Blog Startup executive assistants are evolving. Here’s how.

Startup executive assistants are evolving. Here’s how.

Oct 12, 2023

7 min read

Startup culture is a dynamic and ever-evolving realm, constantly shaped by innovation, trends, and market forces. What was common knowledge in the startup world just 3 years ago may now be considered outdated, and the same goes for our perceptions of the roles within it. Shouldn’t our understanding of these roles evolve, too? 

That’s precisely why we are ushering in a new era of remote executive assistants at Viva who adapt better to the modern needs of startups.  

Startup executives’ expectations have evolved. They don’t want to bring in any passengers; instead, they want drivers, strategic partners who want to grow alongside the company. These expectations have changed the way we hire, train, and coach executive assistants.

A startup CEO is surprised about our EAs

“I need someone who is a self-starter, problem solver, and fixes things.” 


Wearing as many hats as startup CEOs need to wear, it’s inevitable that they come to the realization that they can’t really do it all alone. Not if they’re ambitious about their growth and the speed at which they’ve planned it.

Take the story of an executive who needed someone to take on administrative tasks like email and calendar management and handle all travel arrangements. He had a personal assistant before, but had to let them go. 

When asked what was missing, he said his former assistant wasn’t a driver. Instead of being proactive, the assistant was reactive. That assistant’s approach didn’t align with the fast-paced mindset of the CEO. He needed someone who could not only keep up, but who was actually two steps ahead of him.

Because of this previous experience with a personal assistant, the executive thought he knew exactly what an EA can do, so much so that when he talked with an account executive, he asked that they not walk through the entire list of tasks an EA can support. 

This mindset changed when he saw Viva’s six buckets of support: 

  1. Calendar Management:

Optimize schedule for focused work, manage meeting requests, resolve conflicts, and prioritize crucial tasks.

  1. Email Management:

Streamline email management: Organize, reply, filter spam, and strive for an empty inbox.

  1. Travel and Expense Management:

Efficiently manage travel: Plan itineraries, adapt to changes, handle expenses, and ensure stress-free travel logistics.

  1. Meeting Support:

Elevate meeting support: Create materials, manage logistics, track action items, and boost meeting productivity.

  1. Team Engagement:

Plan offsite events, organize team-building activities, coordinate celebratory gifts, and optimize team interaction.

  1. Operations and Special Projects:

Organize documents, create checklists and workflows, conduct research, and enhance workflow and project outcomes.

In his words: 

“I’m understanding that a personal assistant does only some of these things, but an EA does more.”


A significant shift in perspective occurred once the CEO recognized the operational support an EA could provide. He realized that a well-trained and coached executive assistant who was ready to be onboarded, not only addressed the hiring challenge but also opened the door to delegating multiple tasks, more than he had previously realized or acknowledged. 

This realization underscores a common need among startup executives – they require individuals who integrate seamlessly into the startup culture, demonstrating proactivity, agility, rapid learning, resourcefulness, and adaptability to multiple roles. Above all, execs seek individuals who are results-driven and motivated by achieving success.

From assistant to ally: 5 ways EAs are evolving with startups

EAs are evolving, demonstrating that they should no longer be confined to the same duties they held 20 or even 10 years ago. EAs shouldn’t be trained or coached as if they were going to support CEOs from a 75-year old company that moves slowly, where each role is highly specialized.

Executive assistants working for startups should have abilities and capabilities that grow at the pace of the company, who are able to wear multiple hats, and who understand industry norms, such as fundraising and startup board meeting support

Ensuring effective talent acquisition is crucial, and the approach should have startup executives in mind. Sourcing and vetting talent should be as rigorous as it is strategic. It’s not merely about bringing someone on board; it’s about mitigating hiring risks, having a fast onboarding process, and having contingency plans in place for PTO, sickness, leave, or any circumstance that may arise.

At Viva, this is what sets our process apart:

1. You get top performers who have been pre-selected, pre-trained, and pre-coached: Thanks to a proven success method, you know for a fact that you are being paired with the greatest EAs in the market. No surprises, just great work. 

Take Fabiana, a remote executive assistant at Viva. In the context of Actuate, a security-focused startup, Fabiana transitioned into an operations analyst and a trusted partner for the executive leadership team. 

She demonstrated her intelligence, capability, and proactivity, all qualities that define Viva’s top performers. 

Her work is a testament to how Viva EAs aren’t merely administrators, but extensions of their executives, amplifying their impact by taking on substantial projects. Fabiana’s proactive approach led her to enhance Actuate’s onboarding process, demonstrating the figure-it-out ability that sets Viva’s EAs apart.

In Actuate’s case, Fabiana’s analytical skills have been instrumental in analyzing financial data, creating comprehensive reports, and providing valuable insights. She has not only simplified financial matters, but also contributed to North Star alignment by offering a clear vision of the company’s growth. 

The dedication and competence displayed by Fabiana and other Viva EAs underscore why they can be trusted with sensitive information and critical tasks, making them invaluable assets for companies like Actuate.

