Startup Profiles: Meet Rene from Labora

Tell us about your startup and what inspired you to start it.

In a world where many people do their banking quickly and conveniently online, Canada’s temporary foreign workers have been left behind. Those visiting labourers don’t just toil in the fields—sending money home to their families is a chore, too.

In 2017, while I was studying an Executive MBA at Simon Fraser University, a seasonal worker friend mentioned to me the time-consuming and costly process of remitting his money to Mexico. This process of sending money has remained the same in the last 50 years. When I looked at the problem, I saw an opportunity to help farm owners ease their administrative work while helping temporary farm workers save time and money.

LABORA is a social impact FinTech platform that allows temporary foreign workers to send and track their international money transfers at discounted fees and exchange rates. Through LABORA, workers save time and money and build a credit history back home. At the same time, with just one click, it enables farmers to reduce administrative work and manage their employment documents related to payroll stubs, T4, TD1, Record of Employment, tax return, contract, and certifications at any time.

Recently, LABORA added tax filing and tax optimization for temporary foreign workers and payroll services for farm owners. Next year, we want to support temporary foreign workers with financial planning for their retirement.

What energizes you to pursue your startup even when things aren’t going as planned?

In the hard days, we always go back to our why. We believe in what we do, and how we are improving the financial conditions of temporary foreign workers. Our initial traction and customer loyalty motivate us to pursue our mission.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own startup? Why?

To be convinced about your business idea, validate it and have the patience and perseverance to accomplish it. Being an entrepreneur is a long-time journey that looks like a roller coaster. There are good and bad days, and you always have to be aware of your customer’s needs, adapt, and pivot your initial proposal. It’s not an easy and smooth journey, and accomplishing your mission takes time.

What drew you to entrepreneurship?

I love to innovate and disrupt current processes. I believe change is always a constant, and there is space to innovate products and processes. I believe innovation improves people’s lives, and I want to be part of that change, especially for those underserved by the financial market. 

What life or work experiences helped prepare you to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?

For many years, I developed public-private partnerships to deliver infrastructure to urban and rural communities and improve their economic conditions. These efforts to co-create value among joint alliances increased my willingness to build a better world through social impact initiatives. That is how I envision my entrepreneurial journey and our social impact startup.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

 I heard from an MBA professor, “If your company does not have paying customers, you only have a hobby.”

What change would you like to see in your industry?

I think that the fantastic work done by IFH Lab to help, mentor, and support social impact start-ups should be backed up by more stakeholders within the financial industry and give back to new initiatives. There are a lot of financial needs and underserved persons that need customized financial services. Our social impact FinTech is trying to fill the gap, and any support from the financial ecosystem is always welcome.

I hope to see more openness, inclusion and support for social impact FinTechs. There are still niches to serve and financial needs to fulfill, and new incumbents always try to disrupt the industry status quo and innovate existing services. As a result, this competition brings positive outcomes for the entire financial ecosystem.

When was the last time you felt real joy at work?

It was one week ago when I had coffee with a customer. It wasn’t about buying or selling anything, it was just to learn more about him and thinking about what else we can do to improve his wealth.

What is your motto in life?

Always move forward, even given small steps. You can’t imagine how forward you can advance by being persistent and consistent with an everyday action. When you look back, you realize how far you are from your starting point. And of course, enjoy the journey!

What is one thing you’ve learned so far or taken away since joining IFH Lab?

Joining IFH Lab has been an incredibly enriching experience for us. The networking and warm introductions provided by the IFH Lab team are unique. In every session, a panel of experts shared insightful business knowledge on improving our value proposition, communicating our mission to different stakeholders, and reaching those potential alliances and investors more suitable to our startup.