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First stage of Wynyard Quarter innovation precinct on the Grid

GridAKL, a collective workspace for digital entrepreneurs housed in the refurbished Polperro building, officially opened for business last night.

It’s the first stage of Auckland’s waterfront technology innovation hub, the Wynyard Quarter, and will initially be home to startups with between four and eight staff.

The space will host a range of business incubation programmes and there’s a purpose-built event space for GridAKL residents and the wider community. A tech café on the ground floor of the Polperro building will be open to the public in June and will provide a drop-in collaboration space for the technology startup community.

Once the Lysaght building is overhauled by early 2015, companies with as many as 200 staff and with international operations will be able to move in.

The BizDojo and the Icehouse were appointed to operate the hub of the Auckland Council investment precinct by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) last year.

Nick Shewring, BizDojo partner, says GridAKL’s physical environment has been curated to house a mix of technology, design and high-growth innovative businesses. “They’ll be connected to each other and to New Zealand’s tech community by a programme of events, meetups, hackathons, partnerships and activation. It will create a high tech heart for New Zealand.”

Ken Erskine, the Icehouse’s startup and ICE Angels director, says the overall goal is to lift the performance of New Zealand high-tech startups and SMEs.

“GridAKL is a fantastic space to help us do this. Access to expertise, networks and funding are key to the success of new tech companies,” says Erskine.

Nearly 10 high-tech startup companies have already moved, or are close to moving, into GridAKL.

ATEED chief executive Brett O’Riley says GridAKL will be a catalyst for innovation-based entrepreneurs to spark off each other. ATEED studied models in California’s Silicon Valley and worked with MIT in Boston through its Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program to shape the precinct, he says.

The Government was involved in the initial feasibility study, and O’Riley expects it will have a role in ongoing development.

“GridAKL will become a showcase of Auckland’s innovation and attract international investment and high-tech companies. It will also be a natural epicentre to link Auckland’s innovation and growth corridor – including Albany, Takapuna and southern Auckland, where there are opportunities in Manukau and around Auckland Airport which will support Council’s Southern Initiative.”

Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell says the precinct is an important part of the $850 million integrated Wynyard Central development, which will see the delivery over the next five years of a diverse range of commercial and residential buildings, public spaces and a five-star hotel.

Amanda Sachtleben is an Auckland writer and social media type, who's also Idealog's former tech editor and business journalist.

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