Open data analysis was the key for a Toronto startup that dramatically reduces the time needed for engineers, developers and real estate investors to screen prospect properties.
MapYourProperty is a three-year-old company that has turned week-long searches into a matter of minutes, thanks in part to its association with the ODX Ventures program of Canada's Open Data Exchange.
MapYourProperty (or MYP to its team) is the brainchild of Devin Tu, a former Ontario land use planner with 10 years' experience in the provincial government. Real estate transactions are encumbered with paper files and multiple interested parties. Tu felt there should be a better way to screen properties than manually combing through and comparing jurisdictional impacts on a single parcel of land.
"After working for 10 years in the public sector government, I reached a point where I learned everything I need but wanted to start innovating and try to push new ideas," said MYP's CEO and co-founder. "I had also reached a point where my startup product was gaining traction, the real estate industry and others saw the MapYourProperty idea as the time saver and a clear solution to some of their pain points."
MapYourProperty expanded beyond the initial market of real estate developers, to include urban land planners, engineers and real estate agents. MYP combs through such open datasets as official plans, zoning bylaws, hydrologic standards and environmental sensitivities, to build a dossier on a land parcel and the reactions that development will trigger.
The target market was Toronto and the GTA. In a matter of minutes, MYP can comb through 50 datasets that cover a million listings in the City of Toronto and York Region. That's work that used to tie up a planner or developer for a week. Toronto's largest condo developer, largest home builder and two large real estate law firms are among MapYourProperty's client base, Tu says.
And Tu believes there is great growth potential, thanks to open data analytics and the ability to track GTA real estate permits and applications "in almost real-time." MYP excels at displaying the data points on a digital map (or in document format).
"Data is useless without the visualization or analytics that allow people to understand in a matter of minutes."
Tu says that MYP plans to expand its GTA foothold into Peel Region, and then move on to Vancouver and California in the next two years. Spurring that ambitious expansion is MYP's participation in the ODX Ventures 2016 cohort.
Tu entered the cohort wanting to expand from its foundation in the City of Toronto to the 905 area-code area.
The $50,000 in ODX Ventures funding helped MapYourProperty "aggregate, clean, and publish more than 20 different open and public datasets for Markham, Vaughan and Richmond Hill, and release a new product, MYP Pro Planner, for architectural, engineering, and urban planning professionals who wanted access to more data."
"With the ODX Venture funding helping us expand our geographical and product services, we increased our revenue by 50 per cent and entered three new sectors by April 2018."
Tu says the open-data industry in Canada is still in its infancy, and that firms wishing to commercialize open data can benefit from outside expertise. "ODX Ventures allows companies to jump start into using open data on a commercial and larger scale while lowering risks. MapYourProperty used its ODX Venture grants to pull additional public and open data located in new geographical regions… The initial pilot success allowed us to replicate this pilot to multiple other regions sequentially on a production scale."
Bill Bean is an award-winning journalist with 40 years experience who has been writing about innovation in Waterloo Region for three years, and who has a weakness for grandchildren, bicycles and chocolate.