Henry Dubroff

California Lutheran University’s Hub 101 has successfully adapted the startup accelerator concept for the suburban, high-tech culture of the Conejo Valley.

It has incubated a number of student startups, notably Coding Autism, recent winner of a crowdfunding program in Los Angeles, conducted a series of high profile lessons and recruited impressive mentors.

Now Greg Monterrosa, the program’s driving force, wants to see if he can replicate the Hub 101 success in downtown Ventura. He’s been talking with a few political and business types to bring a version of Hub 101 to the city’s downtown incubator space.

It’s a project that’s worth a shot – partly because Monterrosa has a vision of adapting the raw tech startup concept of Hub 101 to something that has more appeal to traditional businesses in the retail or services sector.

Those are the types of businesses that appear to have a bright future in Ventura, which has a growing downtown, a booming health care sector and hosts the county government.

“I feel like we’ve established our value proposition,” Monterrosa told a small group of CLU School of Management advisers at a Sept. 12 meeting on campus.

In the Conejo Valley, he said, the next phase of the Hub 101 expansion will be a joint program on sports entrepreneurship at the Sports Academy training center.

In a broader context, CLU’s School of Management has managed to bridge the gap that divides east and west Ventura County, something that’s not easy to do — and as a brand extension for CLU, the Hub 101 concept did not emerge in a vacuum.

CLU’s profile began to rise a decade ago when former Dean Chuck Maxey recruited former UC Santa Barbara economists Bill Watkins and Dan Hamilton to the campus and formed its Center for Economic Forecasting and Research.

The School of Management also broadened its appeal with a public policy master’s program that is training a new generation of leaders in city and county government. CLU took over the countywide Center for Nonprofit Leadership when the Ventura County Community Foundation hit a cash crunch.

Business Times reporting shows that CLU’s MBA is the largest postgraduate degree program in the region, hosting some 400 students. Dean Gerhard Apfelthaler told the School of Management advisory council on Sept. 12 that it will seek  accreditation under the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, a three-year process led by faculty member Valeria Makarova.

There are some lessons for the rest of the region in all of this. For one thing, CLU has priced its MBA at a level that the market understands. It has successfully plugged into the entrepreneurial spirit of the Highway 101 corridor with another UCSB transplant, Mike Panesis, playing a key role.

And it has successfully managed leadership transitions. Apfelthaler has built on Maxey’s foundation and Matthew Fienup has built on Watkins’ forecast and research efforts, adding a successful project on groundwater management. Next on Fienup’s agenda is convening stakeholders to map out market-based solutions to the county’s housing puzzle.

The bottom line is that CLU has a lot of credibility in addressing countywide issues. That’s part of the reason why it makes sense for the city of Ventura to take a chance on Hub 101, version 2.0.

  • Editor Henry Dubroff is a member of the CLU School of Management Advisory Council.
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