Office Hours: I’m the only Indigenous woman in tech in Canada to close a Series A funding round. I’m Bobbie Racette and I’m the founder and CEO of Virtual Gurus. AMA!Featured

Hi everyone!

I’m Bobbie the Founder & CEO of Virtual Gurus.  Our company creates work from home opportunities for underserved people. We do this by leveraging technology to match the talent as back office support to businesses of all sizes.  We currently have 700+ assistants working through the platform now and we are on a mission to hire 2000 more.

We recently closed a Series A funding round, and I am proud to say I am the only Indigenous Woman in Tech in Canada to do so.

Before Virtual Gurus, I worked as a safety technician in the energy industry. When the layoffs in oil and gas happened, I had a hard time finding a position, so I decided to create my own job and signed myself up as a freelance virtual assistant. I soon realized the agencies available at the time were failing to really deliver a sense of job security or satisfaction. I thought the only way to fix this was to create something myself, so the idea of Virtual Gurus was born, with a goal of providing meaningful work opportunities for underrepresented folx. I never planned to be an entrepreneur -- my original aspiration was to be a music teacher for deaf children!

During my downtime, I love spending time with my family, including my two Moms in Saskatchewan. They are both very hard working women. One of them was Saskatchewan’s first female carpenter; she built a lot of houses in Regina. My other Mom was always working, and still is to this day, when she should be retired. Their hard work influenced my work ethic.

For a while after high school, I became a mentor to Indigenous youth, some of whom were at-risk. The experience taught me that I have the power to use my culture to help other people who may not have had many opportunities.

I also volunteer my time with a few organizations, as I’m passionate about encouraging and mentoring the next generation of leaders. I’m a mentor for eCommere North, an Entreprenur in Residence at Platform Incubator, and a board member for the Telus Future Friendly Foundation.

