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Awards and recognition

SFU alumni recognized as top Canadian changemakers

February 25, 2022
SFU alumni Rene Blanco and Sumreen Rattan

Two Simon Fraser University alumni have been named among the top 50 entrepreneurs, academics and executives in Canada who are creating and inspiring change.

Rene Blanco and Sumreen Rattan are recipients of The Globe and Mail’s 2022 Changemaker awards, which recognizes “emerging leaders who are finding pragmatic solutions to the world’s most intricate problems.”

Both Blanco and Rattan are entrepreneurs from The Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship and developed their startups through SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection, an innovation hub where participants gain the skills, knowledge and resources needed to turn their ideas into successful and sustainable businesses.

Blanco, an MBA alumnus, is co-founder and CEO of Labora, an SFU VentureLabs-supported company that  has modernized the international payment process for seasonal foreign workers in Canada.

The process had remained unchanged for the past 50 years.
The Canadian agricultural sector depends on approximately 50,000 temporary foreign workers each year from around the world. Close to 92 per cent of them work in crop production. 

Labora’s digital payroll service allows workers to safely send and track international money transfers at discounted rates and improved speeds compared to traditional methods.

“Being named a 2022 Changemaker means that we are on the right track,” says Blanco. “It is incredibly exciting and humbling for us as a company that our vision is being recognized by others and is making an impact. We’re excited to keep growing to reach more workers that can benefit from our innovative service.”

Labora’s ultimate goal is to help workers improve their long-term financial positions beyond the agricultural season by helping workers set-up pensions, assisting with tax preparations and providing resources and teaching for overall financial literacy.

Read more about how Blanco and Labora are revolutionizing this sector at the SFU VentureLabs website.

Rattan, a mechatronics alumnus, co-founded Moment Energy at SFU. The company is supported by SFU VentureLabs and received mentorship through Coast Capital Venture Connection in its early years.

Rattan and her team are transforming the Canadian cleantech landscape by repurposing electric vehicle (EV) batteries into hybrid generator systems that can store sustainable power, such as solar and wind.

Moment Energy is also the only Canadian company that works directly with major automotive companies, like Nissan, to repurpose old EV batteries which is central to their core mission of accelerating the world’s transition to renewable energy.

“You can have a positive impact on the environment and a successful business. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other,” says Rattan.

Her unwavering vision for renewable energy is key to her success as an innovator and for Moment Energy as a whole.

Rattan continues to make her mark as a woman in STEM. Just last year Rattan was accepted into the RBC Women in Cleantech Accelerator and was recognized as one of 20 emerging leaders selected by Clean50 which profiles innovators and disruptors in the cleantech space.

Read more about Rattan and Moment Energy at the SFU VentureLabs website.