Leila Janah

Leila was a moral anchor, and also just wicked good fun - I loved every minute I got to spend with her in person, and on long phone calls from around the world. We met about six years ago relating to projects we were each involved with in Kenya. Leila's biggest project was building Samasource, a service which employed thousands of workers in Nairobi and elsewhere to do AI training for large tech companies.

The last time I visited her office in Nairobi was in April 2019. One room had a series of images taken from a car with self driving capabilities. The Kenyans marked on the screen for which things the car should avoid hitting. Obviously this did not take place in real-time but was instead having humans teach the AI.

Samasource developed a custom software platform for managing these workers on any type of assignment.


In my last meeting with Leila, she asked about a new woman that I was dating - Leila had only two questions - was she educated, and, do you have good banter?


Leila wrote the book Give Work, Reversing Poverty One Job At A Time. In our last meeting, we spoke about what her next book might be about.

Leila told me that she is interested in people who overcame great obstacles as children, but then went on to become compassionate leaders of social justice work. Leila believed there was a connection - that those who could survive and thrive past obstacles would often become adults that had compassion for others, and who had the drive to get things done. I am now working to setup some Leila Janah scholarship funds for people we think fit this description. The first such scholarship will be at Boston Latin School, and we're also now looking into doing one at Harvard (her alma mater), Stanford (which did a case study on her), UMASS Boston, and maybe the University of Nairobi.

Leila Jana
October 9, 1982 - January 24, 2020
paulenglish.com - articles - startups - nonprofits - press 22-Oct-2020