Our Start-up of the Week is Cerebreon, a Donegal-based tech firm that uses machine intelligence and algorithms to spot insolvency failures in advance and take corrective action.
“Each year, 1m UK adults struggling in insolvency arrangements produce over 100m pages of data, which are shared with multiple parties and managed using manual processes,” explained Cerebreon CEO and co-founder Gillian Doyle.
“We bring machine intelligence to this sector, increasing efficiency, reducing default levels and improving net margins for all stakeholders. We automatically process and analyse millions of insolvency documents for both insolvency and creditor firms.
‘The ultimate goal is to reduce the level of non-performing debt on a global scale’
– GILLIAN DOYLE
“This intelligent document recognition platform substantially reduces OpEx (operational expenditure) while increasing our customers capacity to scale. Our deep domain knowledge underlies the predictive algorithms which identify probable insolvency failures in advance, potentially recovering up to 50pc of lost revenue.”
Cerebreon wowed the judges at the NDRC’s recent investor day and picked up the top prize, including €30,000 in follow-on investment from the NDRC.
“Cerebreon successfully portrayed its excellent solution to what it convincingly depicted as a global problem, standing out as the business with the most scalable opportunity,” said NDRC CEO Ben Hurley.
“Cerebreon stood out as having serious potential for growth in international markets,” he added.
Doyle explained that in Europe alone, there is €1trn worth of non-performing debt.
“Our initial target market is the UK insolvency sector as we have substantial domain expertise along with market access.
“Our UK customers in both insolvency and creditor firms are international players, allowing us gateway opportunities to other territories.
“The $55bn US market has an insolvency failure rate of 75pc and is thus a key driver for bringing us here in the future.
Doyle worked in the UK insolvency sector as a senior analyst, software developer and operations manager.
“This domain knowledge ensures exceptional product-market fit and is complemented by other key personnel in the company.”
Co-founder Kenneth Doherty has more than 10 years of experience as an R&D manager and is a specialist in mathematical modelling, particularly in the area of extreme value analysis. He is also a qualified GDPR data protection officer.
The platform addresses the key issue of intelligent extraction of information from insolvency documents and personal financial documents to automate the manual processes involved.
“This also allows us to extract additional data fields and insights that currently cannot be achieved by manual processing,” Doyle explained.
“Using this information, the core value of the product can be realised, which is the predictive analytics for identifying when an individual is about to default from their arrangement.
“This allows the firms to manage this and to continue the protection for the consumer while ensuring greater recovery of debt and increased revenue for the firms.
“The ultimate goal is to reduce the level of non-performing debt on a global scale.”
Things are going well for the young Donegal firm. “We are generating revenue from one of the largest insolvency firms, while another of the top-five operators has requested early development of our predictive analytics toolkit. We are currently raising our seed investment round, with a term sheet just recently issued.”
But this does not mean that Cerebreon has no challenges. “Every day is a school day. It has been a huge learning curve but building an advisory team has been fundamental to helping us grow and develop the business.
“On a day-to-day basis, the challenge has been managing the volume of technical development work for both the product and our internal compliance system. The latter is necessary to ensure we can operate in the market and adhere to our customers’ requirements in terms of security and data handling.
“From the point of view of the vision and growth of the company, one of the greatest challenges is making sure you that you are working to the corporate objectives and not to get overwhelmed on the day to day. While it is a delicate balance, ensuring that all of our team understand their role in each of the objectives, and how this combines to deliver the plan, has been fundamental to achieving our targets.”
Surround yourself with ‘can do’ people
Doyle describes Ireland as a “phenomenal place to start a business”.
She continued: “There are so many supports and the networks you build are incredible. We’ve been very lucky to have Enterprise Ireland and the NDRC support our business, and it’s truly accelerated our growth.”
Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to engage with each other and be willing to learn.
“Speak to people constantly – customers, potential investors, advisers, other start-ups. You’ll learn so much and it will change your thought process and sometimes your direction.
“It can be daunting at times developing a start-up, but surround yourself with ‘can do’ people and use your advisers whenever you can. Sense-check your big decisions and watch your cash flow.”
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