This New LA-Based Startup Builds Software for 'Solopreneurs'

Molly Wright

Molly Wright is an intern for dot.LA. She previously edited the London School of Economics' student newspaper in the United Kingdom, interned for The Hollywood Reporter and was the blogging editor for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

This New LA-Based Startup Builds Software for 'Solopreneurs'

Alina Trigubenko’s journey has taken her far and wide—from working at her parents’ restaurant in Siberia at age 9, to producing for one of Russia’s largest TV networks at age 18, to moving to the U.S. and founding her own startup at age 28.

It was one particular experience, however, that triggered a fascination with technology: As a producer for Moscow-based virtual reality project AirPano, she traveled and shot the world from a bird’s eye view.

“We enabled people that didn’t have the financial or physical ability to travel and see the world to see the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, Iceland and things like this,” Trigubenko told dot.LA. “That was a very enlightening project, because I realized that technology is an amplifier. And that’s when I started thinking, ‘What else would I like to amplify in this world?’”

Coupled with her entrepreneurial spirit, Trigubenko’s freshly kindled interest in technology led her to an industry she always held an appreciation for: “profis,” or professional services providers, ranging from fitness trainers to therapists to consultants. She traces that appreciation back to her Siberian upbringing.

Profi founder and CEO Alina Trigubenko.

Image courtesy of Profi

“I’ve always been a client of coaches, therapists, consultants, trainers—you name it, I’ve probably tried it,” Trigubenko said. “Siberia is actually a very holistic place; it is very much about different types of alternative health and wellness approaches. So that contributed to me being a customer of different kinds of acupuncturists and herbalists early on—over there, you don’t go to a doctor… Growing up in this holistic environment got me to appreciate the work of profis even more.”

In 2018, Trigubenko launched Awarenow, a marketplace for service providers. With the help and direction of Adam Miller—co-founder of Santa Monica-based HR software startup Cornerstone OnDemand—Awarenow evolved into Profi in 2021. (Miller is now Profi’s executive chairman, while Trigubenko is the company’s CEO.)

On Thursday, Los Angeles-based Profi announced a $6 million seed round; the startup’s investors include current and former executives from the likes of Robinhood, McKinsey & Co. and WhatsApp. (Disclosure: dot.LA co-founder and chairman Spencer Rascoff is an investor in Profi.)

Profi is designed to help service providers manage their workflows and automate administrative tasks—processes that can get lost in the day-to-day shuffle, particularly for “solopreneurs” running their own small businesses.

Trigubenko has been on both the client side and the provider side of that equation, and part of her motivation for founding Profi came from her own experiences with how services are exchanged. As a client, she recalled the difficulties of “hav[ing] to source back that thread where my coach mentioned something—what email was it on, what channel was it on, how am I paying?” Then, as an executive coach and mind-body practitioner service provider, she had an “aha!” moment: “I was like, ‘Wow, the struggle on the other side of the market [for providers] is even bigger than for the clients.’”

In a post-pandemic world, the shift toward remote services has provided an avenue for Profi to grow as people are realizing the benefits of digitization.

“Everyone was saying, ‘Why are you doing this? We have the Excel doc.’ Or, ‘I have my piece of paper and pen, and everything’s there and I’m happy—do not try to convince me that I need something else,’” Trigubenko said. “Finally, during COVID, people realized that delivering services in digital ways is sometimes even better. No one is planning on giving up on digital infrastructure for their service delivery.”

As Profi plots its expansion, the startup recently launched a sales team that it’s planning to double in size, and is looking to ramp up its marketing efforts, Trigubenko said. Along with the seed funding, Profi announced the launch of Profi Team, a corporate product designed to help companies manage projects and teams. Plans for more fundraising in the future are also in the works.

For Trigubenko, there’s no better place than Los Angeles to set Profi’s growth story, especially given the city’s burgeoning tech environment. After moving to L.A. from San Francisco seven years ago, she says she initially missed the Bay Area’s bustling tech ecosystem—but not anymore.

“I was so missing those tech conversations—I was like, ‘Well I really love L.A., but what’s missing is this tech hunger for optimization, for breakthroughs,” she said. “Pretty recently, I keep hearing all about tech. When you’re at a restaurant or brunch, it’s a lot of tech conversations, and that makes me very happy.”

