SFU entrepreneurs named Changemakers by The Globe and Mail for innovative startups in tech and sustainability

February 25, 2022
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By Joelle Lee

Two SFU alumni have been named in The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine’s 2022 Changemakers, an annual list of emerging leaders transforming business today. Rene Blanco and Sumreen Rattan, entrepreneurs from The Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship, are two of 50 Canada-wide award recipients comprised of entrepreneurs, academics and executives who are striving to find innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.

Both Blanco and Rattan 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. They are also both currently participants in VentureLabs, SFU’s accelerator for science- and technology-based new ventures.

“The world is facing more challenges than ever before – climate change, racial discrimination, income inequality, not to mention the pandemic,” says Dawn Calleja, editor of The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine. “It’s heartening to meet this year’s crop of 50 Changemakers who are searching for solutions to many of these problems and offering some inspiration.” 

This is the second year in a row where Venture Connection alumni have received a Changemakers award. Blanco and Rattan join a growing list of rising business leaders who are paving the way for a better future through innovative solutions and entrepreneurship. 

Janice OBriain, programs director for the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship, says, “Rene and Sumreen are both exemplary innovators – it is wonderful to see their ideas, accomplishments and impact recognized and celebrated through this award. These two founders truly embody the mindset and values we champion at the Chang Institute as leaders, collaborators and problem solvers who can navigate our changing world and meet the pressing challenges of our time.”   

Introducing the SFU winners of the second annual Changemakers awards:

Rene Blanco, Founder & CEO, Labora  

In a world where many people do their banking conveniently online, Canada’s seasonal agricultural workers have been left behind with a system that hasn't changed in 50 years. 

As an immigrant to Canada from Mexico, Rene Blanco was determined to improve conditions for those workers. Through Labora, Rene has revolutionized the payment processing system. His service helps farm owners securely and efficiently pay their workers, who then benefit from the streamlined money transfer process from Canada to Mexico. Further simplifying the administrative process, the Labora platform assists farmworkers with tax and online services. Today, Labora is being implemented by farm owners across the nation.

Labora was SFU’s 2019 Coast Capital Venture Prize Idea Prize winner and also won the Venture Prize top prize in 2021.

Blanco is an alumnus of the Beedie’s Executive MBA and Invention to Innovation (i2I) program and, through Labora, is a past participant of the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection incubator program before graduating to SFU VentureLabs in 2021.

Sumreen Rattan, Co-founder & COO, Moment Energy

As a graduate of SFU's Mechatronics Engineering program, Rattan is making her mark as a female entrepreneur in STEM. As Chief Operating Officer, Rattan co-leads Moment Energy, a startup that repurposes end-of-life electric vehicle batteries for energy storage. These batteries have on average 80 per cent of life left when retired from the car. 

Rattan’s passion for technology and her desire to use engineering for “the greater good” fuel her vision for the future: her goal is to accelerate the world’s transition to renewables by creating the most affordable energy storage on the market. “You can have a positive impact on the environment and a successful business,” she says. “You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.”

Moment Energy was formed within the Chang Institute’s Technology Entrepreneurship program (TechE) and supported for many years through SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection incubator before graduating on to SFU VentureLabs. Moment Energy was winner of the 2021 Coast Capital Venture Prize Social Impact Award.  

Editorial coverage of all 2022 Changemakers can be found in the March 2022 issue of The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine, distributed on Saturday, February 26th, and online now at tgam.ca/Changemakers.

About the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship 

The Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship is the academic and interdisciplinary hub for entrepreneurship and innovation at SFU. The Institute is focused on 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 in one of Canada’s most supportive university ecosystems. 

Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection incubator has been a hub for university ventures since 2008, supporting founders and startups from initial idea to business validation. This Chang Institute flagship program has supported entrepreneurship training for more than 15,000 individuals from the SFU community, ranging from students, staff, faculty and recent alumni, and has provided startup services to more than 250 early ventures.