Calgary’s Virtual Gurus launches virtual assistant app for Slack

Indigenous-led startup Virtual Gurus has launched a new virtual assistant app that aims to help users delegate their to-do lists. The company introduced its new askBetty app, which is free to download to any Slack workspace, last week.

askBetty grants users access to a live personal assistant who can complete basic administrative tasks, such as reviewing social media copy, sourcing quotes from service providers, and transcribing audio files.

“askBetty democratizes the virtual assistant space.”
– Bobbie Racette, Virtual Gurus’ founder and CEO

The startup connects entrepreneurs and businesses to its pool of Canada and United States-based freelance administration professionals, with its proprietary algorithm. Through askBetty, Virtual Gurus aims to make this pool available to North American Slack users, amid rising demand for Virtual Gurus’ services due to COVID-19 and the shift to remote work.

“Not everyone needs a full-time, or even fractional, virtual assistant,” Bobbie Racette, founder and CEO of Virtual Gurus, told BetaKit. “askBetty democratizes the virtual assistant space, making it accessible to have an assistant whether you’re a startup CEO, manager at a large organization, or a busy parent.”

askBetty provides on-demand access to its previously vetted pool of virtual assistants, which it claims bypasses the need for onboarding. Interactions through the app are human-to-human and managed on the company’s dashboard. For virtual assistants, the company offers a flexible means of making money: “Think Uber,” said Racette. “Log-on when you want to make some extra cash, log off and call it a day when you’re done.”

Racette, who is a Cree-Métis woman, founded Virtual Gurus in 2016 after she was laid off from her job in Calgary’s energy sector. She initially launched the company to help create employment opportunities for marginalized individuals. In October 2019, Racette won the Startup Canada Indigenous Entrepreneur Award.

Racette bootstrapped the startup until February 2020, when it raised $1.2 million CAD. Virtual Gurus used this funding to fuel its growth plans and hire in remote areas, including Indigenous communities.

During COVID-19, Racette said Virtual Gurus’ client base has expanded “significantly.” Since January 2020, she said the company’s inbound leads have increased by 148 percent, and last year, its client count nearly doubled compared to 2019. Virtual Gurus’ full-time team has also tripled in size since February 2020, from six to 19 employees, with a few more set to join next month.

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In order to meet client demand, Racette said Virtual Gurus plans to triple its community of virtual assistants by the end of 2021.

Racette declined to disclose the size of the company’s talent pool, which she said changes on a monthly basis, but added the company receives over 500 applications a month, and had over 3,000 hours in billable time the last week of January.

Racette said that 91 percent of the company’s virtual assistants are female, and 40 percent identify as a member of a marginalized community – BIPOC, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, or alternately-abled.

“Our clients tell us that they also want to support marginalized assistants and embrace our social mission,” said Racette.

“Our North Star is to have 65 percent of our virtual assistants identify as a member of a marginalized community by the end of 2022,” said Racette. Virtual Gurus recently took a step towards achieving this goal, partnering with Native Women Lead to recruit more Indigenous virtual assistants.

In addition to Slack, Racette hopes to bring askBetty to Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and Telegram “soon.”

This year, the company plans to raise a Series A round and pursue aggressive expansion plans in the US.

Photo of Bobbie Racette by Julie Vincent

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh is a journalist interested in telling Canadian business and tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.