Ormeau Baths Tech Community
Ormeau Baths was founded by entrepreneurs Jon Bradford, Mark Dowds, Steve Pette and Aaron Taylor with support from tech leaders from Northern Ireland’s digital diaspora, including David Singleton of Stripe and Sarah Friar of Nextdoor.
We spoke to co-founder Mark Dowds about the project.
Can you tell me about the Ormeau Baths project?
Ormeau Baths was developed by a group of experienced entrepreneurs from the Tech industry who wanted to create a hub in Belfast to house start-ups in a safe environment.
It was noticeable that the city centre lacked a hub for early stage companies that would bring people together under the same roof to foster innovation. We also wanted to create a community that would support each other as a lot of start-ups work in isolation.
A lot of the group are NI diaspora how did you all come together on the project?
Before I moved back from Silicon Valley I had the idea of starting a co-working space in Belfast city centre. When I came home I sat on a Catalyst Inc. Invent judging panel with Jon, we spoke about the idea and word started to get out.
Jon has a history working with Steve Pette, he also had connections with Sarah Friar and David Singleton. I have known Tony Carson for a long time. Aaron Taylor had found the Ormeau Baths building and told a friend of mine and the connections were made and we decided to take the project forward.
What do you think of the tech scene in Northern Ireland?
There is a lot more energy in the start-up space since I went away. I wasn’t sure if there would be much to get involved with locally when I moved back but I have found so many great opportunities to support through, Ormeau Baths, TechStart, and Catalyst, inc.
There is a lot more emerging tech and people willing to take risks. People seem to have a strong awareness of the opportunities in the sector. We could benefit from more seasoned entrepreneurs who have experienced either a strong exit or failure, both of which are important for an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
How is the project going?
Ormeau Baths has been open for just over a year there are months when we are completely full. Due to the nature of the businesses we host, once they reach a certain level of success they graduate beyond the hub which creates space for new companies.
We are currently working on taking over the other half of the Ormeau Baths buildings which means we will double in size, we should be housing around 250 people by the middle of next year.
What is the vision for the future?
We plan to put more emphasis on programming in 2019/2020. We host around 40 events per month run by the local community; going forward we plan to be more intentional around programmes designed by ourselves.
We are also planning on reaching out to school age and university students to try and seed into the next generation of entrepreneurs.