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Jazz Shaper: Priya Lakhani OBE

Posted on 27 May 2023

Priya Lakhani OBE is the Founder CEO of CENTURY Tech, the award-winning education technology company that develops AI-powered learning tools for schools, colleges, universities and corporate education providers across the world. 

Priya was named Business Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009 and has received a number of awards for her work at CENTURY. Most recently, CENTURY was named a Tech Pioneer by the World Economic Forum (2021), Supporting Associate of the Year (2022) by the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) and was selected as the Top Product by EdTech Impact in the Summer 2022 Awards. 

Priya sits on the UK government’s AI Council and is a co-founder of the Institute for Ethical AI in Education. She holds numerous trustee and non-executive posts, and was awarded an OBE in 2014. She is an Honorary Vice President of the Council of British International Schools, and received an honorary doctorate from Coventry University’s engineering faculty in 2020. 


Fortunately I’ve been brought up also in a very entrepreneurial environment. My father is an entrepreneur and I’ve seen him have to persevere through challenges in business, in life, in general.  

I was told by my teachers that I wasn’t very smart and I was never going to be a barrister because I’m female from an ethnic minority and not smart enough to go to Oxbridge, so that kid actually wasn’t sure what she’d be. 

I think being adaptable and being agile is essential, particularly as the world is advancing, technology is advancing. 

I decided for myself at a very young age that I wanted to try and do something to have a positive impact on the world and help those that were less privileged than myself because I was very spoiled growing up, in the nicest possible way. 

I didn’t fight for my education, my dad did. So he would call the school, he would argue with them.   

Richard Harpin, who is the founder of HomeServe, who is one of my heroes in business, said to me when I was running the food company that I went onto found, he said “No + no + no + no + no + no + time = a yes” 

I remember being yelled at in Cambridge, “Go home and stop wasting everyone’s time.” 

When I was thinking about Century Tech and I was forming the idea, I remember writing on a piece of paper in pencil in the top corner at 2 in the morning, “I am in over my head” 

I’ve got some of the most wonderful and incredible supportive investors who are on my cap table, who did invest in me, they did say yes but it’s very, very easy to sit and think of the naysayers. 

I will die trying to get this technology in front of all students, whether they are 5 years old to 95 years old because I fundamentally believe, and I know from the data, it works 

I love learning, I think that’s the thing, I LOVE learning. 

I went away for two years and learned how AI works and I got a bit hooked 

We have top talent at the company. I’m able to play to my strengths, they’re all able to play to theirs and it works absolutely brilliantly, I couldn’t be more proud. 

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