Fishburners seeks to give a leg-up to regional startups

Co-working space expands with ‘virtual’ membership


A new service from Fishburners offers startup founders in regional areas the opportunity to take advantage of the organisation’s membership base and resources.

Fishburners operates one of Sydney’s best-known co-working spaces, these days based out of the Sydney Startup Hub.

Fishburners was formerly located in Ultimo for seven years, the last two of which it was operating at capacity, according to CEO Pandora Shelley. A move to the Sydney Startup Hub, which was formally launched by the NSW government in February this year, offered an opportunity to provide more desks for founders.

The not-for-profit co-working space is focused on supporting Australian tech startups.

Typically startups stay for around 18 months to two years, before moving on, according to Shelley.

“For us that’s a success if they graduate out, and we can make way for newer startups to come in,” Shelley said. “That’s kind of our model – to get them in, then get them out.”

However, Fishburners is keen to maintain a relationship with its alumni, which has the CEO said has been difficult because a significant proportion eventually move overseas or elsewhere in Australia.

The new virtual membership option is a way of both engaging startups that have moved on from the co-working space, as well as those located in other parts of Australia and in some cases overseas (Fishburners also operates smaller co-working spaces in Brisbane and Shanghai).

“I think there’s nothing better than human, face-to-face interaction, but starting co-working spaces is very expensive and a lot of work,” Shelley said. “We have a lot of people in regional areas in Australia, and actually overseas, that have visited us and said, ‘We just haven’t been able to find a community like Fishburners – how can we get involved?’”

The virtual membership “basically offers everything we do besides the desk,” the CEO said. All of the co-working space’s events and programs are streamed, and virtual membership offers access to a directory of Fishburners’ members and their skillsets, as well as a chat function.

There’s also a library of resources such legal templates, videos and pitch decks, she added.

Currently around a hundred people have a virtual membership, which combined with Fishburners’ existing membership base brings the total number of people in its directory to close to a thousand, she added.

“We’ve got some regional founders, which is really exciting,” Shelley said.

“They don’t have access to any startup community – they’re getting on there and getting resources and value out of it. That’s really exciting for us – we can help people no matter where they are; they can get support to grow their startup.”

The CEO said that although she was convinced about the service’s potential, she was still a big believer in the “serendipitous moments” offered by physical co-working spaces. “We call them ‘knock-in’ moments, where you go to the coffee machine and you’re talking to the person next to you, or you meet someone at an event and you exchange skills.

“I think that’s super, super important and there’s no better way to do that than in person. But for us to be able to expand and help people all around Australia we need to do it virtually — it’s just physically impossible to set up offices everywhere.

Fishburners soft launched the virtual membership option earlier this this year, but plans to focus on promoting it in earnest next year.

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