Shared space still growing after challenge

Petridish co-founders Jason and Kate Lindsey, with their pug Chai, inspect the next space being...
Petridish co-founders Jason and Kate Lindsey, with their pug Chai, inspect the next space being renovated at their Stafford St location.PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the country to flee offices and community spaces, Petridish co-founders Jason and Kate Lindsey wondered if it was the end.

Over the past five years they had developed the former Ross & Glendining textile manufacturing building at 8 Stafford St, a Victorian factory dating back to 1866, spending more than $2 million to create a modern shared office environment.

Mr Lindsey said during the first day or two of lockdown they had a tough conversation.

"Kate and I had a conversation which was ‘it is very possible we are about to lose everything’.

"We probably lost about 25% of our tenancy from lockdown, most of them start-ups."

However, they soon discovered the benefits of the community spirit that had been fostered at Petridish.

"Everyone was quite supportive of us and wanted to make sure we survived because they wanted to come back to this community.

"We basically said to our tenants, if you are experiencing extreme financial hardship at the moment, don’t pay."

Tenants who were able to pay were given an extension to the end of the tenancy for the lost time during the lockdown period, which enabled Petridish to offset some of the losses while the building was closed.

However, since then there has been resurgence of activity.

They started with about 170sqm, and had now grown to about 2800sqm of space.

The building was about 3500sqm altogether and they hoped to develop the remaining 700sqm of space over the next few months, Mr Lindsey said.

About 50 or 60 different businesses were housed, and overall Mr Lindsey estimated about double that number of businesses had spent at least some time in the space since it opened.

Future plans included opening an inventors’ lab to help start-ups develop prototypes before going to market.

The lab would house machinery including 3-D printers, CNC milling machines, laser cutters and industrial robot arms.

"What we were hearing from a lot of people is finding the prototyping experience in Dunedin could be difficult or expensive."

The inventors’ lab would not take the place of using local engineering firms, but instead would help fine-tune prototypes prior to initial production runs.

"What we want to do is send them to the engineering firms with the files 99% there."

Petridish was also re-tooling its Rising Tide grants scheme, which had provided grants from $1000 to $5000 for start-ups.

Petridish on Thursday celebrated five years with a party, and Mr Lindsey is confident the start-up community will continue to grow.

"I enjoy showing up here every single day."


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