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Leila Chirayath Janah, Founder of Samasource

Photography by John Lee

Leila Chirayath Janah, 27
Founder, Samasource

It’s not just that Leila Chirayath Janah has Sama, which means “equal,” tattooed in Sanskrit on her wrist. She also rattles off poverty statistics, curses misspent foreign aid, and recounts stories of teaching in Ghana as a teenager. It seems she was destined to start Samasource, the Mission-based company she founded at age 25.

Samasource works like most traditional outsourcing outfits: It secures contracts from American businesses and then passes the microwork—trained labor that can be done by anyone with an Internet connection—to independent service partners in Kenya, Uganda, India, Pakistan, and Haiti. But Samasource is a nonprofit, so the money is poured back into the business rather than into the pockets of outsourcing billionaires.

“I think the biggest tragedy is wasted talent,” says the Harvard graduate, who was raised by immigrant parents in LA. “The brainpower at the bottom of the economic pyramid is a completely overlooked resource.”

Janah’s ambitious goal—to grow the number of Samasource partner workers from its current 800 to 10,000 by 2012, aided by a $1 million Rockefeller Foundation Grant—makes it difficult for her to do anything but work. But when she has time, she boxes, scuba dives, and goes target shooting.

“Humans are humans, whether they live in Des Moines or Dhaka,” she says. “There are 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day, which I would describe as a state of extreme suffering. We have a moral obligation to help one another.”