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Leila Janah

Leila JanahSadly, Leila Janah passed away January 24th, 2020 from complications from epithelioid sarcoma - a rare form of cancer.

In a late 2019 Facebook post, Janah wrote - "Epithelioid sarcoma is a rare, strange beast. As it moves through my body I'm trying to understand what it could possibly teach me. My biggest lesson is awe: I'm awe-struck by the complexity of human biology, and equally by the almost mystical power of human connection and love flowing my way."

Her passing is a tremendous loss to this world and especially her family.

She was only 37 years of age.

Leila Janah, born on October 9th, 1982 near Niagara Falls in Lewiston, New York, but grew up in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California.

To say that this was one exceptionally remarkable woman would be a huge understatement.

Janah was 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 was also the co-author of America's Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age - a book by Rework America: A Markle Initiative

This remarkable and beautiful woman is 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 young girl, Janah worked numerous jobs, including babysitting and tutoring and later attended the California Academy of Mathematics and Science.

There 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 was tasked with teaching 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 continued to visit the continent during her years in college.

Janah went on to attend Harvard University, graduating in 2005 with a degree in African Development Studies.

Leila JanahWhile at Harvard, Janah conducted fieldwork in Mozambique, Senegal and Rwanda and consulted to as well as authored papers for the World Bank's Development Research Group and Ashoka on social and economic rights.

When she graduated Janah worked as a management consultant with Katzenbach Partners - her focus on healthcare, mobile and outsourcing companies.

One of Janah's first assignments with Katzenbach Partners was managing a call center in Mumbai. At this call center Janah met a young man who traveled each day by rickshaw from Dharavi, one of the largest slums in South Asia, in order to work at the center.

Janah says this experience sparked 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. It established a blueprint for incentivizing the development of new drugs for neglected diseases.

In 2008, Janah started Samasource which then was called Market for Change. It was an idea that was inspired by her time spent in Africa and her experience managing the call center in Mumbai.

Leila JanahThe prefix "Sama" is a Sanskrit word, meaning "equal". Janah has stated that her organization's name "refers to leveling the playing field."

Leila Janah's non-profit Samasource is turning the notion of charity on its head by proving that the world's poorest people are not passive victims waiting for handouts, but rather, part of a massive, largely untapped and highly-capable workforce, desperate for a chance to work their own way out of poverty.

Founded in 2008, Samasource works with companies like eBay and Google to break down large digital tasks into micro-work, enabling workers in developing countries to earn a living wage.

"Having worked in rural Kenya for the past ten years, I've seen firsthand that more than anything else, people want the opportunity to earn a fair income and support themselves and their families." asserted Janah.

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.

Leila JanahSamasource also reports that their workers increase their income by 3.7x over a period of four years.

Janah got the capital to start Samasource from winning $14,000 in a business-plan competition at Stanford. She then raised an additional $30,000 in a European business plan competition.

In 2009, Samasource was selected to participate in fbFund, a $10 million 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 named 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.

Leila JanahThe 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.

Samasource has offices in San Francisco, California and Nairobi, Kenya. The organization currently partners with 10 delivery centers across Haiti, India, Kenya, and Uganda, and has previously paid workers in Pakistan, Ghana, and South Africa.

As of August 2016, Samasource reports that it has improved the lives of over 50,000 workers.

Leila JanahSamahope combined with Johnson & Johnson's new global health platform, CaringCrowd, at the close of December 2015.

In 2015, Janah co-founded LXMI, a for profit luxury skin care brand with the mission to connect the world's poorest people to dignified work while also creating products that enhance women's natural beauty.

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.

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.

Leila JanahShe 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, as well as the 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.


A Conversation with Leila Janah



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