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Virtual Gurus closes $8.4 million amid US demand for diversity-focused virtual assistants

CEO Bobbie Racette is one of the first Indigenous women in #CDNtech to close a Series A round.

Virtual Gurus secured a round of C$8.4 million due to increased demand in the United States (US) for its virtual assistant market.

Led by CEO Bobbie Racette, who is a Cree-Mixed and LGBTQ+ woman, Virtual Gurus is on a mission to disrupt the virtual assistant market through curated matches and a talent marketplace that focuses on employing people historically underrepresented.

“Tons of customers are leaving some of our competitors and coming to us because of their diversity angle,” Racette said in an exclusive interview with BetaKit.

Racette is one of, if not the first, Indigenous women to close a Series A round in Canadian tech history.

Virtual Gurus launched in the US nine months ago, and with what Racette called minimal proactive marketing, the marketplace has become a major component of the company’s business. The United States accounts for around 30% of the startup’s current revenue after its official launch in the country.

“I think what it is is that the United States is ahead of us in Canada, and they already had split administrative support long before us. I think the fresh meat coming in is good for them.

Virtual Gurus is a talent marketplace that uses technology to match organizations with virtual assistants from Canada and the United States. Through a monthly subscription service, businesses can hire virtual assistants remotely for administrative needs, office management, sales, and more. Virtual Gurus also offers specialized services for the real estate, legal and medical sectors.

The Series A capital, which includes $5.4 million in equity and the remainder in non-dilutive capital, follows a busy few years for Virtual Gurus. Racette started his business for about three years before securing initial funding of $1.2 million in early 2020, followed by more than $1.7 million a year later. The startup’s total equity funding to date is $10.4 million. During this period, Racette claims that Virtual Gurus has experienced significant growth, with a 129% increase in revenue year over year.

“It’s thanks to the pandemic, because where companies were laying off, we realized that fractional EAs [executive assistants] were perfect for them,” Racette said. “While on the other side, we were able to recover all the administrative staff who were being made redundant.”

Series A was led by the Telus Pollinator Fund for Good and saw participation from the Alberta government-backed Accelerate Fund, which matched an angel investment of $750,000. Virtual Gurus has also attracted returning investors for this round: Raven Indigenous Capital Partners and The51, both of which have invested in all of the startup’s rounds to date.

Racette is one of, if not the first, Indigenous women to close a Series A round in Canadian tech history. While little data is collected on these statistics, Racette says she has connected to her network and investors in Canada to verify and no one has been able to identify another Indigenous woman for the have done.

“[I’m] I’m 99.9% sure I’m the only one,” said Racette, who said she knows between 10 and 20 young Indigenous women who want to start tech businesses but are afraid to do so.

“My ultimate goal with this ultimately is to encourage all these other young Indigenous women to do this as well,” Racette said. “I’m really excited about that part the most, to be honest. Maybe it will inspire other aboriginal women. I sincerely hope.”

The fear evoked by Racette is not without precedent. Indigenous peoples in Canada have long faced systemic barriers, including low participation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, limited representation within technology companies, and limited access to venture capital.

This last challenge is one of the reasons Raven Indigenous Capital Partners was created. The company launched a C$25 million fund to not only provide capital, but also to help fill the resource gap faced by Indigenous entrepreneurs.

With membership from 38 investors across Canada and the United States, including the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners has invested in companies like Animikii and PLATO Testing.

“Virtual Gurus is the embodiment of alpha diversity – a founder and company that proudly expresses and reflects Indigenous values ​​by creating a cutting-edge network effects solution,” said Stephen Nairne, Chief Investment Officer at Raven Indigenous Capital. Partners.

“Because I’m an Indigenous LGBT woman myself, I’ve been through a lot and seen a lot,” Racette said. “That’s something that has always been true for me.”

“I have a platform, I have a voice. I will do it.”

Racette recounted that when she first launched Virtual Gurus, she wanted to focus on building a diverse workforce market, but found it difficult to balance the creation of the firm’s minimum viable product.

“But as the platform started to scale and get bigger and bigger, and as we started to get that brand and name out there, I started to think that was my when I could take advantage of it. I have a platform, I have a voice. I will,” she said.

Racette, who struggled to raise capital at first, recalls potential investors turning away from virtual gurus because of her diversity and inclusion focus, suggesting instead that she just focus on growing her business. business. The CEO dismissed those suggestions — and has since found that a focus on diversity is both a differentiator and a reason companies choose Virtual Gurus.

The company is focused on supporting Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), people from the LGBTQ2S+ community, single and stay-at-home parents, and people with other abilities.

Virtual Gurus customers include OutTV, Borrowell and 3Strands Global Foundation, with the startup saying it’s both cost savings and support for environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals that have attracted them.

“They’re the reason we’re doing this,” Racette noted. “Because all of these people are struggling to find work, they’ve all been neglected, not all of them have had opportunities.”

“Not only are [Racette and the Virtual Gurus team] achieve impressive growth and a trajectory at scale, but they do so while creating economic opportunity and impact for underrepresented talent,” said Shelley Kuipers, investor at Virtual Gurus, co-founder of The51. “Bobbie is undoubtedly an inspirational founder for investors, entrepreneurs and those who aspire to be.”

RELATED: Canadian Tech Must Embrace Indigenous Reconciliation

Racette said Virtual Gurus carefully chose its investors to support its mission, and noted that the startup turned down higher valuation term sheets to bring in Telus because of the potential to partner with the company.

Launched in late 2020, the Telus Pollinator Fund For Good is a $100 million social impact fund. Aligned with Telus’ overall social goals, the fund focuses on investing in entrepreneurs who create healthcare solutions, promote social and economic inclusion, ensure sustainable food production and support the natural environment. .

“We have a lot of, let’s say, growth opportunities with Telus than with the other [investors]said Racette, who noted that Virtual Gurus will work with Telus to establish partnerships. Although she didn’t provide additional details, Racette said the partnerships would likely include Virtual Gurus’ Slack integration.

“As the business world becomes more virtual than ever, we are confident in the team’s approach of leveraging cutting-edge technology and machine learning to connect organizations with virtual assistants. who are bridging the distance gap for those looking for an alternative to 9-to-5 office work,” said Blair Miller, Managing Partner, Telus Pollinator Fund for Good. “These connections will help build a workforce virtual community and create the business community of the future.”

In addition to further capturing the U.S. virtual assistant market, Virtual Gurus is focused on investing in artificial intelligence, building a tailored offering for enterprise customers, and growing its 35-person team.

As for the automation aspect, Virtual Gurus plans to strengthen its matching system, but also to use the data to optimize job opportunities for workers and predict how much work customers will need. to improve their experience as well.

“Virtual Gurus’ entry into machine learning will ultimately improve the quality of work, connection, and earning capacity of their virtual assistants,” Kuipers said. “We continue to be inspired by the work that Virtual Gurus does to generate impact and opportunity for underrepresented groups.”

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