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In Conversation with Lauren Dunford, ’03, ’05 AMIGOS Alumna

We’re thrilled to feature an enlightening conversation with AMIGOS alumna, Lauren Dunford, the visionary CEO and Founder of Guidewheel! Under Lauren’s leadership, Guidewheel has made significant strides in driving sustainable peak performance across the globe’s manufacturing sectors. 

Recently, her impactful insights resonated at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Guidewheel was distinguished among hundreds of businesses to attend. As we explore her journey and the mission of Guidewheel—to empower the world’s factories in their pursuit of sustainability and operational excellence—we delve into her journey within entrepreneurship, and her memories of her AMIGOS summers in Mexico and Nicaragua.

Check out Lauren’s participation at Davos by clicking here!


Well, wonderful! I’m so happy to have Lauren Dunford here with us today, co-founder and CEO of Guidewheel, which is on a mission to empower the world’s factories to reach sustainable peak performance. Lauren is also an AMIGOS alumna. We’re just so happy to interview and talk to our alums who are out in the world doing amazing things!

Lauren, we came across you and your work at Guidewheel and wanted to have a conversation. We’re also very excited to hear about your AMIGOS experience and what you’ve carried forward from it.

But to kick us off – tell us, how did you first discover AMIGOS when you were in high school, and what drew you to the program?



Yeah! I actually don’t even remember how I first discovered AMIGOS… I just remember that the moment I heard about it, it completely clicked as something I was really excited to participate in.

I remember the thoughtfulness around the different nuances of international development and how to approach it from multiple perspectives. Then, there was also the focus on having AMIGOS volunteers raise the funds to make it happen. We got to go out and – if I remember correctly – sell a lot of grapefruit, pecans, and poinsettias. That was actually one of my first sales experiences! (Laughs)

So, it was a combination of the thoughtfulness I observed in the AMIGOS program and the opportunity to really demonstrate grit and lean into making this happen, by raising those funds as well.



Wow. So, I see you did two AMIGOS experiences – in Mexico and Nicaragua. Tell us about your first time, your first program – what was it like? Can you tell us a little bit about your host community?



Of course! So, I was in a town called El Refugio in Guanajuato with an incredible host family and community. My main memory is being completely overwhelmed by their generosity. My host family had, I think, ten kids in a very small house and had dedicated an entire room for me to live in, and I just felt so… bad. You know – I was trying to wrestle with – oh my gosh, how do I think about the value that I want to make sure I deliver for this community during this time?

What incredible generosity this community showed throughout. I was working in the summer school in the mornings, and then in the afternoon, doing a couple of projects in the community around trash pickups and other types of activities.


That’s amazing. But you didn’t get enough – you went back and went to Nicaragua! What was it like coming back as a second-time participant?



Yeah! The second time was much – honestly, more fun and easier. (Laughs)  I had done it once already, and I was in Masaya, also in a wonderful community, with an amazing host family.

And that time, I remember feeling like – okay, I’m not nearly as anxious and homesick. The first time, I was so young and so homesick that it was definitely one of the tougher summers I’ve ever had. I remember feeling that because it was tough – that’s why I should go back and do it again.

And being able, that second summer, to have a really fun time and really enjoy the things that I probably should have enjoyed the first summer but didn’t because I was homesick – that really was a fulfilling experience personally and for my development as well.



Yes, wow. So reflecting back, I mean, for you and me, looking back twenty years – right? (Laughs) From this experience, what have you carried forward with you from AMIGOS?



So much. I think the thoughtfulness that AMIGOS puts into the nuances of international development continues to impress me and has made me want to bring that same thoughtfulness forward. The different readings we did and the preparation – from a global development and international perspective – were very concrete and something I’ve carried forward.

The second thing is a little bit bigger, which is, on a personal level – being thrown into situations that are very uncomfortable, and where I just have to figure it out. It is now something that is not unfamiliar. (Laughs)

So, thinking about that first summer in Guanajuato, Mexico, operating entirely in Spanish, trying to acclimate to a new environment, being so homesick, and figuring it out – really, no startup experience compares in terms of feeling like you’re figuring it out as you go. I just feel so grateful for everyone who made that possible – whether it was a host family, host community, AMIGOS team, or my AMIGOS partners during that time – and the grace they showed throughout – I think it showed me it’s okay to be figuring it out and that we’re all in this together. You can lean in, be uncomfortable, and come through it.



That is amazing. So, I also wanted to get into your work at Guidewheel, but before we do that, I wanted to talk a little bit about your journey into entrepreneurship.

Looking back on your career, was there any defining moment – a pivot, maybe – something unexpected that you might not have known at the time but helped lead you to where you are today? Sometimes they call them those “rings” that you grab…

lauren Dunford:

Yeah! Two come to mind. This was all before starting Guidewheel, but I had gotten into the area of operations when I was an undergrad at Stanford. Then, probably in no small part due to having had the AMIGOS experience, I applied for the Fulbright scholarship and got to go to India for nine months to study supply chain.

That experience of seeing how much opportunity there was within just one specific supply chain – the one I was looking at – to both make a positive impact in terms of reducing waste and the impact on climate, and also meaningfully drive business outcomes, really crystallized for me. I realized that if I could find those opportunities and pour my whole heart and soul into making a small dent in something that just should happen, it would be good for business and good for the planet.

You know, there’s a lot of nuance around other things, but this one was pretty clear-cut as a good thing. I really felt that if I could find these things and put myself behind the right efforts, it would lead to a fulfilling career.

