For Ratio.city’s Monika Jaroszonek Toronto makes double sense as a startup launchpad. First there’s the support and resources available to founders. But also, with its exploding population and development, where better to transform the way real estate projects are planned, as her product aims to do?
“Toronto has been in a building boom for the last 15 to 20 years,” says Jaroszonek. “Right now, we have more high-rise cranes in Toronto than New York, Chicago and San Francisco combined.”
But while it might not be obvious from the number of construction projects, choosing optimal building sites is a highly complex task, involving lengthy manual research into data such as zoning requirement and transit, all of which is dispersed across dozens of sources. As an architect who helps clients assess the potential of sites, Jaroszonek was deeply familiar with the challenge of conducting such analysis. “Essentially it would take hours and hours and hours,” she says, involving architects, urban planners and compiling information from 17 websites and 25 different types of maps.
“Real estate is one of the largest, if not the largest, asset classes in the world and yet it’s largely run on Excel spreadsheets,” she says. “Banks have been disrupted by fintech and medical technologies have been improved by AI. But real estate was untouched by disruption for so long.”
Over brunch with a classmate from University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture Jaroszonek joked that “if I wasn’t careful, some kid would build an app and put me out of business.” That classmate – now Jaroszonek’s Ratio.city co-founder – Erin Morrow, had been working as a product director building tools that simulate pedestrian movement in crowded urban spaces. Less than two years later, their idea for an app that both crunches the data and offers 3D visual simulation tools to help developers discover opportunities for new builds, is in market.
Jaroszonek credits the support available to her as a founder, and as a female founder specifically, for helping to make that happen so quickly. “We started the company in Toronto because we live in Toronto and because this is where we saw the greatest demand. But this is new to me and there are a lot of resources here. It is a very supportive community and very easy to access. It’s easier to be part of a group than flailing along, alone in your own basement.
“Through that community I’ve been able to connect with founders who have had successful exits and ask them questions – how do you grow your team? How can I learn from there experience and mistakes they’ve made. There are no new problems out there. That’s been really valuable in helping us to move quickly.”
Claiming a $100,000 prize in the pitch competition at the Fierce Founders Bootcamp, a business growth program for women entrepreneurs, provided a further boost in velocity, allowing the team to hire its first employee, a web designer with a background in urban planning.
And while her goal is to grow Ratio.city to other expanding cities, for Jaroszonek, the ultimate objective is really about achieving her lifelong dreaming of making urban centres better. “Cities are the future,” she says. “We need to build more of them and we need to build them better.”
Photo credit: Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real