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Remembering Leila Janah, Founder & CEO of Samasource

Ben Metcalfe — Investor, Ridge Ventures & Board Director, Samasource, Inc.

Every day I am privileged to meet exceptional founders — and human beings — who defy the status quo and want to make our lives better, easier, safer.

Often times these founders become close friends. Leila Janah, Founder and CEO of Samasource, was no exception.

Leila, who had bravely fought a rare form of cancer, Epithelioid Sarcoma, recently passed away at the age of 37.

All of us at Ridge are incredibly saddened by her loss, and stand in solidarity with all of her loved ones and colleagues mourning across the US, Africa, Europe and beyond. She was an inspirational leader, dedicated humanitarian, and a cherished member of our Ridge family.

Few founders personify world-changer like Leila. After immigrating to America from India at a young age and enduring poverty, she landed a scholarship at 17 to teach English in Ghana. It was here that her passion for Africa was sparked. Leila went on to study African Development Studies at Harvard, conduct fieldwork in Mozambique, Senegal and Rwanda, and ultimately launch Samasource to simultaneously provide quality, long-term jobs for impoverished Africans and superior training data for the world’s biggest AI companies.

Leila was capital-V Visionary. A humanitarian who shifted the conversations around the future of work and global poverty, she saw hope in Africa when few in the tech industry failed to bat a single eyelash. Her 10+ years spent in the trenches weren’t about photo ops, but ensuring Samasource would have a positive economic impact on East Africans for years to come.

Leila wouldn’t want me to list all of her accomplishments here, and it would take an entire series of articles to do so, but it’s hard not to marvel at what she achieved in such a short amount of time.

In 2012, Hillary Clinton awarded Leila the Secretary’s Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls; in 2014, she was the youngest Heinz Award recipient ever; she delivered Ted Talks and was a visiting scholar for Global Justice and Public Ethics programs at Stanford and Australia National University. Forbes “30 Under 30,” Fortune “40 Under 40,” The New York Times, Fast Company, and more all lauded her entrepreneurism and boundless creativity.

In all that Leila did — the humanitarianism, the accolades, her out-of-the-box thinking of how to drive sustainable economic development in Africa — she was also blazing the trail for young girls and women with their own ideas on fixing the world. It’s an important and necessary two-fold impact that will always be a part of Leila’s story.

While we mourn the loss of Leila, we are committed to perpetuating Samasource’s mission with Leila-like grace, passion, and fortitude.

As an investor and board member of Samasource, a global for-profit technology leader in training data for AI Leila started over a decade ago, I am humbled and honored to continue to grow her legacy.

Leila, on behalf of Ridge and all of the lives you changed around the world, thank you. We will do our best to finish what you started.

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Ben Metcalfe

Founder & General Partner @Monochrome_VC • Co-Founder @WPEngine • Ex- @RidgeVC, @Uber, @BBCNews & @MySpace • Former Product-Focused Entrepreneur & Executive