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


How To Startup Part 7: Scaling Your Business

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

How To Startup Part 7: Scaling Your Business
Image by SvetaZi/ Shutterstock

Congratulations – you’ve found a startup idea, learned how to name your business and successfully pitch to investors and employees, survive a downturn, build a Minimal Viable Product and find Product-Market Fit. Now it’s time “to scale," which is just tech-speak for growth.

When scaling your business, you are setting the stage to enable and support growth in your company for the long run. While rapid growth can be exciting, founders often place their focus on achieving it quickly and lose focus on what matters most. Scaling a business is very difficult, which is why the scaling stage should be thoroughly mapped out. When planning, here are the most important things to consider.

Hiring and Structuring Your Team

So you just raised your Series A or B, and now you’re looking to expand your team for the scaling stage. First, you need great leaders at the key functional areas of your company: product, engineering, marketing and sales. Of course you’ll also need great leadership at the other more support-oriented functional areas – HR, legal, finance, corporate development – but these can come slightly later. Once you have leadership in place in the core functional areas, the scaling stage requires a great recruiting function which allows the company’s headcount to grow. Recruiters are like flag-carriers or drummers in the infantry of an army.

In addition to having great recruiters, it’s important at this scaling stage that the relationship between the three core teams – product, engineering, and sales & marketing – is excellent, since this can make or break a company. Issues almost always arise when there is a lack of trust, failure to assume positive intent, lack of respect for other people’s functional areas and big egos.

Remember that employees who passionately share your vision and feel valued will work hard to help your business thrive. You’ll be able to grow by retaining and attracting top talent, who are loyal, feel fulfilled by their work, and as a result, work harder and smarter.

Building Your Go-To-Market Strategy

So you’ve come up with a startup idea, named the company, raised money, launched a minimum viable product with product-market fit and hired a team with enough organization and motivation to keep the company going. Great work, but you aren’t done yet. Now you need a go-to-market (“GTM”) strategy.

Think about a recent product you bought or an app you downloaded. How did you discover the company? Have they been able to retain you as a customer or user? Maybe you saw a TikTok from an influencer about the product or were referred to a business from a friend. These are examples of conscious GTM strategies devised by the company.

A go-to-market strategy is a step-by-step plan created to successfully launch a product to market. GTM helps you define your ideal customers, coordinate your messaging and position your product for launch. Examples of GTM strategies include creating referral programs for early users to bring in new ones, utilizing channel partners to push a product or service through an existing sales network and mobilizing social media influencers to promote a new product.

Product and Strategy Iteration

Once your product is on the market, you must continuously look for ways to improve it. Here are several common places to look for ideas for improvement:

- User activity. By following how people use the product, you can gather useful data such as what features are used most frequently, which are most avoided, and any unexpected uses of a feature.

- User problems. Even if you think your product is perfect, users will find problems for you. Learn what the major challenges holding back growth are and figure out how to solve them.

- TAM expansion. Ask yourself if there is a new product or feature that will expand your total addressable market.

- Cost and efficiency. Determine whether the benefit of developing a feature or product makes sense from a financial and efficiency perspective.

Other Resources

Looking for more info on scaling? I’ve had some great conversations with successful CEOs about their growth stories and scaling advice on the Office Hours podcast. Listen to my chat with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to learn more about the importance of a mission-driven team and leadership mindset plus my talk about growth through adversity with Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield.

B Capital Group’s Raj Ganguly on Investing in Global Tech

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
B Capital Group’s Raj Ganguly on Investing in Global Tech
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, B Capital Group co-founder and partner Raj Ganguly talks about the new early-stage fund B Capital closed this week, as well as his outlook for startups in this rocky investing environment.

B Capital’s new $250-million, early-stage fund launched on Tuesday. The firm writes checks of between $250,000 to $8 million from its venture fund. From its growth fund, it writes checks of between $10 million and $100 million. Since launching, the group has backed 130 founders and now has over $6 billion in assets under management.

Read moreShow less

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

Read moreShow less