Two ambitious School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) alumni were bold enough to start a venture amid a tumultuous global economic environment.  

Adnan Khan (MAcc ’17) and Fineas Tatar (BAFM ’20)

> Adnan Khan (MAcc ’17)
> Fineas Tatar (BAFM ’20)

Adnan Khan (MAcc ’17) and Fineas Tatar (BAFM ’20) who once called each other classmates and roommates, are now co-founders of a social impact startup named Viva. Launched last year, their startup matches executives at high-growth companies in North America with talented virtual analysts (VAs) in Latin America (LatAm) to perform tasks such as calendar management, lead generation, content creation, research, data analysis and more.

“When we started Viva, we immediately got in touch with our long-standing mentors and fellow University of Waterloo alumni, Upkar Arora and Steve Balaban, who have served as invaluable advisors,” says Khan, co-founder of Viva. 

The AFM graduates were driven to solve the problem of lost productivity within companies by tapping into an underutilized network of LatAm talent. They were inspired by Muhammad Yunus, the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize winner who founded the microfinance organization Grameen Bank, which empowers women in Bangladesh to start businesses with microloans. Similarly, their startup Viva focuses on providing employment opportunities to women in emerging economies. The startup’s mission of increasing the participation of women in the workforce tackles the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which is to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls. 

It was co-founder Khan’s experience with Deloitte Consulting and EduGate that exposed him to the unique challenges faced by the labour force in LatAm — particularly women who are often held back in their careers due to a lack of meaningful job opportunities. 

“Through my work in Latin America with multiple education-focused not-for-profit organizations, I saw firsthand the challenges students face when entering an education system that leads to limited employment opportunities. When there is no light at the end of the tunnel, why enter the tunnel in the first place? Current circumstances have exacerbated this situation, particularly for women in Latin America, where employment has fallen disproportionately more for women than for men. If we don’t take action now, the gender gap for economic participation will further widen,” Khan says. 

Former work turned future opportunity 

While co-founder Tatar drew upon his experience with UberEats and several startups, where he learned how to effectively onboard, train and mobilize global talent through a hands-on playbook methodology, he also brought a wealth of knowledge on leading productivity tools and how to leverage them. 

"Through corporate roles, we’ve both worked with executives at startups and large enterprises. The recurring theme that we’ve seen is that executives are overloaded with non-executive-level work. If we can give these executives some of their time back while increasing their output, we will have solved a large, oftentimes invisible problem," says Tatar, co-founder of Viva. 

The employment opportunity that Viva provides comes at a stressful time for women in Latin America, as the pandemic has only worsened their career prospects with job insecurity and lay-offs affecting more women than men. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Latin America’s economy took an especially hard hit from the pandemic compared to the other emerging markets of Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The 2021 economic recovery is also expected to be relatively weak, which will further widen the income gaps across regions. 

On the flip side, the pandemic also delivers an opportunity to rethink the traditional ways of working. Remote work done by Viva’s virtual analysts is now much more common and preferred, which can assist women to improve their circumstances. As outlined by UN Women: “Enabling women’s potential fully and equally with men promotes sustainable, balanced, inclusive growth, improves the representation of women within institutions and intergenerational development outcomes, and is also thus crisis-cushioning.”  

To recruit talent, the Viva team draws upon the deep relationships they have built with communities in several countries including Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guatemala, Argentina and Ecuador. The team then screens through the hundreds of applicants for virtual analyst roles. Successful applicants are hired and trained through a robust eight-week training program so they can hit the ground running with a matched client from day one.  

“Being a virtual analyst at Viva represents a great opportunity for women in Latin America like me,” says Marisol, a current virtual analyst at Viva. “It has helped me develop my skills through constant training and feedback. Collaborating with teammates from different countries has also been a unique learning experience. I’m passionate about helping clients and giving them back valuable time while helping them grow their business. I look forward to my continued career growth with Viva.”  

And so far, their clients are reporting an increase in productivity — with some claiming that since they have hired a Viva virtual analyst, they have saved three hours per workday and their overall output has increased. 

“Our mission is to be the leading virtual analyst service, providing an unrivalled experience for our clients, colleagues and communities,” Tatar says. “Our client impact and social impact are interdependent — we aspire to continue to push both of these agendas forward in 2021.”