Most Innovative Companies


Sama is an American nonprofit that seeks to alleviate poverty by connecting workers in developing countries with work opportunities via the Internet. Samasource, one of three programs of Sama, pairs the poorest people in India, Kenya, Uganda, and Haiti with outsourced virtual work like image tagging from companies like Getty Images. Samaschool operates in the United States and now in Kenya, teaching people with few promising local job prospects how to find work from online labor marketplaces. Samahope, which was created by Sama but is now part of Johnson & Johnson's new global health platform, crowdfunds doctors' work in developing countries. Sama's founder, Lelia Janah, recently cofounded a commercial beauty company called Laxmi, whose revenues will eventually help feed the socially focused work of Sama's other programs. Laxmi sources its luxury ingredients like shea butter from East Africa, where it also sources its workers who harvest and product the beauty line, ensuring that some of the riches will return to the area from which they're derived. Sama owns about 12% of Laxmi, and so it will benefit if it is sold or pays dividends. In the process, Janah is helping to redefine what a social good business looks like by using private-sector methods.
public or private: Nonprofit
staff: Fewer than 20
users: More than 40,000 people have benefitted from Sama's programs.
headquarters: San Francisco, CA
Competition: ImPACT