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Leila Janah in 2014
|Died||January 23, 2020(aged 37)|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Occupation||Founder and CEO of Sama and LXMI|
Leila Janah (October 9, 1982 – January 23, 2020) was the Founder and CEO of Samasource and LXMI, two companies which share a common social mission to end global poverty by giving work to people in need. She was also the author of Give Work: Reversing Poverty One Job at a Time and co-author of America's Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age, a book by Rework America: A Markle Initiative.
Janah was born on October 9, 1982 in Lewiston, New York, near Niagara Falls, and grew up in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California. She was the daughter of Indian immigrants, who came to the United States with nothing. Janah described her childhood as being difficult, often due to a lack of financial security. As a teenager, Janah worked many jobs, including babysitting and tutoring. She attended the California Academy of Mathematics and Science. She won a scholarship at 17 through American Field Services, and convinced them to let her spend it teaching in Ghana where she spent 6 months during her senior year of high school. In Ghana, Janah taught English to young students in the village of Akuapem, many of whom were blind. Janah has cited this early experience as sparking her passion for working in Africa, and she continued to visit the continent during her time in college.
Janah attended Harvard University, graduating in 2005 with a degree in African Development Studies. While at Harvard, Janah conducted fieldwork in Mozambique, Senegal and Rwanda and consulted to and authored papers for the World Bank's Development Research Group and Ashoka on social and economic rights.
Upon graduation, Janah worked as a management consultant with Katzenbach Partners , focusing on healthcare, mobile and outsourcing companies. One of Janah's first assignments with Katzenbach Partners was managing a call center in Mumbai. At the call center Janah met a young man who traveled each day by rickshaw from Dharavi, one of the largest slums in South Asia, to work at the center. Janah has cited this experience as sparking the inspiration for Samasource, the non-profit she founded in 2008.
Janah left Katzenbach Partners in 2007 to become a visiting scholar at Stanford University with the Program on Global Justice, founded by law professor Joshua Cohen. That year, she co-founded Incentives for Global Health with Thomas Pogge, Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale, and Aidan Hollis, a Professor of Economics at the University of Calgary, which established a blueprint for incentivizing the development of new drugs for neglected diseases.
In 2008, Janah launched Samasource (then called Market for Change), an idea that was inspired by her time spent in Africa and her experience managing a call center in Mumbai. Samasource delivers secure, high quality training data and is a trusted platform for expert, ethical training data. and is the trusted, high-quality training data and validation provider for 25% of the Fortune 50. From self-driving cars to smart hardware, Samasource fuels AI. The Samasource team are experts in image, video and sensor data annotation and validation for machine learning algorithms. Samasource is driven by a mission to expand opportunity for low-income people through the digital economy, and its social business model has helped over 50,000 people lift themselves out of poverty. One of the first organizations to engage in impact sourcing, Samasource workers are trained in basic computer skills and paid a local living wage for their labor.
Additionally, Samasource provides a host of impact programs to ensure their workers are advancing in their careers and learning life skills. These programs include health and wellness education, professional skills development, a scholarship program to assist with continuing education costs, and the GiveWork Challenge—a program to provide micro loans and mentorship to aspiring entrepreneurs. Samasource has been named one of Fast Company's "Most Innovative Companies" and counts Walmart, Google, General Motors and Microsoft among its clients. 25% of the Fortune 50 trust Samasource to deliver turnkey, high-quality training data and validation for the world's leading AI technologies.
Samasource has offices in San Francisco, California, New York, The Hague, Costa Rica, Montreal, Nairobi, Kenya, Kampala, Uganda and Gulu, Uganda. The organization currently owns and operates delivery centers in Nairobi and Gulu, Uganda, and partners with additional delivery centers in India. Samasource previously had paid workers in Haiti, Pakistan, Ghana, and South Africa.
In 2013, Janah founded Samaschool (previously SamaUSA), a program that moves people out of poverty by providing digital skills training and a connection to internet-based jobs that pay a living wage. Samaschool runs in-person programs in Arkansas, California, New York and Kenya, and also provides online classes that are available internationally. Samaschool courses train students in digital literary, workforce readiness and portfolio building.
Samaschool started with a pilot program in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco. The model originally focused on training students to perform digital work competitively, to prepare them for success on online work sites like oDesk and Elance. The program was first introduced in a 2011 TechCrunch article which attracted controversy for its assertion that Americans could compete with African and Asian workers who can afford to take assignments that pay lower fees. Samaschool has since shifted its focus to teach students the skills necessary to gain work in the gig economy. Samaschool is funded in part by the Robinhood Foundation.
Janah founded Samahope in 2012, the first crowdfunding platform that directly funded doctors who provide life-changing medical treatments for women and children in poor communities. Samahope enabled anyone anywhere to directly fund doctors' life-changing medical treatments for women and children in need. Samahope was built on the belief that transparent funding mechanisms could help close the global surgery gap and ensure that all people have access to medical treatments Samahope combined with Johnson & Johnson's new global health platform, CaringCrowd, at the close of December 2015. Janah spoke about the decision to merge with Caring Crowd in a LinkedIn post, citing efficiency and branding as the two biggest factors.
In 2015, Janah co-founded LXMI, a for profit luxury skin care brand. Built on the idea of beauty in action™, LXMI employs marginalized women in the rural Nile Valley communities to harvest LXMI ingredients and reports that their producers earn 3x the average local wages. LXMI is named after the Hindu goddess of beauty and prosperity.
LXMI was incubated at Samasource. Janah and Samasource are members of an LLC which owns LXMI, along with LXMI employees and investors. Currently, the jointly owned LLC owns 36% of LXMI, with Janah owning 24% and Samasource owning 12%. The LLC was set up for LXMI in order for Janah to donate the 1/3 of her shares back to Samasource in a way that would give Samasource oversight in the company. If LXMI pays a dividend or is acquired, Samasource would stand to benefit. Jones Day advised on the arrangement and referenced experience with other similar structures.
Awards and honors
Janah was a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, a Director of CARE USA, a 2012 TechFellow, recipient of the inaugural Club de Madrid Young Leadership Award, and the youngest person to win a Heinz Award in 2014 when she received the 19th Annual Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment. She also received the Secretary’s Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls from Hillary Clinton in 2012, and was a former Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University Program on Global Justice and Australian National University’s Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. She was a recipient of the Rainer Arnhold and TEDIndia Fellowships, and served on the San Francisco board of TechSoup Global and the Social Enterprise Institute.
Janah was included as one of Elle Magazine's "Women in Tech" in 2016 and The New York Times T Magazine’s Five Visionary Tech Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World in 2015. She was also named a “Rising Star” on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in 2011, one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business” in 2012, and was profiled as one of Fortune’s “Most Promising Entrepreneurs” in 2013.
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