Business

New tenants revealed as £1m Ormeau Baths extension set to be full in six months

Jon Bradford, a co-founder of Ormeau Baths has said he would be "very disappointed" if the new £1m extension is not full in six months
Gareth McKeown

A CO-FOUNDER of Belfast entrepreneurial workspace, Ormeau Baths has said he hopes to fill the new £1 million extension within six months and has not ruled out further expansion in the city.

Speaking at the official launch of the 8,000 sq ft second phase of the former Victorian Bathhouse building, Jon Bradford said he would be "very disappointed" if it is not fully occupied by mid 2019.

"Half of it is full on day zero, which is pretty good going for opening a building," Mr Bradford said

"I'd be very disappointed if by mid year we weren't nearly full.

"We're very good at accommodating businesses that employ from zero to 15. There are a lot of other spaces, which are emerging in Belfast, but they're much more engineered for 20 person plus businesses. So we're kind of slotting in to that lower end of the market."

The new extension on Ormeau Avenue, officially launched last week, has essentially doubled the workspace available to 17,000 sq ft, with an additional 140 desks complimenting the original 120.

The expansion, which represents an investment of nearly £1m, creates more flexible spaces for growing tech businesses and allows the hub to support start-ups who have previously outgrown the co-working space for longer.

In Mr Bradford's own words it is a more "grown up space", with the hope successful firms can transition from one side of building to the other.

"I suspect there will be a few more people in suits and ties in this side of the room, while there'll be few more of the hoodies on the other side, but it naturally creates a nice runway."

NI Screen moved in last month to the second phase of the development, taking around 50 desks and Mr Bradford has revealed to The Irish News two new innovative businesses are soon to follow.

Wireless charging company, Chargifi is taking an eight-person office and will open in the new year.

The London-based firm is looking to expand its operations and is taking one office initially, but this is part of a "bigger plan".

Joining them is UK digital design business, Made of Many.

"They're initially taking eight desks and they're probably going to double that to 16," Mr Bradford said.

"They're coming in on January 1 and interestingly again they're a UK business looking to expand. They're also potentially looking at expanding their operational footprint in Northern Ireland."

"It always comes down to talent. Being able to attract talent and retention. If you look at the UK as a whole Belfast, outside of London, is the fastest-growing tech ecosystem at this point in time.

"I think we're still a long way away from hitting a ceiling," he continued.

Looking ahead the successful entrepreneur did not rule out creating a further co-working space in the city , but recognises it is now a more congested marketplace since the original Ormeau Baths launched in July last year.

"Everything's on the table. I think as a entrepreneur you just work out where's the demand and how do you help provide the supply. If there's a will we'll find a way to do it. We don't lack interested investors, " Mr Bradford added

During its first year Ormeau Baths has seen more than 50 per cent of its companies grow their teams or revenues and between them they have raised over £10m in venture funding.

Its success stories include Modius creators Neurovalens and consultancy White Space Ventures, both of whom have subsequently gone on to expand and relocate into their own offices.

Ormeau Baths has been driven by four entrepreneurs with roots in Northern Ireland: Jon Bradford, partner at Motive Partners; Mark Dowds, co-founder of on-demand insurance platform Trov and early investor in Uber; Steve Pette, founder at Hearts+Minds; and Aaron Taylor, CEO of venture firm Frankly.

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