A new collaborative co-working space for the tech community is launching in Belfast this month, in one of the city’s most iconic buildings. The Ormeau Baths, a Victorian-era listed building has been brought back to life by entrepreneurs Jon Bradford, Mark Dowds, Aaron Taylor and Steve Pette with support from Barclays Eagle Labs.

The founders of Ormeau Baths, which opens this month, aim to create an entrepreneurial campus that is new to the Belfast and Northern Irish market. In addition to the cool space (it really is very cool), hand-crafted coffee (it really is very tasty) and 24/7 access to the central location, Ormeau Baths is focused on giving its members the tools to flourish.

Entrepreneurship is a contact sport in Belfast

Speaking at the launch, Ormeau Baths co-founder Jon Bradford, said, “Entrepreneurship is a contact sport! It’s about bumping into people and sharing ideas. Ormeau Baths will be a collaborative entrepreneurial environment where we will help connect those people from Northern Ireland who are in global tech companies with the current crop of ambitious start-ups, enabling them to share their collective knowledge and professional networks.”

“For well-known reasons many of the exceptionally talented entrepreneurs from this part of the world have had to go elsewhere to achieve their full potential. But there is a real willingness among the diaspora to help build the indigenous tech community. In many cases, yes, that means investing their money, but they are also prepared to open up their contacts books and share their expertise, which could be far more valuable to Belfast start-ups.”

Jon and the other co-founders have already put their money (and expertise) where their mouth is but have also pulled in a stellar list of high profile tech experts to support the concept. Square CFO, Sarah Friar, attended the launch event, while others from Northern Ireland’s digital diaspora such as FanDuel’s Nigel Eccles, Dave Singleton, VP of Engineering at Google, Thought Machine CEO Paul Taylor, who previously exited to Google, and Lystable founder Peter Johnston are all backing the concept.

Speaking at the launch, Sarah Friar said, “I always enjoy hearing about the burgeoning tech scene in Northern Ireland, and I am keen to lend my support to the region’s entrepreneurs. The Ormeau Baths is a fantastic initiative because not only does it provide entrepreneurs with a physical office to work from, but it also offers them the opportunity to tap into a network of expertise and experience from professionals here Northern Ireland and internationally. That network is a critical part of any startup’s success and something I’m proud to be part of.”

Barclays is also a major partner in Ormeau Baths, which will be home to the bank’s first Eagle Lab in Belfast. Adrian Doran, Head of Corporate Banking for Barclays in Northern Ireland, said: “We were looking for a space [in Belfast] and decided if you can’t beat them, join them. The stronger this local community and business network becomes, the greater its successes and potential for growth will be. Without doubt, ‘Eagle Lab at Ormeau Baths’ will be an exciting place to scale and grow your business.”

Inside the Ormeau Baths

The hub will provide space for 144 desks in a flexible space that can grow with the businesses that are based there. Co-working, hot desk and private offices are all available, alongside a state of the art event space that can hold 120.

The flexible space has everything you’d expect from a co-working hub – banks of amazing wooden desks, plugs everywhere, über cool lighting, private and semi-private meeting spaces, video conferencing and a dedicated team to help the members make the best of the networking opportunities.

The conversion of the iconic building into a tech hub has cost around £500,000 and, on the whole, been carried out using local contractors. Co-founder Steve Pette explained, “We wanted to tap into the local design and building skills to ensure a local feel. 95% of what you see has come from Northern Ireland. The skills are very much in Northern Ireland.”

That commitment to supporting the local economy runs throughout the Ormeau Baths project. The onsite coffee shop will be run by local firm Root & Branch and there is an outreach programme in development to connect with local schools and universities.

Ormeau Baths will officially open on June 15 and members will be able to access any of the 10 Barclays Eagle Labs across the UK. Anyone interested in becoming a member can find out more at www.ormeaubaths.com. You can also find them on Twitter @eagle_labs_bfs and @theormeaubaths.

Andi Jarvis is the Founder and Strategy Director of Eximo Marketing in Belfast.

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