CTRL Collective is a co-working community that incubates ideas and relationships
By Shanee Edwards
Game-changing business models sprout from environments of innovation and intellectual exchange.
If you’re building a startup, you have to talk people.
CTRL Collective, a 24-hour co-working workspace south of Jefferson Boulevard, aims to help entrepreneurs realize their dreams by providing not just coffee, computers and conference rooms but also community.
Today’s entrepreneurs cannot work inside a bubble (or garage) the way Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did some 40 years ago, says CTRL Collective CEO and founder David Bren. A serial entrepreneur, Bren’s experience taught him that smart people would be willing to pay for access to a community of enterprising minds.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human beings interacting with each other. Technology is a tool with which to do that. If you leave that community aspect out of technology in any way, shape or form, then all it’s doing is pushing us more towards being by ourselves — secluded and alone versus being together, which is ultimately what I think everyone is looking for,” says Bren.
He doesn’t use the word “community” lightly. CTRL Collective lives by what Bren calls the “80/20 rule.”
“Our members spend 80% of their time focused on their own project, but that other 20% is spent giving back to the community,” he explains.
While that may sound intimidating, giving back activities can be as simple as giving a short seminar to benefit other members, such as teaching non-programmers a little bit about coding.
CTRL Collective also screens potential members to weed out covert salespeople who infiltrate co-working spaces only to pitch products and services to members.
General membership rates start at $349 per month, with a nights and weekends plan for moonlighting professionals offered at $79.
Celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, CTRL Collective counts about 400 members.
But there’s room for more. CTRL Collective sits on a full two acres of land, and its main building alone is 26,000 square feet. The space was formerly the headquarters of the W.M. Keck Foundation and includes a 2,000-square-foot garage where the oil entrepreneur and philanthropist once stowed his collection of rare cars.
Another 6,000 square feet of outdoor area will soon hold a shipping container that CTRL Collective plans to convert into a portable makerspace — one that can be shipped around the world, including to events such as next year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin.
As exciting as this all is, CTRL Collective isn’t meant to be a permanent home for startups, says Chief Operations Officer Taleia Mueller. Rather, it’s an incubator.
“The plan for anyone creating a business here is for them to outgrow the space. It’s natural that they will eventually move on. We’ve already seen it happen,” she says.
Passionate about people, Mueller is the community leader and self-described “mom” of the clan. With vibrant crimson hair, Mueller knows how to stand out in a crowd and her eyes light up as she discusses future plans for CTRL Collective or the teambuilding value of free onsite yoga and meditation classes for members.
In a world where so many of us are fixated on virtual communities in social media, Mueller thinks communication is becoming a lost art.
“Facebook was great for reconnecting people. But then a couple years back I thought, people are going to start losing themselves in creating this façade of a lifestyle that they’re pretending to be living to impress one another. It’s almost become a new form of social status — does my life look better than yours? Even though it may all just be pretend,” she muses. “I tell people all the time that you have to talk with one another to be able to grow.”
Chief Strategy Officer Matt Stodder is proud of CTRL Collective’s truly useful amenities, including a virtual reality lab, media editing facilities and a 3D makerspace.
“We’re partners with the Loyola Marymount University’s school of entrepreneurship and work with 27 interns,” he says.
Members also get free legal advice from the law firm Manatt Digital Media and legal help at a reduced cost.
But Stodder’s ultimate goal is to facilitate a space where “people can be free, be creative, and thereby move our society forward with their ideas and not be stuck,” he says. “I think our society is stuck in old things — old ideas and old arguments. Places like this encourage new thinking.”
“You may have someone doing big data analytics all day long, and they’re thinking of something linearly. When they come to a problem, they may only know one way to solve that problem. But if you throw in someone like an artist, who’s throwing paint everywhere, suddenly that might inspire the person doing the big data analytics to think of the problem differently. They might create a solution from a place they wouldn’t normally be thinking out of.”
And yes, there is an artist in the house.
Tyler Ramsey, best known for his design collaborations with TOMS Shoes (CTRL Collective’s next-door neighbor), keeps his art studio here.
The floor of Ramsey’s paint-spattered workspace serves as a vibrant reminder of CTRL Collective’s mission — a place where people with different backgrounds, skills and goals can make magic together.
CTRL Collective is at 12575 Beatrice St. For more information, visit ctrlcollective.com.