Downtown Christchurch is still mostly closed, as 70% of the buildings are being demolished from earthquake damage and the rebuild has barely begun. However, one of the first buildings to be built and open is the EPIC “Sanctuary,” a start-up community in the new “Innovation Precinct” in Christchurch. This warehouse-like building opened late last year, and is a large timber-frame building that houses seventeen high-tech companies. It’s quite an interesting building, designed as a temporary space for five years and made from locally-sourced laminate veneer lumber. I wonder if they’ll physically take down and move the building at that time, though the tenants seem pretty confident that they will be there longer than five years. You can take a virtual tour of the building on Google Street View.
We got a tour from their anchor tenant, SLI Systems, a company that specializes in site search and user generated SEO. They have customers and data centers all over the world, but house key engineers and head office here in Christchurch. There are also over a dozen other high-tech companies hosted in the EPIC building, many startups or small engineering consultants.
Our visit coincided with a Coffee and Jam event, which is hosted every Tuesday afternoon by the Ministry of Awesome as a way to bring people together for presentations and discussions. The first speaker was from PowerHouse, an IP commercialization company that uses public and private investment to fund ventures — clearly a topic that would be of interest to the startups in the community. The second was from a local startup that was looking at peer-to-peer crowdsharing produce, and was an opportunity for them to share their ideas with the local technical community and get feedback. They also provided time for people to just speak up to the larger community — one was a pair of software developers looking for mentors, and the other from a Chinese immigrant who was offering to help companies interested in importing from China.
This tour was a great indication of the creativity and promise of new Christchurch!