What it’s all About
Diversity in Tech (DIT) is a community event that brings together members of the tech ecosystem for meaningful conversation, connection, and fun! As the tech industry grows, so do the stories of passion and perseverance. Events like DIT celebrate these stories and the unique experiences and perspectives of those sharing.
Showcasing Indigenous Success - DIT Recap
Just in time for September’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Indigenous tech entrepreneurs Bobbie Racette, Paul Lacerte, and Thomas Benjoe came in to discuss journeys of resilience, self-discovery, and professional wins.
| Bobbie Racette, Founder & CEO of Virtual Gurus and askBetty
- Virtual Gurus is an online talent marketplace that matches organizations with remote workers. Powered by Virtual Gurus, askBetty is a communication platform that streamlines office administration.
- Bobbie and her startups operate under a social mission to provide employment opportunities to people from historically underrepresented backgrounds. The Virtual Gurus team, comprised of 50 workers and 780 virtual assistants, is set to grow by 2,000 more hires.
- This year, Virtual Gurus closed a $8.4M Series A round, making Bobbie the first and only female Indigenous tech founder in Canada to close a Series A.
- Awards: Top 50 Changemakers for 2021, Startup Canada’s Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year, CGLCC’s 2022 LGBT+ Founder Award
| Paul Lacerte, Founding Managing Partner of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners (Raven Capital) & Co-Founder of the Moose Hide Campaign
- Paul is driving economic inclusion and reconciliation through Raven Capital, the first Indigenous-owned venture capital intermediary in Canada.
- Raven Capital redefines traditional venture capital practices by taking an Indigenous Culture-centered approach to investing. To date, the fund has invested in over 20 Indigenous-owned startups including Virtual Gurus & PLATO Testing.
- This fall, Raven Capital secured $46M of funding for their second fund, which is expected to reach $75M.
- Awards: Order of British Columbia for his work with the Moose Hide Campaign, a national grassroots movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys working to end violence against women and children.
| Thomas Benjoe, President & CEO of FHQ Developments (FHQ)
- FHQ Developments is an economic partnership made up of the 11 First Nations communities in the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council (FHQTC).
- FHQ’s mission is to build long-term economic independence & prosperity among Indigenous peoples of Canada through economic development, profitable business ventures, and accessible employment strategies.
- FHQ recently saw an 11.5x ROI after selling their stake in PLATO Sask Testing to PQA Testing.
- Awards: Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal, Top 50 Changemaker for 2021.
Highlighting the best lessons through stories from Bobbie, Paul, and Thomas
Be bold. Be brave. Be you.
What were your biggest learnings when fundraising? What should others know when asking for investment?
“Don’t take ‘no’ fully for an answer, and at the same time, understand the reasons behind the ‘no’. I went after every single ‘no’, and asked them [investors] why. I started questioning more and more, and as I dug deeper, a lot of people would say well.. maybe don't show your tattoos, or talk about how you’re LGBTQ, or maybe don’t talk about your ‘why’. And my answer to them was that, me standing in front of you right now and you telling me this, is exactly why I need to be here. -Bobbie Racette
Break Barriers, Champion Success
What does it mean to provide capital for Indigenous entrepreneurship?
“The problem we are solving for, and the reason we started the firm [Raven Capital] in the first place is because of the lack of access to patient, flexible capital for Indigenous Peoples, and [a lack of] capital that’s culturally safe. Money has behaved incredibly poorly for a long time and we need to decolonize the economy so that it’s in the image of our [Indigenous] culture and is driven by our matriarchs.” -Paul Lacerte
What is it about Bobbie/Virtual Gurus that led Raven Capital to say yes?
“The question I always ask is ‘What’s the medicine that you’re trying to bring forward in the world and can money or tech or relationships be in service of that medicine?’ And we knew right away that the kind of medicine Bobbie was bringing forward in the world was something that we wanted to support – that doesn't just mean capital; that means love. We want to try and change the way money behaves so that it acts more like love and healing and less like extraction or profit.” -Paul Lacerte
Don’t Give Up
“If the rules are not fitting you, change the rules. Find those resources, find mentors and find individuals that are building a stronger foundation to help with some of the advocacy and then make those changes for how we do business.” -Thomas Benjoe
“My first 20 ‘nos’ hurt me a lot. Who I was at that time versus who I am now talking to all of your faces looking at me… it's like, back then I wouldn’t have even been up here. Hearing all of the ‘nos’ actually grows you and that’s something I had to really learn.” -Bobbie Racette
“When I called them [Raven Capital], I said on the voicemail, don’t be the 171st ‘no’. I was at the point where I was borrowing money just to make payroll, and since then we’re now at $15-20M in ARR. It was good because a lot of the investors who had said ‘no’, have come back and said to me, ‘okay yeah we want in’. Our Series A round closed in 5 months and we’re already looking at our Series B of $25-40M. -Bobbie Racette
Diversity in Tech brought laughs, tears, and thought-provoking discussion. We appreciate Milton Tootoosis for his opening remarks, Knowledge Keeper Robert A. Merasty for the opening prayer & blessing, and our speakers: Bobbie Racette, Paul Lacerte, and Thomas Benjoe for sharing their stories.
DIT would not have been possible without these guests, and the support of SREDA, SIEDN, Prairies Economic Development of Canada, and Innovation Saskatchewan. Thank you to everyone involved for continuing to support community initiatives that inform and connect people to the SK tech ecosystem.
DIT is just the beginning of a wider mission to foster inclusivity within tech. Keep an eye out for our next community event here!