Priya Haji, a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur known for her focus on socially-minded ventures in both the for-profit and non-profit spaces, most recently as CEO and co-founder of personal financial savings app SaveUp, passed away unexpectedly of natural causes on July 14th at the age of 44.
SaveUp co-founder and CFO Sammy Shreibati confirmed the news to TechCrunch today. The cause of death has not been verified by medical authorities, though we’re told that early assessments indicate a pulmonary embolism or cardiac event may have occurred.
Prior to founding SaveUp, Haji co-founded and led World of Good, a marketplace for fair trade and sustainable goods made by female artisans from developing countries. World of Good was acquired by eBay in February 2010. Haji founded her first social venture, a free health clinic in her hometown of Bryan, Texas, while she was still in high school, according to a 2011 profile published in Forbes. Haji earned a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UC Berkeley.
Shreibati shared the following statement on behalf of SaveUp:
“I am incredibly saddened to write that my friend and co-founder Priya Haji passed away at her home on the evening of July 14, 2014. Her 11-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son survive her.
Priya’s nickname was ‘Firecracker’, a name that her mother gave her because her birthday was on the 4th of July. At SaveUp we fed off her energy and passion to build something that helped the world. From her non-profit work at Free At Last to her ventured-backed companies World of Good and SaveUp, Priya was always striving to help people in everything she did. She was a courageous leader and colleague, but first and foremost a friend.
Priya was one of the pioneers of female entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. When she asked me to create this amazing company with her, I was honored and thrilled to be a part of it. She was an inspiration and made me a better person.
We lost a wonderful leader, innovator, and friend and all of us at SaveUp are profoundly grieving.”
Memorials to Haji have also been shared over the past two days by many saddened friends and colleagues on Twitter and Facebook. Chicago-based entrepreneur Cheryl Dahle has established a crowdfunding campaign on Fundly to help support Haji’s young children. A celebration of her life is scheduled to occur on Saturday, June 19 in the San Francisco Bay Area; further details will be posted on a Facebook memorial page that’s been set up by her family.
In the 2011 interview with Forbes, Haji said her ultimate goal in business was to help solve problems for people in need, and encouraged others to do the same. She said:
“My entrepreneurial imagination gets inspired by seeing how I can help people through an innovative use of business or technology. …I think the best ideas to solve the biggest problems are still out there to be done – and someone reading this article might have one. If that is you – trust yourself, and go for it! The worst thing that can happen is that it will not work, and who knows: You might create something even better than you imagined.”
Haji also discussed her outlook on using business and technology for social good in a 2012 video interview with Aol’s Makers series. You can watch that embedded below.
Priya Haji was an inspirational and positive presence in the technology and business worlds, and she will be greatly missed.