For most youth, a degree is a stop on the road to adulthood, with business following – but for 25-year-old Graeme Barlow, business came ahead of school. Before long, he was responsible for founding multiple businesses and currently retains a CEO position for two others.
“Everything I know about business and technology comes from managing currencies on video games like Diablo and Neopets,” says Barlow.
While he was still 10 years old, Barlow became an entrepreneur along with six of his friends during the startup of Snow Currencies in January 2001. It started as a challenge to explain his large amount of time spent on online video games, but quickly took off as a successful business that was one of the first of its kind.
The seven youth set up a system that allowed in-game transactions. Soon after, they developed bots for the games, a system that plays itself, to gather the items to sell.
“We only ever sold currency,” said Barlow. “The idea that someone would pay $300 for a game item was crazy back then, but now with micro-transactions it’s a common thing.”
Snow Currencies remained active for five to six years before closing due to issues with a larger company that owned the games for which he and his friends had been selling goods. At the time, the idea that this method of making money was wrong was still a vague idea, Barlow said.
“We did really well with an even split of the profits between the seven of us,” says Barlow. “Pissing off an international company was an interesting start.”
After Snow Currencies, Barlow took a break and returned to video games and entered Carleton University for a degree. But the itch to get his ideas out there proved too strong, and school quickly became an uninteresting aspect of life, Barlow said. So he created Viewin Media in August 2008.
The advertising and marketing consulting firm was based in Ottawa, and Barlow stayed with it for two years before moving on to the formation of RocketOwl in August 2010, a gaming development company that specializes in creating high-quality and engaging games for online social and mobile networks.
Still active today – though it is only kept running by one person, according to Barlow – RocketOwl was founded by Barlow and four other colleagues (Hitzel Cruz, Jasvinder Obhi, Sol Avisar and Sass Peress). It was while he was raising money for RocketOwl that Barlow met Andrew Moffat, a founder of two companies Barlow would help manage in 2014.
While at RocketOwl, Barlow worked with Obhi to create GreenSpace, an environmentally conscious social video game released with the intention of entertaining and informing the players. It was released in open beta on Aug. 1, 2011 and then to a limited audience as a soft launch on Dec. 1, 2011. The game grew in popularity quickly, surpassing one million players.
In May 2014, Barlow left RocketOwl. And GreenSpace went down around the same time.
“RocketOwl had a hard time with cash flow and growing aggressively while staying within its means,” says Barlow. “We put lots of sweat, pain and sacrifice [into it] and I just couldn’t put any more.”
Barlow took a break from his entrepreneurial ways after RocketOwl and in the summer of 2014 he joined Moffat’s team at Marzar, a company focused on social networking and creating places for online communities.
His abilities and ideas for Marzar convinced the company’s founder, Moffat, to request Barlow take up the CEO position at Moffat’s other company, Keshet Technologies, and help with its revival. Keshet partners with other companies and helps them grow their portfolio until they are in a position to be bought out.
“After about a week of being at Marzar, (Moffat) asked about reviving Keshet and the vision it had,” said Barlow.
One of Keshet’s plans for a successful revival includes ProPet software – business software that focuses on the professional pet industry, like animal shelters, and helps the industries with parts of the business such as client management.
“We’re in the middle of a start-up and we plan to launch a number of products in the next year,” says Moffat.