2. Better fees for full-time support: With Viva, hiring the same high caliber talent costs 50% less than hiring in-house. At Viva, we take care of the costs associated with technology, office, perks, salary, bonuses, training, learning, and growth. 

This holistic approach to support can be a financially savvy choice for businesses seeking full-time assistance while managing expenses efficiently. We’re doing more with less – just like startup execs do. 

When comparing costs to other full-time solutions, hiring equivalent high-caliber talent through Viva is notably more cost-effective than establishing an in-house team. 


3. EA backfill support: At Viva, we provide backup EA support to ensure operational continuity, particularly when your primary EA takes time off due to reasons such as personal leave, illness, or maternity leave. In such situations, our team steps in seamlessly, requiring no additional action from you. 

This approach extends the principles of effective delegation by eliminating the need for your involvement in managing the transition. Importantly, there are no extra costs associated with this backup support. 

Marina recently backfilled for an EA who supports a Series A startup. During this time, Marina solved different challenges, including managing meetings, taking and distributing notes, and managing Uber Eats orders and hungry customers at the same time. She did an exceptional job successfully solving urgent and last-minute requests in a fast-paced environment, keeping everything under control while crafting creative solutions. She did all of this with a calm attitude, proving not only great abilities but also great EQ.

The executives at said startup were very happy with the solution and managed to have a seamless transition that allowed their full-time EA to take a very needed break while also staying productive and moving fast. 


4. Feedback to your benefit: We are constantly gathering feedback through our Customer Success Management to ensure that our EAs are working hard, attentive to detail, being proactive, and fulfilling your expectations. 

Their job is to be attentive to every need and help upskill EAs accordingly. 

A great example here is how a startup executive from a Series C, led by Lightspeed, challenged her EA with a task outside of her area of expertise. The startup was launching an internal hackathon to validate and test new features of their software and screen for potential bugs.

Even though Estephanie, the executive assistant, wasn’t a specialist in hackathons, she was resourceful, researching the expectations and the abilities she needed to collect along the way. With the help of the Viva team and a driver mindset, Estephanie was able to use feedback as a mechanism to improve the support she was giving her executive. She supported her executive by creating a hackathon runbook, scheduling kickoff meetings, judging forms, consolidating the results, announcing winners, and the logistics of delivering prizes. 

The hackathon proved to be a success.


5. Faster onboarding: Traditional hiring processes can be frustratingly slow for startups. It’s not uncommon for EA onboarding and hiring to take as long as 3 months – an eternity in the fast-paced startup world. However, at Viva, we’ve devised an expedited onboarding process that can have you up and running in <24 hours.

Our secret lies in our extensive talent pool of pre-hired and trained professionals, all prepared to be seamlessly paired with startup executives. 

This unique advantage enables us to facilitate a <24-hour onboarding process when necessary, unlike our competitors, who are still in the process of candidate selection. 

While they’re searching for a suitable candidate, you could already be engaged in a 3-month evaluation of your EA, who has been actively contributing to your company for an entire quarter.


5 ways EAs are evolving with startup – Click to enlarge

Beyond admin tasks: How EAs can be operational partners

Viva’s EAs go above and beyond traditional EA duties, making them integral to startup success.

Startup executives benefit from having an operational partner who is able to take on multiple tasks. Namrata Ram, Head of Revenue and Operations at Notion, said the following about her Viva EA:

Namrata Ram from Notion talks about her EA from Viva


Conventional roles and responsibilities have become outdated as startups discover that executive assistants are their dependable ‘right hand’. Back in 2017, Danielle Morrill from Mattermark wrote a letter on her Medium blog when she was searching for her new EA. Hiring an EA wasn’t a sign of elitism or being “posh,” as she calls it. It’s about driving progress. She understood the need for an EA early on and how it positively impacted her career and business. 

Karen Sage, the Chief Marketing Officer at Shipwell, a prominent transportation management system platform, sought improved focus and organization by partnering with Viva to onboard an executive assistant.

Maria (a different Maria from the previous Notion example) played an instrumental role in event planning, successfully orchestrating trade shows, preparing for Customer Advisory Board meetings, and organizing team gatherings. 

During one noteworthy instance, Maria coordinated Shipwell’s first post-pandemic trade show appearance, which generated  56 qualified leads for the revenue team. She also managed public relations and maintained connections with BusinessWire, ensuring timely press releases and effective communication with the media, thereby elevating Shipwell’s visibility.

Maria’s involvement extended to managing merchandising logistics, streamlining the production process of merchandise, and reducing decision fatigue for Karen, her executive. Additionally, she created and maintained a well-organized marketing repository, offering easy access to marketing materials, documents, and collateral. This resource proved invaluable when onboarding a new product marketing director.

We have numerous examples of how Viva EAs are gaining trust with their leaders in startups across the United States.

Interested in hearing more? Book a call with us so we can answer any questions you may have.

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