Shortly after completing her undergraduate degree at UC-Berkeley, Lauren Miller spent five years working for global tech giant, Google, Inc. Her work with Google landed her in Hyderabad, India where she spent nearly a year helping to expand the company’s highly successful AdWords product. During her time in Hyderabad, she took the initiative to absorb Indian culture and to involve herself in volunteer work in the community. It was then that her eyes were opened to the abundance of opportunities to make a social impact through business and philanthropy.
When she returned to the states and enrolled in the University of Michigan’s Ross MBA program in 2009, she realized there was an even bigger impact she could make; as an investor.
Miller, a second-year student at Ross, has helped catapult the business school’s Social Venture Fund. This is the nation’s very first student-led fund created with social impact as its defining platform. As Student Managing Director of the SVF, Lauren oversees a team of 28 Ross MBAs. Currently in the strategic planning phase to make early-stage investments upward of $200,000, Miller and her team have their eyes set on four key areas: education, environment, health& nutrition, and urban revitalization in Detroit.
Soon after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002, I joined the AdWords team at Google. At the time, the program had been around less than two years so it was still very much in start-up mode. I joined the program in a support capacity, supporting customers who used the product and doing a lot of the front lines work during the first year I was there.
In 2005 the company was looking to expand Google’s global footprint so I was selected with a group of colleagues to move to Hyderabad, India. I spent eight months in Hyderabad, using my expertise to build the customer support team. I spent much of my time there traveling around the country recruiting strong candidates, mentoring them, and training them. Our team also helped create a solid quality assurance team for the region.
In my spare time, I was really interested in getting to know the community and the culture that surrounded me. This is how I became involved in volunteer work while I was in India. I attached myself to some of the local volunteer organizations. My colleagues and I decided to launch Google Outreach, Action, and Leadership (GOAL), the first of its kind Google volunteer program that matched Google employees with local organizations seeking volunteers. Our first project was with Divya Disha, a homeless shelter for young boys and girls.
In the midst of completing my business school applications, I left Google in 2009 to work with an education services company to help launch its philanthropic arm. This was a perfect match for me at the time because of my growing interest in mission-first initiatives. In the fall of that same year, I began pursuing my MBA degree at the University of Michigan Ross School.
Before I got to Ross, I’d never heard of social impact investing, but—given my interests at the time—it made sense. Coming into it, I was especially interested in knowing whether social impact investing could play a role in revitalizing American cities. We hear so much about social impact on the national and international levels, but rarely is the concept applied domestically. I wanted to know if it had a place in Detroit. So I sought to find out what the university was doing to help the Detroit and Southeast Michigan regions.
I found out about four MBA students who had founded a Social Venture Fund at the business school. I teamed up with the group to help get the fund up and running. There were already two student-led venture capital funds at Ross, but we wanted to do one specifically dedicated to social impact investing. With that, we pitched the idea, secured faculty support, and gained approval to start a new student-operated fund.