Lee Schneider: It’s the Cult/Tech podcast. I’m Lee Schneider. Joining me today are David Brin and Taleia Mueller of CTRL Collective. Welcome to the podcast to you both.
David Brin and Taleia Muelle: Thank you.
Taleia: So CTRL Collective is a co-working space. We really wanted to be able to offer entrepreneurs, startups, and established companies a place with a lot of soul, a lot of heart, to drive them and propel them forward in their field. So we created a space that really is community focused where we base everything ..
Lee: The space operates on its own version of the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your time you’re working on your own project, Twenty percent of the time you’re giving back to the community.
Taleia: So we’ve done toy drives, we’ve done food charity things where we get all sorts of food donated. We’ve done soup kitchens.
David: Then we set out to figure out how to make that community a little bit more real.
Taleia: So if you’re an expert in your field and one of your fellow neighbor members are just getting into that, you can offer some time to help them succeed in their field as well.
David: And ultimately what I came down to you for us was curating the people who are in our space. It’s not simply OK you want to pay. You can come in. It’s do you have that right mentality. More in the mindset of who you are, and are you willing to contribute to the people around you.
Taleia: It’s pretty extraordinary all the fields that are out there and there are more and more things being created every day so the possibilities are truly endless for what kind of business we have come through our doors.
Lee: In your mission statement you talk about creating an ecosystem, a familial atmosphere in a community. How do you do that? You know, what is the community made out of? what are you looking for when you are building that community?
David: What we’re looking for when we build a community is really just to understand and have a mentality of wanting to help each other out, understanding that all boats can arrive with the rising tide.
That’s something that really is important and something that we found is somewhat unique where it’s not, “if I do great, you have to do terribly.” We can all do greater together, and I think part of that has come out of the fact that a lot of these entrepreneurs are kind of out on their own. You know, it’s one or two people, there are small teams. They have the ability to make a huge impact.
And so when you’re talking about people who are out on their own like that, they need that support of others. And also when you’re talking about people who have the ability to be kind of siloed off by themselves you can you can do in your apartment, with your computer by yourself, well, what people ultimately crave is that face to face interaction.
And when you’re looking for those face to face interactions, those in-person encounters, you’re not inherently looking for people who do exactly what you do. You’re looking for people who you can talk to, people who can inspire you and give you ideas. And inherently that’s not going to be somebody who does exactly what you do. It’s going to be somebody who does the complete opposite of what you do, or something so far away from your normal realm that it really starts to trigger your mind.
Taleia: So for us it was really finding locations that straddle multiple areas with multiple different industries and artists and types of creatives where in Playa Vista of our first location we have obviously the art of Silicon Beach. You have all the big tech companies around but you also Venice next door, with all the artists and the creatives there and the designers and putting those two worlds together has created some of the most unique thought processes ideas and companies that I could ever think of.
Our in-house artist in Playa works with our VR companies on a daily basis. Those are two people who never would have otherwise come into contact and have created some amazing things out of that relationship.
David: We’re curating a community again not for what people do, but how they think. And how they all themselves of how they act and that 80/20 rule is explain to people in the beginning of our tour process. It’s a big part of who we are.
The reaction that we get from that statement being said this somebody tells us a lot about them. If they jump into it and they love that idea and they’re so happy to give back to the community and talk to people and meet people through those means, then they’re going to be a great fit. If they have an adverse reaction and asked us if we’re going to count how much time they’re actually spending helping somebody else out, they’re probably not going to be the best fit, because they’re not really interested in that level of engagement, and they’re really in a somewhat solely focused on what they’re doing.
One of the things we talk about a lot now is work-life integration versus work life balance. With entrepreneur nowadays people aren’t working 9:00 to 5:00 jobs. They’re working from 7:00 in the morning until 2:00 a.m. at night. So what you really need now is figuring out how to add all of those components into your life that make life rich and beautiful, while still continuing through your day pushing yourself. And so that giving back component gives people that need , or satiates that need satisfying something greater than themselves giving back to the greater good. The meeting of people is satisfying their social needs. The events that we have satisfies that as well.
And then you know, the workspace and the different work environments we provide satisfies their need to work, and you know, pursue their passions.
Lee: Yeah that’s really interesting. I only worked till midnight last night, so I hear what you’re saying and this whole integration issues are big — more than what Arianna Huffington is saying. There’s a lot of burnout going on, because people really want to make this stuff happen. They’re very passionate about it and that’s great. But there’s also got to be some kind of integration because you can’t just pull it out of yourself and pull it out of yourself without putting anything back.
Lee: Interesting this whole drawing on the surrounding culture … I wanted to dig into that a little bit.
There are startup scenes around the country here, San Francisco, Boston, New York. Others haven’t quite clicked. And I think one of the issues there is of course access to capital. You’re going to get funding in certain larger metro areas. That’s a given. But there’s also a surrounding culture and a diversity of culture, and L.A. and the L.A. area, is really amazing in that way because there’s medtech, there’s edtech, there’s design, there’s fashion, there’s media there’s a long list of people working on all kinds of interesting things here. And I think what I’m hearing from you is that there’s a cross-pollination that happens in your space that benefits everyone.
Taleia: I really believe absolutely that that is the case. Like David was saying before with the artists and the compan,y some of the really incredible things that have happened was artists that we have in houses Tyler Ramsey. He’s worked with Toms shoes for about 12 years and painted over 15000 pairs of shoes.
And when he came to us use you know really saying — he’s literally the most animated human being on this planet. He is like, “Guys, like I just want to be able to dive into something like that I’ve never done before, and I, you know,” like every artist they want inspiration, they want a muse.
And I remember introducing them to our VR partner VR Scout. And immediately they’re all the best of buddies they hang out. He gets to draw in Google paint for four to five hours on our open office hours every Tuesday.
