Bobbie Racette on how the trifecta of being a queer, Indigenous woman helped her create an inclusive, successful platform

Virtual Gurus founder also shares her plans for a Series B raise.

Bobbie Racette, one of very few female, Indigenous founders to raise a Series A, is on to the next round and looking to secure a Series B for her company Virtual Gurus.

Racette founded her startup in 2016 and used the Series A capital to build a gig work platform that connects virtual assistants to companies looking for help with tasks like bookkeeping, marketing, and customer support.

BetaKit recently sat down with her to talk about why she’s planning her big expansion in the US, a trend Canadian startups tend to follow, what companies get wrong about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

How is it going these last few years? Are you planning on raising a Series B?

We’re in crazy scale mode, so we’re going for a Series B and we’ve got a lot of people interested. My plan is to close the Series B at the end of summer, and we’re targeting mainly US investors.

That’s interesting you’re targeting the US in your Series B raise. Why is that?

We’ve essentially dominated the Canadian market in the virtual assistant space. We’re not done and we have a lot of returning clients, but I’d realized for scale, we needed to go to the US. Only two years ago, I launched in the US, and now 65 percent of our revenue is US-based. 

A lot of founders feel the pull from the US and are eager to grow their companies there, but recently there’s been a push to grow the Canadian tech ecosystem. What do you make of that? 

Our homebase is here, but if we don’t sort out this [planned hike in the capital gains inclusion rate], then we really won’t hesitate to go there. The capital gains thing is going to make a lot of founders move to the US, sadly. 

But the US is where a lot of money’s at, right? And so when you become VC-backed, you have to make money. When you have predominantly already hit the market here, you really have no other choice but to open into other markets. 

Before we sat down to talk, you were telling me that DEI is core to Virtual Gurus. What’s the story behind that? 

The reason I started Virtual Gurus was because nobody would give me a job after I got laid off. I live in Calgary, so it was pretty conservative at the time—it’s way better now and it’s an awesome city — but so many people said no to me, constantly. For the first two, three years of Virtual Gurus, I was the only virtual assistant and that’s essentially how I built it: to create a job for myself. When I realized it was going to be huge, I decided I wanted to leverage DEI and create the platform for folks like me who have always been told no. 

I’m an Indigenous, queer woman in tech—that’s like a trifecta—and I worked into our mandate that at least 65 percent of our talent should identify as Black, Indigenous and/or people of colour, and out of that, we should have 90 percent identifying as women. 

Now we’re going into Indigenous communities, putting in trailers, and then we’re training people so we can keep [people] in their communities, because the number one, ultimate goal is keep people in the communities, keep them where they feel safe.

Why is it important to you to champion diversity in tech?

I mean, if I don’t, who’s going to, right? When I was trying to find work, nobody would give me a job. It was kind of heartbreaking because I was like, man, I know I’m a super talented person. I may not have an education, but I certainly can do things if they give me the chance. And that’s all it is. People just want a chance.

DEI has almost become a dirty word in tech, why do you think that is?

There’s ethical DEI, similar to how there’s ethical AI. And I think people are using it to get a lift rather than walking the talk. Don’t just throw the words out just because you think that that’s going to give you that lift up in the business world. Sadly, that’s what a lot of people are doing. 

What are the risks if founders don’t properly lean into DEI?

It could weigh on your employees, leak toxicity into your system. Not only that, you’re going to be an untrustworthy company. 

There are Indigenous and Black women CEOs who are doing [DEI] well. I’m going to say this with all due respect to a cis, white male trying to do it without actually doing it, you’re going to stand out so badly and it’s not going to look good on you. It’s going to be a dishonest way to run your business, and then people are going to not support you. 

Feature image courtesy Bobbie Racette.

Bianca Bharti

Bianca Bharti

Bianca Bharti is the newsletter editor at BetaKit, where she spearheads coverage and analysis of tech news in related products. Before BetaKit, Bianca covered the nexus of markets, industries and policy in a variety of formats as a reporter for the Financial Post. There, she won silver in SABEW's 2021 Best in Business Journalism Awards in the personal finance category for one of her pieces. In her free time, she enjoys swapping her reporter hat for a baseball cap to hit up some hiking trails with her dog. She also weirdly loves debating monetary policy.

0 replies on “Bobbie Racette on how the trifecta of being a queer, Indigenous woman helped her create an inclusive, successful platform”