Huddle offers space for startups to grow

Mentoring is among goals at CLU campus

Co-founder Gerhard Apfelthaler works on his computer in the hub area of the Huddle Campus in Westlake Village.

Photo: David Yamamoto/Special to the Star

Westlake Village, CA - A creative space for entrepreneurs with mentoring for those working on their own startups is set to open in Westlake Village this summer.

The new business incubator will be located at California Lutheran University’s new center at 31416 Agoura Road, at the corner with Lindero Canyon Road, just off Highway 101.

The Dean of CLU’s School of Management Gerhard Apfelthaler says the university is partnering with entrepreneur Evan Forster of Westlake Village who will oversee the day-to-day operations of what will be known as the Huddle Campus.

“About a year ago, we organized a gathering of people along the 101 corridor who had some interest in setting up a more vibrant startup community,” said Apfelthaler. “There’s no real hub and this may be one of the reasons there’s not a bigger startup community here.”

“When we started to look for a physical space, we found out that Evan Forster was doing something similar. Evan wanted to create a co-work space and we wanted to have a place where entrepreneurs would congregate and where our students could be exposed to entrepreneurs and get internships,” he said.

Forster, who grew up in Westlake Village, has a background in marketing, promotions, branding and strategy in the entertainment and music industries and has created a string of businesses, starting when he was a teenager.

A graduate of USC, Forster has a career in artist management and innovative marketing strategies. He has overseen the strategic marketing and branding department at A&M records and served as head of crossover marketing, branding and radio promotion at Universal Music Group. Additionally, he founded Forster Bros. and within two years had secured production deals with all of the major labels.

“I wanted to build a collaborative campus in the town I grew up in,” Forster said. “The model is that you come in and get what you need without the overhead.”

Huddle Campus will offer access to concierge services such as phone answering and mail box, state of the art video and audio equipment, conference rooms, classrooms, 3D printers, scanners and other office equipment. Office space may be rented on a monthly basis and 24-hour access will be available to those who want it.

Four classrooms and five offices will wrap around the co-working and incubation area to encourage interaction and shared space will also include a coffee bar and patios with fire pits. The goal is for members or “Huddlers” to share their knowledge, advice and experience, and mentor and guide each other. There will also be opportunities for CLU students and students at area schools to become involved in entrepreneurship classes.

“There’s nothing like this anywhere around here,” said Forster. “There are so many resources in our town and it’s a fertile breeding ground for innovation and technology. This is going to put us on the map as a tech hub.”

The CLU Westlake Village Center will open July 1 and will house the private university’s School of Management, Community Counseling Center and Center for Economic Research and Forecasting.

Huddle Campus will be a shared space for the public and for students to use and CLU’s graduate programs in entrepreneurship and economics will be based at the center.

Both Forster and Apfelthaler say they plan to start small and see where it goes.

‘It needs to grow organically,” said Apfelthaler. “In partnership with Evan, we’re going to start a formal incubation/acceleration program and probably will add more formal programs by the end of this years.”

He says the goal is to make California Lutheran University a regional resource for companies as well as enhance undergraduate and graduate student exposure to the business community, entrepreneurs and innovators.

--- Published in the Ventura County Star on June 14, 2014