Africa | November 25, 2019

Samasource raises $14.8 million to connect tech giants with Africa’s data talent

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, November 25 – Behind the red-hot “machine learning” market are human minds that design algorithms and sort underlying data. San Francisco-based Samasource trains and hires data reviewers in East Africa to tag photos and annotate other data sources for Fortune 500 companies.

Leila Janah founded Samasource in 2008 to help the emerging markets’ workforce capitalize on tech companies outsourcing jobs to lower-cost labor markets. The organization has evolved with both workforce and tech trends: it has nearly 3,000 staff providing data tagging to train artificial intelligence software for clients like Google and Walmart.

Unlike rivals, such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turks, which rely on a gig-based workforce to do similar tasks—sometimes for pennies an hour—Samasource workers are employees, and the company says it’s committed to “dignified digital work and paying living wages.”

This year, Samasource converted into a for-profit to prove the investability and impact of the organization’s model. It remains partially owned by its non-profit arm and committed to impact auditing.

Its Series A funding round was backed by Ridge Ventures, Social Impact Ventures, Bestseller Foundation and Bluecrest Limited Capital.