Priya Haji

Priya Haji
Entrepreneur, social innovator, mother
San Francisco, CA

This is a special tribute to Priya Karim Haji, mother, visionary, and one of our generation's greatest social entrepreneurs.

We will never forget you Priya.

Read tributes from

Sammy Shreibati, Priya's co-founder at SaveUp

Holly Boyer, Priya's co-founder at World of Good Development Organization

David Guendelman, CFO, SaveUp



Priya’s vision for her life was to make a positive impact on the world. From venture-backed startups to giving advice to a friend, she had a bigger vision for everything and everyone. Striving to make every moment of her life count, Priya started a free health clinic with her father while in high school, and then started Free At Last, a non-profit drug treatment and prevention center, after college. Soon after business school she started World Of Good, a online marketplace to help low-income women around the world. Priya was one of those people who was going to do something amazing in every part of her life. After meeting Priya for the first time four years ago, I knew I wanted to work with her and be a part of her next vision. 
Before we started working together, she—a single woman—was very honest about starting a family on her own. I admired her for embarking on such a life-changing event, all while starting a company with me. She asked me if we could have our future office one block from her house in San Francisco; even though I lived in Los Altos, 40 miles away, I immediately said of course. 
In the first few months of working together, our nascent idea finally had a name and we brainstormed how the business would work. We set out to create SaveUp, the first sustainable rewards system that helps motivate people to do the right thing, to save money and pay down debt. With a seed round in place, we were up and running, building a product and building the team. Zen was born a month after we launched in December 2011; Priya was on top of the world.
A couple of years passed, building the product, expanding the business, growing the team and then one day Priya asked me to come into the conference room to chat. I could tell something was on her mind. She seemed a bit nervous, which was unusual. She started off by thanking me for all of the sacrifices I had made over the years. She was very proud of what we had done at SaveUp. At this point I thought she was going to tell me she was leaving the company. But then she asked me what I thought about her having another child and expanding her family. I was relieved but shocked that she would ask me for my thoughts about her personal life. I quickly said, “Priya, that is wonderful, I’m fully supportive but you didn’t have to ask me.” We hugged and talked some more. With all the public acknowledgment and appreciation Priya had given to me prior, it wasn’t until that day that I realized how much I meant to her.
Priya had the energy to give 100% at work and then another 100% at home with her kids. At work, she was always, in her words, “hustling” to expand the SaveUp brand and work on new partnerships. Priya  knew her shortcomings and made sure she had people around her to guide her. She was never afraid to ask for “guidance,” a term she would often use in emails to advisors and peers. 
In addition to having the audacity to change the world, Priya challenged the status quo by being a female entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and a single mother. I know her kids will one day meet all the people that Priya touched. They will learn about who their mother was as we share with them all the things that Priya taught us. She will continue to inspire me to be bold, humble, and always selfless.
~ Sammy Shreibati, co-founder and CTO, SaveUp
I was privileged to co-found World of Good Development Organization with Priya in 2004. I felt like I had won the lottery that she chose me to embark on this adventure together. We quickly became close friends and, for a while, roommates.
I felt special working side-by-side with Priya. She believed in me more than I believed in myself. She challenged me to see that I could do more. She taught me how to follow my dreams and how to face my fears. She taught me how to lead through vision and determination, coupled with kindness and generosity. She taught me the power of partnership and collaboration. She taught me to be humble and vulnerable. 
Priya had a remarkable ability to make others around her shine. As her star rose, she lifted everyone up around her. It was magnificent.
I am a better person today because of Priya and I will be forever grateful to her for that. She was a role model, mentor, and friend.
For me, Priya’s legacy will always be profound and unwavering: a belief that we were all put on this earth with the capacity to do good. She will remain alive in my life—and many others—because of this legacy and her lasting influence on the countless people she inspired.
~ Holly Boyer, Co-founder, World of Good Development Organization
Priya was and is a Lioness, tuned into the powers of the universe. She had a way of seeing what was possible. She always said that you have to think of solutions that are as big as the problem you are trying to solve. 
And yet she also had a way of seeing into the hearts of all the people she worked closely with. For each of us who knew her and worked with her, Priya brought us into conversation with something larger than ourselves. She had this way of seeing you for who you are and for who you could become. And of articulating it, of reflecting it back to you in a way where you could take in something that you had seen in yourself and say, “oh yeah, I do have that quality.”
As the poet David Whyte reminds us, the word genius in Latin means literally “the spirit of a place.” The genius of a place lies in its being unutterably itself; the genius of a person lies in the inhabitation of their individual spirit in conversation with the world. Genius is something that is itself and no other thing. 
Priya was Priya and no one else. She fully owned her power. I was with her many times when she stood toe to toe with CEO’s, global leaders. And even more uniquely—she fully owned her imperfections. 
She was an open book—there were no secrets with her. She shared the highs and the lows of her life, never afraid to expose her vulnerabilities. With her colleagues and in the boardroom. Many times as the only woman in the room.
When she was looking for a life partner, she set for herself the goal of going on 100 first dates and she shared the Excel spreadsheet tracking it. Unlike most of us, who would keep it to ourselves, she shared the list openly with her team.
When raising venture capital for SaveUp, she told potential investors up front that she was going to be a single mom CEO. She didn’t want to take money from anyone who wasn’t going to support her fully. 
And in fully owning her strengths and her vulnerabilities, she gave permission to those around her to do the same. She taught me to reveal more about myself. To share my vulnerability, my full self. 
Many of us adventure only on the weekends of life, not during the workweek. For Priya, each and every moment was the adventure. Every relationship. Everything she did was for the love of the game. 
Priya taught me that to wake the giant inside myself, I have to be faithful to my own eccentric nature and bring it into conversation with the world. And that I can actually use that conversation to help me find my path. She sets the standard in this life pilgrimage to look deep within ourselves to find our own way of fully inhabiting and experiencing our lives. She was a true genius, a true visionary. I will carry her in my heart, always.  
Co-founder, World of Good
Advisor to Social Entrepreneurs

Priya Haji was the co-founder of SaveUp and the founder of World of Good, an online retail marketplace and wholesaler of sustainable goods, acquired by eBay in 2010. Prior to that she co-founded and led Free at Last, which became a national model for substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS intervention for African Americans and Latinos while serving 3,000 people per year in East Palo Alto and raised more than $20M in special investments.  

On July 14, 2014, Priya died unexpectedly at the age of 44 in her home in San Francisco.
This is our tribute to this bright and shining young visionary, her life cut far too short far too early.
Google “Priya Haji.” You’ll find her.