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Leila Janah in 2014
October 9, 1982 (age 36)|
Lewiston, New York
|Residence||San Francisco, California|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Occupation||Founder and CEO of Sama and LXMI|
Leila Janah is the Founder and CEO of Samasource and LXMI, two companies that share a common social mission to end global poverty by giving work to people in need. She is 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 is the daughter of Indian immigrants, who came to the United States with nothing. Janah describes 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 is a not-for-profit business with the mission to reduce global poverty by giving dignified online work to people living in poverty. Samasource uses an internet based model called microwork to break down large digital projects into smaller, easily trainable tasks for workers to complete at delivery centers. Samasource offers five services, including machine learning, data verification and image annotation. As of August, 2016, Samasource reports that it has impacted 32,265 people, which includes both direct Samasource workers and their dependents. Samasource also reports that their workers increase their income by 3.7x over the course of four years.
Janah got the capital to start Samasource from winning $14,000 in a business-plan competition at Stanford. She raised an additional $30,000 in a European business plan competition. In 2009, Samasource was selected to participate in fbFund, a $10m seed fund to support developers and entrepreneurs. Janah got her first contract for Samasource with a company called Benetech, a non-profit social enterprise that provides technology solutions. Samasource has been named one of Fast Company's "Most Innovative Companies" and counts Walmart, Google and eBay among its clients.
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 is 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. She also received the Secretary’s Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls from Hillary Clinton in 2012, and is 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 is a recipient of the Rainer Arnhold and TEDIndia Fellowships, and serves 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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- Janah, Leila (October 9, 2015). "Can your skincare routine help end poverty?". LinkedIn.
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