Startups need data to grow, and Pareto CEO Phoebe Yao wants to make that as easy as possible.
She started the company in 2020 to provide virtual data analysts for businesses. Pareto’s team of data experts offer actionable insights for sales marketing and recruiting pipelines. That data can be anything from sourcing TikTok influencers to qualifying B2B sales leads, finding job candidates and researching NFT communities.
Yao, who is a Thiel Fellow, was born in China and moved to St. Louis at a young age with her dad, who was a truck driver, and her mother, who was a nurse. She was initially interested in a career in classical music, but while applying for Stanford, her parents wanted her to go in a different direction.
She ended up being attracted to computer science, especially how the design of systems creates opportunities for people to access skill sets.
While taking a gap year in college, she worked at Microsoft on designing a build-your-own virtual workforce focused on stay-at-home mothers, and it got her thinking about skill gaps, outsourcing and culture around working with companies from abroad.
“There was infrastructure in place for building the workforce, but what was missing was the culture around supporting skills development and turning that into meaningful career opportunities in technology,” Yao told TechCrunch.
She decided to start a bootcamp to train women to be virtual assistants, to analyze data and essentially be the right-hand person for an entrepreneur. Yao was in the middle of training 20 women when the global pandemic hit.
She then decided to drop out of school and focus on the company, which was becoming a service startup founders would use. However, when she began to see patterns in projects more focused on data collection and processing, she and her team decided to pivot to leverage Pareto’s operations teams to analyze data and build more technology to automate the process of data collection and analysis and to create a human-in-the-loop virtual analyst system.
“We’re on a mission to democratize access to quality data while empowering work at home moms around the world,” Yao added. “Our operations team is 100% women led and operated, and we’re building world-class training and mentorship along with flexible remote work opportunities within a supportive community of peers.”
Today, hundreds of businesses use Pareto, including Modern Fertility, Wander, Launch House and Pave.
Yao’s goal is now to scale the company and refine the business from a virtual assistant, which would be operationally intensive, to virtual analysis, which would be more technical, in order to deliver actionable data to customers. This is especially relevant as 1.1 million women were estimated to have left the workforce over the past two years as uncertainly around education and child care continued during the pandemic.
The company raised $600,000 in pre-seed funding in 2020, and today announced $4.5 million in seed funding that it closed in November. Investors include MaC Venture Capital, Seabed VC, Soma Capital, Fearless Fund, Liquid2 Ventures, Slope Agency and Thumbtack founder Jonathan Swanson. The new round gives Pareto $5.1 million in total, Yao said.
The new funding is expected to last the company through the next few years, Yao said. The company plans to build out engineering and marketing teams to refine its product-market fit.
Last year, Pareto had 40 team members on the operations team, and that has doubled in the past year. In that same time, monthly recurring revenue rose from $10,000 to $50,000, she added.
“We plan to use the new capital to answer questions around product-market fit, figure out how much we charge for the product, long-term value and how to convert one-time customers into long-term customers,” Yao said. “By allocating money to different questions and hypotheses, it will give us a soft metric for our Series A.”