Startup News

Toronto entrepreneurs use open data to re-invent the real estate industry

By Andrew Seale

If you ask Ryan Breen and Camilla Caban, they’re apt to tell you their innovative idea to connect real estate agents and their clients with big data comes from a place of lethargy.

Ryan, who had built a web hosting business when he was 16, and pursued a career in web development, programming and development ever since, was hired by one of Camilla’s real estate friends to build out a website for the agent.

As part of the site, the real estate agent wanted to include open data like local condo prices and schools in the area – the sort of questions house hunters usually have at the back of mind when they go into the process. But the volume of data and the process to get it on the site seemed onerous.

“I thought, sure, I can do it, go grab the data sets and pull it in but good programmers are lazy,” says Ryan with a laugh. “Instead, I started thinking, how can I systemize this process?”

Essentially, he wanted to make a funnel for real estate agents to allow average Joe/Jane homebuyers to connect to open data and derive additional insight from it.

Hence: Re-invent Realty – a startup the pair dreamed up to help create bespoke tools for the real estate industry that draw from real-time data like up-to-date floor plans from condos, school rankings and walkability scores, as well as neighbourhood insights.

“During 2014 we noticed there was a huge impact of tech in the States when it came to data for real estate agents,” says Camilla. “We saw it was something missing here in Canada.”

Ryan began developing the technology between January and March in 2014 and Re-Invent Realty was officially launched in March 2015.

"As soon as we realized we had something good with the data, we decided to Google small business grants and that’s how we found Enterprise Toronto and the Government of Ontario's Starter Company Program,” says Camilla.

The pair sat down with the team and combed through their business plan.

“Enterprise Toronto saw value and immediately helped us,” recalls Ryan. “One of our biggest mistakes was not planning out the financials of our business model – they helped us narrow down a budget that made sense and wasn’t based on assumptions.”

The pair also landed a loan through Futurepreneur.

“It’s amazing these grants are available for a lot of small businesses because a lot of people who do want to start a business or have an idea, they really don’t know where to go with it,” adds Camilla.

Since launching in March, the pair has expanded into the U.S. market. They’ve also taken the technology beyond the real estate world under their parent company called Net-Critical.

“We just started a contract with the government of Ontario surrounding open data,” says Camilla. “It's kind of exciting – both of us never thought that opportunity would come, but just putting the data out there for something else caught their interest.”


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