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Executive Bios and Headshots

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Kareem Saleh

Founder and CEO

Kareem Saleh is the co-founder and CEO of FairPlay AI, the world’s first fairness-as-a-service company. Financial institutions use FairPlay’s AI-powered tools to assess their automated decisioning models in minutes to increase both fairness and profits. Kareem founded FairPlay in 2020 after spending his career improving consumer lending to historically disadvantaged groups. As the son of Egyptian immigrants, Kareem saw firsthand how his parents’ denial of a small business loan made it harder to achieve the American dream for his family.

Previously Kareem served as Executive Vice President at Zest.ai, where he led business development for the company’s machine learning-powered underwriting platform. Kareem also served as an executive at SoftCard, a mobile payments company acquired by Google. Before joining startup ranks, Kareem served in the Obama Administration, first as Chief of Staff to the State Department’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, where he helped manage the 50-person team that negotiated the Paris Climate Agreement, and later as Senior Advisor to the CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), where he helped direct the U.S. Government’s $30B portfolio of emerging market investments with responsibility for transaction teams in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Kareem also served as an attorney.

Kareem is a Forbes contributor and a frequent speaker on AI, fair lending and algorithmic bias. Prior speaking events include Money 20/20, the Fintech Nexus Conference, and Fintech Meetup. He has testified before Congress about AI and the adverse impacts of algorithmic bias.

Kareem is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and an honors graduate of the University of Chicago. He resides in Los Angeles with his partner, Melissa, and their two toddler daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys practicing the breathing techniques taught by Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand low temperatures.

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John Merrill

Co-founder and CTO

John Merrill is the co-founder and CTO of FairPlay AI, the world’s first fairness-as-a-service company. Financial institutions use FairPlay’s AI-powered tools to assess their automated decisioning models in minutes, to increase both fairness and profits. 

As FairPlay’s CTO, John brings a wealth of knowledge to the company’s products with his background as a mathematician and computer scientist, with deep expertise applying AI to financial services. Before co-founding Fairplay, he was the principal scientist at ZestFinance (now Zest.ai) where he was among the first to apply complex machine learning algorithms to consumer loan underwriting. Prior to that, he spent 10 years at Microsoft creating AI-powered virtual assistants (the infamous Clippy) and five years at Google building tools for advertisers to harness the power of machine learning. He holds 10 patents on the application of AI in consumer finance.

John received his Bachelor’s in mathematics from Hendrix College and his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently resides in TOWN … and moonlights as a video game designer and opera singer.

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