Motivated by that, I then had the opportunity to experience the second thing, which was working with Revolution Foods for five years, based out of their East Oakland fresh food production facility. I was in charge of partnerships on the West Coast in various roles. While I wasn’t managing directly on the production floor, I physically walked through it to get to my desk. This exposure to manufacturing and production operations in the U.S. revealed so many opportunities to support mission-driven entrepreneurs in that area. That’s when I got hooked on that space, and that’s what pulled me in and made me focus on it.



Wow. So, tell us – and I’ve had a chance to do a little reading on it, but for our AMIGOS network and community that hasn’t had the opportunity to do so yet – tell us about Guidewheel! What impact are you seeking to have on the world?


Lauren Dunford: 

Yeah! So, we work with manufacturers – factories of all sizes. It might be networks of factories for large manufacturers or a single plant with a small team. What we help them achieve is two things.

The first is productivity – being able to be really efficient with their assets and team, producing well with minimal waste. The second is achieving net zero climate impact within their operations. These two goals might seem different, but we’ve found a unique way to bring them together.

A lot of the barriers to gaining the visibility needed to drive productivity within manufacturing can be overcome by using the electrical heartbeat of the equipment to bring it into the cloud.

We clip a sensor, like a smartwatch, around the electrical heartbeat of the equipment or its components, bring the data into the cloud, and then use algorithms and software to analyze it. This allows us to know everything about that piece of equipment – how fast it’s running, when it’s running, and even what type of product it’s running – with enough training and data for our algorithms.

This information helps the team anticipate and address problems, driving the core need for productivity of the equipment. Additionally, because it’s based on the electrical heartbeat, we build energy management and savings tools from the start. This allows any sized team to start working towards net zero carbon emissions.


Wow. That’s amazing. And I saw you were recently representing Guidewheel at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Tell us what that was like! And, walking away from that convening of leaders from all across the globe, do you have any reflections from that time?


Lauren Dunford: 

Yeah! That was so incredible. We were lucky enough to participate in the annual meeting in Davos as one of the World Economic Forum tech pioneers. Every year, they select 100 companies they believe will change the world in some major way, and we were fortunate to be part of that cohort. Of the 100, they select around 15 to go to Davos. I just feel so lucky – and there were some big takeaways…

First, the level of collaboration that can come from people being in a room together, brainstorming around a table about how to solve hard problems, never ceases to inspire me. Whether it’s bringing customers together with technology partners or executives, leaders, and policymakers thinking together about how to solve hard problems, it’s just awesome.

I feel so excited about our ability as humans to solve some of the challenges we face after that experience. I felt a responsibility not just to represent Guidewheel and share what we had been learning but also to represent many of our smaller and mid-sized customers.

We serve some of the world’s largest manufacturers, but we also serve many small and mid-sized teams that don’t necessarily get to go to Davos. Since many large manufacturers were already in the room, I wanted to ensure the voices of our smaller and mid-sized factories were heard loud and clear in these discussions.

One particularly important topic in these discussions is how technology can make the transition to net-zero inclusive of small and mid-sized factories globally, not just in developed countries. This is crucial to avoid creating what one participant called “the climate divide,” similar to the digital divide.

If we are not thoughtful about inclusiveness, there’s a very real danger that regulations or requirements around carbon could be harder for smaller companies to comply with because they might not have the resources. Being thoughtful about leveraging technology to overcome some of those barriers and really leapfrog in interesting ways is essential.

Incorporating this perspective into how we think about the transition to net zero is really important to me after getting the chance to work with these incredible teams.



Wow, Lauren, that’s amazing. I am so impressed and excited for our AMIGOS community to hear about all that you are doing and to follow your work.

Taking a step back, what do you personally love the most about founding and leading a company? Because this isn’t your first time doing that.

Lauren Dunford: 

I think…It’s hard to say what I love the most. I am just so lucky to get to do this. I think the feeling of building something together – and this does go back to that AMIGOS experience – it feels like we’re this big team. There are my direct teammates, also our investors, customers, and partners. It feels like we’re all co-creating something that should exist in the world. 


To be able to feel really proud of all the ways people are contributing to that, as well as the impact we’re having, is just such a wonderful feeling. It’s also such a privilege to see our team grow, develop, and contribute, to see customers contribute ideas that have made Guidewheel amazing over time, and to watch how all of that comes together – it is amazing and I’m honored to be a part of it.

So, it’s a bit of a nebulous answer, but it really feels fun and exciting because of that every day.


Yes, I appreciate that. And I’m curious, as a CEO leading a company, the demands on your time are huge. What do you do outside of your work as CEO of Guidewheel? How do you maintain your balance while taking on this huge responsibility and vision?


Lauren Dunford: 

Yeah! I really love my job, so it doesn’t feel like I need to find balance outside of it, but of course I do enjoy things outside of work.

I have a 10-month-old who’s completely adorable and wonderful. My amazing husband takes care of her and ensures she’s doing fantastic. I get to see her and enjoy every second with her, which is great. Some of my favorite things are going on walks on the beach with her. She’s in the front carrier now, so she gets to look out and have a lot of fun! 

I also love dancing; I have a dance class in San Francisco that is my favorite way to completely decompress and not think about anything else over the weekends. And of course, spending time with wonderful friends.



That’s amazing, Lauren. Thank you so much for your time today. It has been so inspiring to hear about your journey, your incredible accomplishments, and the impactful work you’re doing with Guidewheel. 

Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved so far and for the innovation you’re bringing to the industry! We look forward to following your endeavors and seeing the positive impact you will undoubtedly continue to make.


Amigos de las Américas has been making an impact on young people’s lives for more than 60 years. 

Learn more about Guidewheel and their mission to empower the world’s factories to achieve sustainable peak performance by clicking here.

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