Tariq is an inspired and passionate speaker who enjoys challenging the status quo and exploring cutting edge, disruptive solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing problems and exploring how businesses have a role to play. As a recognized business leader who transitioned to using his skills to drive widespread social good, he is a leader in the emerging field of social innovation
Tariq Fancy had his first lightbulb moment when he was seven years old. The Toronto native was in Nairobi, where his parents grew up, and saw a beggar squatting on the street. He was instantly drawn to helping him but was discouraged by his uncle, who told him: “Why bother? You can’t help everyone.” It bothered him for days afterward – it didn’t seem right that not being able to fix everything was an excuse not to do anything, or that the absence of a perfect solution was a justification for inaction.
Through his subsequent professional career at the forefront of the intersection at the intersection of finance and technology, Tariq found ways to connect his work with his passion for international development. He began as an investment banker during the dot-com era, working in the leading Silicon Valley-based investment bank that led the IPOs of Google, Amazon and Cisco. He later put those skills to work at a New York-based investment firm, where he became the firm’s youngest partner after leading successful investments around the world, many which brought business skills and capital to building critical infrastructure in emerging markets.
One of those investments was particularly prescient: in 2004, after multiple trips to Central and South America and months of due diligence, Tariq led early work to bring mobile phones into emerging markets as a ‘leapfrog’ innovation – back when the idea of the masses from Cairo to Calcutta skipping landlines altogether to go directly to mobile phones sounded far-fetched to most. Tariq believed then that the true potential of mobile phone technology was not taking rich countries from something good (landlines) to something great (mobile phones), but rather taking the majority of humanity that was left behind from nothing at all to something great. Today, there are more mobile phones in the world than there are people, and the technology is being used in Africa for everything from communications to banking and healthcare applications.
After his close friend and business school roommate passed away of cancer, Tariq decided to dedicate himself full time to building game-changing solutions to improve the world. In 2013, Tariq founded The Rumie Initiative with the simple mission to bring the surge of free learning content available online to offline communities that are the least likely to access it but have the most to gain. Today, Rumie’s technology is being used in over 20 countries, ranging from Syrian refugee camps in Turkey and mountainous villages in Guatemala to geographically remote Indigenous communities in Canada, promising a revolution in equal access to education that mirrors his earlier work in mobile phones.
Tariq’s work has been chronicled in business school case studies by both Harvard Business School and INSEAD Business School. He has spoken at President Obama’s Global Enterpreneurship Summit, UNICEF, Harvard Business School, and has appeared on CNBC, BNN, CBC Metro Morning, and various other media outlets.