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SFU Tech Startup Takes Volunteering and Social Impact Online
For many, the holidays are a time of gift-giving. Contributing some of your time to volunteer can have a lasting positive impact on many people’s lives. Startup founders from MeaningfulWork and Moment Energy – two Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship-associated startups – are joining forces this holiday season to make a difference!
While non-profits organizations were struggling to find volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic, SFU Mechatronic Systems Engineering doctoral student Raaj Chatterjee saw an opportunity to match people with suitable volunteer opportunities via the digital space. Thus, the idea for MeaningfulWork was born.
“We’re helping people find innovative ways to give back, find cool nonprofits to give back to,” says Chatterjee, co-founder and CEO of MeaningfulWork, “and we’re helping organizations find new ways to engage employees in a way that creates a sustainable work culture that’s focused around giving back.”
MeaningfulWork launched its pilot program in 2020 with 30 volunteers. Since then, the startup has taken off, growing into a robust platform matching opportunities for over 400 volunteers and 200 non-profit organizations, including The Salvation Army and Breast Cancer Canada.
The MeaningfulWork and Moment Energy teams met within the Chang Institute’s incubator program, Coast Capital Venture Connection. Moment Energy launched from the incubator into industry in September 2021, having raised $3.5 million towards their sustainable energy mission. The two startups kept in touch, and by September 2022 Moment had signed on with MeaningfulWork as a corporate customer. The two teams worked together to grow Moment’s volunteer program, finding in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities that aligned with the personal goals of Moment employees.
By December 2022, Moment Energy employees were engaged as volunteers with the Food Stash Foundation, a non-for-profit that redistributes near-expired food and ensures it gets to food-insecure families.
“Our team was very enthusiastic about volunteering and was appreciative of the opportunity to provide safe and healthy food to those who may not be able to afford it,” says Sumreen Rattan, Co-founder & COO of Moment. “It was nice to have this opportunity to mingle outside work for a good cause.”
Moment Energy was also connected with youth education company SPARK Foundation, another former Venture Connection startup, through the platform. The two hosted a hackathon to brainstorm ways that a non-profit could improve its business and operations.
MeaningfulWork has completed over fifty volunteer placements to date. As the platform continues to onboard more companies, Chatterjee’s team has a clear trajectory laid out for the future. The startup recently celebrated the launch of #JustGoodNews, a content marketing initiative that highlights real stories on the social impact that volunteers and their nonprofit partners have had in the community.
As for the company’s next steps, Chatterjee says that partnering with large enterprises to grow their volunteer programs is on the list. “We plan on eventually expanding to the U.S. as well as globally,” Chatterjee says. “We’ll continue working hard towards the vision to create the most impactful community for giving back in the world.”
If you would like to give back to causes that you care about, check out the volunteering opportunities listed on MeaningfulWork.
The Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship is the academic and interdisciplinary hub for entrepreneurship and innovation at SFU. The Institute is creating Canada’s most comprehensive and inclusive continuum of interdisciplinary, experiential programming to develop the entrepreneurial mindset, working closely with all SFU faculties and innovation partners within one of Canada’s most supportive university ecosystems.
Coast Capital Venture Connection is the Chang Institute’s premier incubator program, working with founders and early-stage startups within SFU’s communities.
Are you an SFU community member who would like to explore entrepreneurship?
Moment Energy and MeaningfulWork both benefited from these Chang Institute programs:
Tech e@SFU - apply to the Sep 2023 cohort!
eCoop - applications open every semester for this funded co-op term
Mentor Meet - online mentoring, year round
SPARK - pre-incubation program/online workbook, year round
Coast Capital Venture Connection incubator - startup support and dedicated mentoring
Coast Capital Venture Prize - SFU’s startup competition; applications open January 2023!