Innovation, Startup, Events & Eats - A BizDojo guide to exploring Christchurch

Just last week, Tracy and I travelled down to Christchurch to check out the city. One of the main drivers for this trip was to help guide our Auckland and Wellington communities when they ask “What’s happening in Christchurch? Who should I meet? What events should I hit up? Where do I get a great coffee or a bite to eat in the CBD?”. We’re keen to support a well connected ecosystem across the whole country, so with that in mind we jumped on the plane and went for a bit of an adventure.*

What blew us away this time around was the amount of stuff going on in the CBD. Heaps of construction yes, but the pop-up culture of art, activities, retail and business hubs made it feel like the city was really getting some good heart and soul back.

It’s pretty incredible to see, and if you haven’t visited recently - get yo’ butt down there asap! There are heaps of opportunities on the ground in Christchurch for entrepreneurs, and we weren’t surprised at all when we spotted a couple of our Auckland BizDojo residents on the plane heading down with us.

If you’re making tracks to Christchurch, and are interested in checking out the startup community, here are some starting points to help get you rolling. We only had two days this time, so we are sure to have missed some entrepreneurial goodness. It would be awesome to hear your experiences and recommendations too, so please let us know and fill in the gaps!

What should I check out?

  • Check out Ministry of Awesome - a collaboration from people who want to see post-quake Christchurch rebuilt in a smarter, cooler, hipper, greener, more connected and generally more awesome way that it ever was before. We reached out to these guys for a chat, and we got to experience first hand the warm vibes and sweet hospitality they dish out each day. They even had their own dog called Tui - albeit way bigger than the one at GridAKL!
  • Ministry of Awesome are also behind Coffee and Jam - a regular event that combines a startup pitch, an educational speaker, networking (they get anywhere between 40-80 turn up each week) plus coffee, breads and spreads to top things off. Everyone we spoke to raved about these sessions - especially as a critical meeting and connection point - and recommended them as a great place to connect into the ecosystem.
  • EPIC is another interesting innovation hub to check out - it opened it’s doors in late 2012 and was set up to house local ICT/high tech businesses displaced by the earthquake on a five year free land lease from council. It now houses 20 businesses in a bunch of private offices as well as a central kitchen, breakout space and events area (where Coffee and Jam is held). Council have just granted an extension to their land lease for another seven years, so it will be interesting to see how this space may develop in the future.    
  • Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Christchurch Development Corporation (CDC) have collaborated to open GreenHouse which is located in the new Innovation Precinct - a ‘hands on’ incubator space for digital and ICT startups. Greenhouse will become the home of the inaugural Christchurch Lightning Lab digital programme kicking off this month.
  • The Arts Centre is undergoing a massive rebuild and we were lucky enough to get a behind the scenes tour. Part of the planned arts precinct, the new vision and masterplan for the centre is hugely exciting and aims to be a local centre for creative enterprise.

Eats and drinks

  • We found some great coffee and eats at The Caffeine Laboratory on New Regent St.
  • Smash Palace on High St, lit up at night and surrounded by vacant lots it felt a little like we were in the middle of a Mad Max movie (in a good way!) - how can you go wrong with burgers on homemade buns, craft beer, mulled cider and super friendly staff.
  • And for a bite to eat at lunch you definitely can’t beat Dimitris Souvlaki & Yeeros in the Re:Start container mall - make sure you check out some of the shops when you’re there.

What is planned for the city?

*A little back story - I am originally from Christchurch and was relocated up to Auckland after the February Earthquake for my job at the time. A huge amount of love, respect, hugs and high fives goes out to those that were able to stick around and help rebuild our city each year that has gone by since then. Staying focused on the positives, it’s great to pop back every couple of months and see the city evolving into this new strong, innovative and creative community. It’s a pretty unique opportunity to be able to redesign a city, and for some people their own businesses too. It does make you think - what would you do differently with your company if you were in the same situation?

Eva is the Activation Manager for GridAKL, you can find her on twitter here