Ask me anything about raising a Series A, evaluating investors, creating social impact, scaling a business, being an indigenous or LGBTQ person in tech, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @bobbieracette!Elphas – please ask @bobbieracette your questions before Friday, November 25th. @bobbieracette may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Bobbie! Thanks so much for joining us this week for OH! Congratulations on everything you've done to date, so inspiring! I am curious to hear how did the desire to build your own thing come about? Being an entrepreneur is so hard, and being the first at pretty much everything is very hard (but hey yes we must start somewhere)! So just really curious to learn a bit more about your upbringing and perhaps experiences that directed you into trying something new. And separately, have you met @danielleforward? She's amazing and also did an OH with us a few weeks ago
Hi @iynna I will definitely look up @danielleforward. Thank you for your question. I grew up with two moms, my biological mom, and her life partner. As you can imagine being LGBT back in the day while raising kids was no easy feat, but my mom always taught us to power on. Fast forward to before I started VG, I was what my mom called a gypsy. I lived in Mexico, Costa Rica, the US, and England while working small odd jobs until I landed in Montreal where I worked at Readers Digest for many years. If you would have asked me 7 years ago if I would ever become an Entrepreneur I would have said - no not at all. I aspired to be a music teacher for deaf children. But starting VG was a life changer for me in many ways but mostly self-growth. I am a whole different person than I was 7 years ago. I used to be a shy-introverted-timid little thing and now I truly feel I am strong-bold and humble. I hope this answers your question. :)
You definitely did answer my question and I am grateful you did! Thank you for sharing your story, it's very inspiring and I am so glad you are doing what you're doing now!
Hi Bobbie! I'm a fellow Canadian, LGBTQ+ tech founder! So great to meet you and come across your post here! Very inspiring story. Congratulations on the fundraise. I'm struggling to raise a pre seed round for my digital health startup. It's difficult in Canada, not to mention the other barriers at play. Did you bootstrap your business for a while? Or jump right into sources of financing?
Hi @DallasB - fellow Canadian! We're like twins - almost. ;) It's definitely a struggle raising your pre-seed or seed - probably the hardest of all to be perfectly honest. I went through over 170 NOs before I started getting to my YES(s)! So hang in there and don't give up. Yes, I bootstrapped VG to close to $2M in revenue before I was able to close my seed round. That came with a lot of hardships and grants and of course having an early family friend round investor really believed in my product and help me when times were tough - like payroll! ;) Stay the course, get out and network, ask for intros', re-look at your valuation and projections and stay on top of the follow-up process. Keep going.
How do you balance working on your startup with doing volunteer work and staying involved with friends/family/your community. I find that when I'm working on my startup I got really stuck in my work zone and it becomes unhealthy. Would love to hear your tips and tricks.
Hello Pearl133, This is very common, to be honest, I have myself gone through burn out and it is not fun for you, your staff, your family, or anyone. Here's what I do. - Prioritize my calendar. I only accept meetings that I am really needed in, I delegate meetings to my team members as much as I can. I only do 3/4 meetings a day max, allowing myself work time. - I shut down every day at 5 pm and leave my laptop at my office. I do not take my laptop home on the weekends. - I take vacation time regularly, take my flex days, and time off. - I say NO to speaking, media, and podcasts about 70% of the time. - I focus on my daily priorities one day at a time. - I focus on healthy eating and healthy living. I meditate daily. Always take care of yourself first, your startup needs you healthy. What you don't finish today can wait until tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Log out. Shut it off. ;) Cheers
Hi Bobbie,I can relate on how pivoting can be unexpectedly troublingTell me how I can help!
Hi @bobbieracette I love your work and would want to learn more about the indigenous community. As a startup founder myself who's looking to raise a seed round, may I know what are some of the common misconceptions about fundraising based on your experiences?
Hi @AmberL, great question thank you. Based on my experience, here are some of the misconceptions. 1) That you have to be someone you're not. Ex. You may feel that investors want you to dress a certain way or act a certain way. I found that you go in that room and pitch, being no one but yourself that you will get a better response. Always be authentic, bold, and yourself! 2) Men are not willing to invest in Women-led startups. This is far from the truth. In fact, almost all of my investors are funds run by males. 3) It won't take long to raise and hit your goals. No, this is not true. You need to be prepared for the unexpected, make sure you have enough run rate, and keep your eyes on the market. If investors are not investing or there is a lot of competition - you will want to make sure you have at least 8-12 months of runway. 4) Have potential investors sign an NDA. Don't do this, I repeat don't do this. Most investors will not sign one anyway and also they have no time to take your idea. I could go on and on. But here are my top 4 for now.
Thank you so much for the reply! #3 is particularly timely... I wish you the very best and look forward to hearing more from Virtual Guru!
Hello @bobbieracette! How inspiring! Did it take you more than one try to get this funding? How did you find these investors? How did you determine the right ones for your company?Thank you so much for sharing :)
Hi @juliepumarejoThank you for your question. It took me many many tries, unfortunately. In 2020 I finally closed my seed round of $1.25Million which took me nearly 2 years to raise and more than 170 investors saying no – I sadly, think there were a few factors to this though – 1) I was approaching the wrong type of VC investors and 2) being an Indigenous, Woman and LGBTQ person in Tech. We have a lot of work to do on funding diverse founders however I do strongly believe it’s getting better. Luckily it took only 5 months for me to close my series A funding round of $8.4M and I think this is because I approached the right investors which for me were impact investors. It’s important to do your due diligence on the investors just as much as they do theirs on you, ask them their why, and ask them how they like to be involved and what they expect. Do they require a board seat or not? All these types of questions are deciding factors for me. Thank you so much.
What inspired you to start Virtual Gurus?
@bell96 This is one of my favorite questions. I founded the company in 2016, but at the time it was meant to create a job for myself because no one would hire me. I worked as a Safety tech in the Oil and Gas industry here in Alberta, but as an Indigenous Woman who identifies as part of the LGBTQ 2-spirited community, I was having troubles being offered employment after I was laid off. My savings were running out and my parents were helping me to get by. So I became a Virtual Assistant. I quickly noticed the disconnect between Entrepreneurs and freelancers and set out to create a platform that would provide work to those who were often told no…like myself. I knew then that I needed to be a part of a solution and find work-from-home opportunities for marginalized / underserve communities. Now we have nearly 1000 working in the platform and hiring 2000 more.
Hi @bobbieracette, thank you for sharing your story! It is inspiring.
Thank you so much @buildwithcycy