And then it kept growing and escalating from there where we had this huge activation, in October. It was called the Haunted Mansion and we had about 27 our activations the entire location was turned into a haunted mansion, And then we had artwork from Tyler that was Halloween themed. We had an 18th century horse carriage that was, you know, we had skeleton horses pulling it that Tyler had made and painted. It was amazing. We had over 2000 people attend that event, and people who live in the Playa Vista area who are in tech, you know, some people even as close as Silicon Beach — they haven’t even gotten to experience VR at that level.
So what we are consistently trying to do is push the envelope, educate and show people these really amazing activations and creating fun through it. So where its experiential. Another thing that we really pride ourselves on. We have a partnership with Red Bull and they’ve been incredible partners. They wanted to come in and really touch entrepreneurs on a different level and they flat out said we want to mold innovation, We were like, great. Here’s a few ideas. We ended up going with our innovation lab. So it is a shipping container that is 8 by 8 by 20. It’s gone to roughly 30 cities in the U.S. in the past year. It goes to universities primarily, so in the Midwest and as close as Arizona. We’ve even had to go up to UC Davis and the San Francisco Sacramento area. And what it allows us to do is it allows us to transport this innovation that has 3-D printers from AIO robotics and then we have a VR HTC by headset where you’re allowed to paint in Google paint. You can print off what you painted in 3-D virtual reality onto our 3-D printers..
So during these activations of the school for hackathon is where you know they’re tasked with an idea to execute on and build a business and 24 to 48 hours — It’s an invaluable resource for these young minds to really get involved with.
So the fact that we were able to get out there and show people that not only these things exist, but they’re incredibly amazing at prototyping, and we go into a lot of things about how Space-X parts for the space shuttles are 3D printed because they can’t be made by hand. So like show these people for the first time and really open up their minds.
Lee: David you’ve seen a lot of startups you’ve met with and worked with many founders. Taking the 10,000 foot up overview position for a moment. Are there some common themes that our listeners would benefit from among companies that make it and sustain.
David: Everybody’s going to hit some sort of roadblock along the way or some sort of obstacle. The companies that I’ve seen it take down are the companies that just panic. The companies that do really well are the ones that are able to take that problem in stride, work through it or work around it and continue going forward.
We’ve seen certain founders stopped in their tracks for months for a given problem where they focus all their time and energy just on that issue. And ultimately at the end of the day it does nothing for them other than you know bankrupt their company, from them not focusing on pushing everything else forward.
That’s an overarching theme I would say. Another one is just work ethic. There’s a lot of different styles of how people work and when they like to work and you know what type of environment they need to work most efficiently.
And I would say people need to spend some time to figure out what that is for them. We have individuals who come in at 1:00 in the morning and work till 6 because that’s the time when everything else is quiet and they can focus.
We have people who need a lot going on around them who work best in that environment, and the people that really succeed are the ones that can figure that out. Because a lot of these entrepreneurs, and ultimately all of us at the end of the day, have only the time in a day to do something. And if you’re wasting it or using it inefficiently, you’re not going to get as far.
Another thing we see all the time is people spending time on inefficient processes or spending time on things that ultimately aren’t going to drive their company forward as much as they think they will.
And then perfectionism is also probably a big problem we see. Especially with a lot of the contractors they look to push out a perfect product with every single feature and everything working just right. And ultimately they’ll spend three times as long and three times as much money as they have available to get that perfection and that’s what cost them their company.
But I mean back on the work ethic one quickly too, as we see some people who like to talk about what they’re doing rather than actually doing it. It’s the people who sit down grind out hard work all day long in an efficient manner really successful.
Lee: For me it’s — ok, what am I really going to get done. And it’s probably going to take me about five to seven hours at the very most you know six is a sweet spot.
Lee: Load up that day. It’s it seems obvious, but you get so head down, you get so focused on what you’re doing you tend to perseverate and the next thing you know you focus on some minutia that is not important or you’ve created this terrible perfectionism where you’re going to put out a perfect product and that nobody loves it, And then you’re in big trouble. Yeah it’s so interesting. Behaviorally, you know, from the human side.,
David: Yeah. And I think understanding the human side is the most important part of being an entrepreneur. Your limits, your strengths, your weaknesses. We constantly see people trying to do it all. One of the things that I’m a really big fan of is staying in your lane and knowing what that lane is knowing what you’re good at and bringing it on board to complement what your weaknesses are, and that’s where Taleia I as a team are great, because my weaknesses are her strengths and vice versa. And so we’re able to attack different problems versus what we see a lot to as people bringing on like minded individuals onto their team, which is great from a cultural perspective. You know, they like to hang out with each other, maybe they’re great friends but then those problems come, and they try all those problems in the same way and they get stuck.
The idea of a company is moving to make something happen in the same direction. That gets bogged down by you know everyone trying to be the same cog. That diversity of a group of people working together and creating this entity that is greater than the sum of the parts so to speak is key, is key to success.
We’ve seen some great teams with the most random assortment of individuals put together in one room, and you could never imagine that that’s a group of people that a, are, you know as close as a family can be and b, are working together. They shoot off as insanely successful groups.
And it’s that multi-faceted dynamic to a company that I think allows it to get past problems and allows them to move past issues quickly.
I’m guilty of it, too. I get bogged down with certain issues and Taleia will come by and pick me up by my britches and say here this is how we’re solving this, and you know we do that and iterate that in exchange and it helps us be able to move as quickly as we do.
Lee: Sounds like a good partnership and team. David, Taleia, thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast.
Taleia and David: Thank you. It was so much fun. It was great talking to you, Lee.
I’m Lee Schneider, Communications Director at Red Cup, and this has been the Cult/Tech podcast.