Self-described ‘gypsy’ Bobbie Racette always followed her heart in her career ventures and that passion for change has gotten her to where she is now as the founder and CEO of Calgary-based virtual assistant marketplace Virtual Gurus.
A proudly Indigenous member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, Racette has encountered many roadblocks on her path to success, but her company has just secured an $8.4-million investment from lead investor, the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good.
Supported by other key investors including Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, The51 and Accelerate Fund, Virtual Gurus’ cumulative funding since February 2020 now totals $10.4 million.
Virtual Gurus is a talent marketplace that leverages proprietary technology to match organizations with highly skilled Canadian and American virtual assistants. In 2021 alone, the company saw a revenue growth of 129%.
It’s believed she is the first Indigenous woman in tech to close an investment round — no small feat
“One of the most exciting things for me is that we are growing and scaling Virtual Gurus without losing focus of our North Star — our talent from underrepresented communities,” Racette says.
“Social impact will always be embedded into our business model. We’re proving that we can be a people-first company and a tech company at the same time, and our investors are also clearly aligned with that vision.”
Racette launched Virtual Gurus after being laid off from the oil and gas sector as a safety technician in 2016. At the time, she decided to take her future into her own hands, but she had no idea she would be as successful as she is today.
“When I first launched, I did it to create my own job because I was laid off. But after being the only virtual assistant on the platform, I realized that it had the potential to be a lot bigger,” Racette tells Calgary Citizen.
“But did I anticipate being this big, now knowing that 30% of our revenue is from the US and the plan is to go global? No, I didn’t.”
Dedicated to giving opportunities to underrepresented people
One of the things that sets the company apart is its dedication to providing work to marginalized folx in underserved communities. That’s part of the mission.
Virtual Gurus creates meaningful earning opportunities for people seeking an alternative to the nine to five office work week, while also priding itself on championing BIPOC people, people from the LGBTQ2S+ community, single and stay-at-home parents, and those with alternate abilities.
“My number one reason why I want to give these opportunities is that I did have barriers myself with having gay parents and me being gay, but also being Indigenous,” Racette says.
“There were a lot of barriers to getting to where I am today. So, my thing is lifting other people up, especially people who have often been overlooked.”
More about the funding
The funding raised in Series A will see the Virtual Gurus team introduce machine learning into high return on investment areas of the business while continuing to expand its technology platform.
The funding will also help to fuel the company’s expansion into the United States, which currently accounts for 38% of the company’s revenue, up exponentially from 3.6% nine months earlier.
“Over the past year, we have seen the immense growth and transformation of Virtual Gurus and we are excited to take the lead investor role in their Series A round,” says Blair Miller, managing partner of the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good.
“Virtual Gurus has made it their mission to provide support and opportunity to those who have traditionally been overlooked for quality jobs and resulting income, something that aligns closely with the Pollinator Fund’s pillar of building more inclusive communities.”
An inspiration to many
Shelley Kuipers, co-CEO and chief growth officer for The51, says Virtual Gurus has been an inspiration as they drive impact and opportunity for underrepresented groups.
“The impressive growth and scale trajectory continue to demonstrate the market value and need for what Virtual Gurus is building. The51 is proud to support another woman-led success story,” she says.
“Virtual Gurus’ entry into machine learning will ultimately improve the quality of work, connection, and income capacity of their virtual assistants.”
Stephen Nairne, chief investment officer at Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, agrees that Virtual Gurus is making a splash when it comes to its mission.
“Virtual Gurus is the embodiment of diversity alpha — a founder and company that proudly expresses and reflects Indigenous values in building a cutting edge network effects solution,” says Nairne.
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