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Iconic Belfast Ormeau Baths building to become new business hub

By Lisa Smyth

Belfast's historic Ormeau Baths building is to be given a new lease of life and transformed into an entrepreneurial campus with backers including Co Tyrone FanDuel entrepreneur Nigel Eccles.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed in January that efforts were under way to create an entrepreneurial hub in the former bath house and gallery.

And now it has been confirmed that the ambitious undertaking has been given the green light and is expected to open in May next year.

The development, which will help the best and brightest indigenous tech start-ups access new markets, networks, funding and hands-on expertise, is being driven by four Northern Irish entrepreneurs.

They are Jon Bradford, partner at Motive Partners and co-founder of F6S and Tech.eu; Mark Dowds, co-founder of on-demand insurance platform Trov and early investor in companies like Uber and Twilio; Steve Pette, founder of 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.

Mr 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."

Explaining his decision to get behind the development, Mr Eccles said Northern Ireland has a rich history of innovation.

However, he said many entrepreneurs have been forced to go outside of Northern Ireland due to the unique challenges posed by the Troubles.

"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," he said.

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.

The fit-out of the interior of the 7,674 sq ft Victorian era listed building into a collaborative shared co-working space will begin this month.

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