendly! Asking for help, especially on reddit, has yielded some incredible relationships for me. Not everyone in the business world is out to compete with you, a huge portion of the market is complimentary. If you want to sell peanut butter speak with the manager at the jelly factory. If you want to sell 5 foot tall bear carvings, talk to an art director.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

It has been a one man effort since the beginning, but once I am settled in Vancouver I will be looking for part time help.

I am currently looking for other YouTubers in the DIY and woodworking genres. Ideally in the Vancouver area but not necessary. I would like to collaborate and form a mutually beneficial working relationship.

I will be looking for some part time paid work from graphic designers and videographers in the next few months.

Ideally within the next year I would like to pair with an art agent.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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