Lauren Walters: Connecting People & Ideas
Being a strong believer in the power of the right networks of individuals to do amazing things collectively, Lauren Walters describes himself as “a lawyer, entrepreneur, NGO leader, venture capital investor, and volunteer” who connects “ideas and people”.
With a vast experience in areas as varied as politics, business, public service and entrepreneurship, in 2010 (together with entrepreneur Will Hauser), Lauren co-founded 2 Degrees Food, a company that sold energy bars in the U.S. with a big social mission: to provide meals to undernourished children around the world, directly connected with consumer purchase decisions. In other words: for every bar sold, a meal was served; based on the principle that “we can help other people” even “when we’re doing things for ourselves”, as Lauren explains in this interview. “We’re only separated by two degrees from a hungry child” — hence the name of the brand.
During its 6 years of operations, 2 Degrees Food pledged more than 3 million meals.
Lauren currently acts as Chairman of The Concord Consortium and is a Board Member in several organizations, including PDI, Copley Retention Systems, and The Consensus Building Institute. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, The London School of Economics and Political Science and the Georgetown University Law Center, as well as a Ford Foundation Fellow at the Federal Executive Institute and a Fulbright Professional Scholar in Korea. He has been a speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Harvard Business School, the MIT Sloan School, UC Berkeley Haas and a number of social impact conferences in the US and overseas.
How would you describe your path so far?
Each experience has built upon the ones before – and are connected threads tying together themes in a stronger braid. I’ve learned from each of these stops and regularly connect people and ideas from one to the other.
What is the main motivation behind your work?
To improve the lives of people and help to enable them to reach their potential. I believe that connecting people is an effective way of doing that
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to face, and what did you learn from them?
Financing – and choices of market segments to participate in. To raise more capital.
To you, what makes a responsible leader?
One who recognizes that the team she or he assembles and the shared and continuing passion they bring to the mission are key to the success of any endeavour.
Any advice you’d like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
That you need advice and help: build a smart, active and involved Board, recognize that your idea will likely change and evolve, and don’t be defensive.
Also remember partnerships are key; when you’re stuck or looking to grow, don’t negotiate against yourself: the guides I try to keep in mind are “If you don’t imagine it, it won’t happen” and “if you were God, what would you want? Who would you want to partner with?”.
Lauren Walters is the winner of the December 2016 Emzingo Leadershift Award. Learn more about the Awards here.