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Ormeau Baths to be revitalised as a hub for Belfast tech talent

How the development will look

Belfast’s historic Ormeau Baths building is to be given a new lease of life and transformed into an entrepreneurial campus that combines a collaborative co-working space and support for the city’s most ambitious tech companies.


The founders of the Ormeau Baths co-workspace aim to create an entrepreneurial hub in the former bath house and gallery that will help the best and brightest indigenous tech start-ups access new markets, networks, funding and hands on expertise to provide them with the opportunity to scale their businesses outside of Northern Ireland into international markets.


This ambitious undertaking is being driven by four Northern Irish entrepreneurs: Jon Bradford, Partner at Motive Partners and co-founder of F6S and; Mark Dowds, co-founder of on-demand insurance platform Trov and early investor in companies like Uber and Twilio; Steve Pette, founder at Hearts+Minds and co-founder of Central Working in London; and Aaron Taylor, CEO of venture firm Frankly and co-founder of GoPrezzo and ICONS Festival.


Jon Bradford said: “Historically there has never been a lack of exceptionally talented entrepreneurs from Belfast but they have had to go elsewhere to achieve their full potential. But this exodus of talent has never allowed the local digital ecosystem to flourish.


“Ormeau Baths will be the lightning rod for the Northern Irish tech sector diaspora to connect with and help build that community by investing their money, opening up their networks, sharing their expertise and giving Belfast start-ups a true sense of what’s accessible to them and the bigger opportunity. We have some great companies in Belfast and we want to see more of them grow and scale successfully.”


Mark Dowds said: “For the founders and founding members, this is about giving back to Belfast, helping the city’s high potential tech companies to overcome some of the barriers that have been holding them back.


“We know that others like Catalyst INC have already recognised the talent that exists here and we are here to support the growing tech ecosystem, not replace it or disrupt it. This is about creating something that helps bring people together through collaboration to build something bigger.”


A collective of high profile tech founders and leaders from Northern Ireland’s digital diaspora, including FanDuel’s Nigel Eccles and Sarah Friar of Square, are also backing the initiative’s goal to support more start-ups from their homeland to scale their businesses and connect them with international networks and markets.


Other founding members include Dave Singleton, VP of Engineering at Google, Thought Machine CEO Paul Taylor, who previously exited to Google and Lystable founder Peter Johnston, who is backed by Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal.


Nigel Eccles said: “Northern Ireland has a rich history of innovation but because of our recent history many of the successful founders from our part of the world have left to start and grow their companies in other parts of the world. Our overriding aim with this project is to help strengthen the tech ecosystem in Belfast so that talented entrepreneurs can build and scale their companies from a local base by plugging into other tech ecosystems.”


Sarah Friar added: “There are many people from Northern Ireland in global tech companies. We can support Belfast’s current crop of ambitious startups by sharing our collective knowledge and professional networks. The Ormeau Baths will be a collaborative environment that we hope will inspire and enable the next generation of entrepreneurial talent.”


Ormeau Baths will have space for more than 140 desks, private office and event space, with an expectation there will be a mix of people using desks on a part time and full time basis.


By transforming the interior of the 7,674 sq ft Victorian era listed building into a collaborative shared co-working space on a par with those found in major cities across the US and Europe, the team behind the Ormeau Baths are also giving a historic Belfast landmark a new lease of life.


Steve Pette said: “We’re proud that the new Ormeau Baths will contribute to the physical regeneration to the city as well as the further evolution of the burgeoning tech sector here. We are going to have space for people who need a desk in Belfast for a few hours a month, people who need permanent desk space and also several multi-person offices. We expect all of those who use it to have a similar mind set towards growth and collaboration.”


Ormeau Baths will provide entrepreneurs with access to mentorship, connectivity to global networks, time with experts and service providers and sign posting to funding and business development opportunities.


Aaron Taylor said: “Ormeau Baths will be more than just a co-working space, it will be a community for likeminded individuals with a passion and will to succeed. The founders see it as our role to encourage and stimulate those entrepreneurs and their companies by providing a support network and adding value through connections and experience.”