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Samasource CEO Leila Janah

Leila Janah (1982–2020), Samasource CEO who employed the poor

by Linnea Crowther

Leila Janah was an entrepreneur who founded Samasource with the goal of raising up deeply impoverished people in Africa and India by giving them jobs. Janah had been working as a consultant for an outsourcing firm, which employed middle-class Indian workers to do digital jobs like tagging and annotating images. She wondered why those jobs couldn’t be done by the poor, who desperately needed the employment — so she founded Samasource, providing training and living wages to thousands of women and others in poverty. The work they do generates data used for video game technology, self-driving car research, and more. Janah later founded the luxury cosmetics line LXMI, which also employs the poor to harvest and process ingredients.

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Died: January 24, 2020 (Who else died on January 24?)


Details of death: Died in Manhattan of epithelioid sarcoma at the age of 37.

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Notable quote: “We are fighting the battle of birthing a new venture while at the same time trying to show the world that we can inject a sense of justice into the business itself, rather than merely trying to rack up profit.” —from Janah’s blog

What people said about her: “Leila Janah was a social entrepreneur who used her brilliance, vision and tech skills to create opportunities for people all over the world. Heartbreaking to learn that the world has lost her at the age of just 37. An extraordinary woman who accomplished so much.” —journalist Nicholas Kristof

“I just learned that my friend, the fierce Leila Janah, has died far too soon. I met her in school and later had the privilege of spending two weeks with her for a story about the important work she was doing to help the world’s poorest. RIP, true warrior.” —author Maria Konnikova

“So saddened to hear that Leila is gone. What a human. She was a red hot ray of humanity. Her spirit I am sure will live on in all those she touched with her kindness.” —Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave

Full obituary: The New York Times

Related lives:

  • Joan Johnson (2019), co-founded pioneering black haircare company Johnson Products
  • Lina Ben Mhenni (1983 – 2020), Tunisian activist blogger who helped inspire Arab Spring
  • Asma Jahangir (1952 – 2018), prominient human rights activist in Pakistan

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