Houses to Let: The Irishmen Who Set Up a Property Website in Toronto
When John Kelly moved to Toronto two and a half years ago, he couldn’t believe how difficult it was searching online for a place to rent. He thought to himself, rather than trawling through a plethora of websites, why couldn’t there be just one that would cater as a one-stop-shop for house hunters?
With that an idea was born.
John and his business partners Dan Murphy and Conor Mulligan are the men behind Solas.ca, a new website that drags rental advertisements from six of the most popular sites in the greater Toronto area, and presents them on one, easy to use site. The Daft.ie of Toronto one might say.
While he is based in Canada, his colleagues are based in Dublin and Galway respectively. When we chatted to John he explained how they managed to set up a site together, despite the fact that they were based on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Dan took one trip out here for two weeks and then went back to Ireland. Apart from that it's all been over Skype, and the two of them would have been linking up in Ireland every couple of months.
Even though they are half the world away, technology nowadays means that Irish emigrants need not cut social and economic ties with their homeland. While there were one or two hitches along the way, their new transatlantic business venture worked fantastically well.
For 90% of the time it was perfect, it didn't have any impact. It was just on those last, minor details when it would be nice to have someone sitting beside you to go through them - it has been weak on that. But other than that it's been perfect.
The website has received a great response, and they plan to release phone apps within the next two months, with a hope to expand across all of Canada in the long term.
Image: Screenshot of Solas.ca
The boys have been greatly appreciative of the encouragement and help they get from the strong Irish community in Toronto.
The Irish community have been great to us...It's that immediate connection that helps you link up with people, and want to help each other out. Whether it's Irishalien.com or the Irish Candian Centre, and Irish pubs - there's plenty of Irish here.
Of all the publicity we've been hunting, the Irish ones have been the easiest to talk to and the most willing to engage...It's definitely a big help.
Although the story of Solas.ca has been an overwhelmingly positive one, John notes that most of the Irish immigrants to Toronto he has come across have not ventured into entrepreneurship. Perhaps these three men's brave gamble can serve as the catalyst to inspire more and more "global Irish'' business start-ups.
Image: Screenshot of Solas.ca
John has an interesting back story himself. While most of the Irish in Toronto have found themselves flying from one bust property bubble to latch onto another expanding one in Canada, Dublin native John found himself leaving Ireland for different reasons.
I was living in Ireland until I was 22. I then went to California chasing a girl. And the two of us ended up coming to Toronto for my work which was involved in consulting on property deals.
So sometimes Irish emigration is not brought about by economic blight, but instead inspired by the auld bit of courtin'.