J2Play`s Balahura profiled in Globe

The Globe and Mail`s Joanna Pachner has a great article out today about Rob Balahura, the founder of Waterloo`s J2Play, and his success in winning support from Facebook.

No entrepreneur needs a reminder of how scarce capital is these days, but things may be toughest for startups – those that as yet lack customers and sales to prove to investors that someone out there wants what they peddle.

So the idea of free money from a tech giant, showing its confidence in your fledgling business, would seem the stuff of fantasy.

But Rob Balahura knows otherwise. The 37-year-old founder of J2Play in Waterloo, Ont., had spent two years building what he terms a “social wrapper” for online games – a way of allowing makers of PC, Web and cellphone games to distribute them on social networking websites such as Facebook or MySpace.

While the complete article is worth a read, Pachner`s snapshot summary format makes for easy reading:

THE VITALS – Based in Waterloo, Ont., J2Play has eight employees. It began in 2006 when Rob Balahura bought the game business of J2X Technologies, a developer of wireless software for which he worked.

KEY DECISION – Mr. Balahura credits his business development work in Silicon Valley with, “directly or indirectly,” leading to a grant from Facebook’s fbFund. Between April and October last year, he travelled to California almost monthly for a week or two at a time. “I’d fill my days with meetings with potential partners or clients, four or five a day. That was an investment, and a lot of work. But all those contacts led to positive things.”

THE OVERSIGHT – He wishes he had hired a designer earlier in the development process. “We were very programmer-heavy. It would have been smarter to add a design person, since the visual has so much impact …”

THE NEXT STEPS – The immediate focus is on attracting more game developers to the J2Play platform. Mr. Balahura also plans look for more financing within the next six months, by which point he hopes J2Play will have enough market traction to lure a significant investor.

THE MARKET – More than 270 million Web users use social networking sites, known as the social Web. They have multiplied in recent years, with the likes of Hi-5, Orkut and Bebo joining stalwarts MySpace and Facebook. J2Play focuses on casual games, such as board games and mazes. Casual games on various platforms, from cellphones to the Web, raked in $2.25-billion (U.S.) last year.

THE INTRIGUING IDEA – Mr. Balahura believes social networks will become our primary entry points to the Internet, through which we’ll access all the Web’s tools and functions. “People will need one network login and password to get anywhere from their Facebook page,” he says. “We’re rebuilding the Web on top of the social Web.”