The cost of living and attracting quality employees was behind the move to Co Donegal for husband and wife team Kenneth Doherty and Gillian Doyle who founded a technology company.
“We were looking for an affordable place to set up Cerebreon Technologies Ltd and Ken is from Donegal originally, so he really pushed for the move here,” explains Gillian Doyle.
“I wasn’t sure at first, but we’d spent eight years in Belfast, and we were in Dublin before that, so it was time to give Donegal a try.”
“The cost of living in terms of rent and other major services is much cheaper in rural Donegal which helps reduce financial stress in the early days of a start-up.”
“We’re renting a house in Narin and its 75% cheaper than the equivalent would be in Dublin and 60% cheaper than Belfast. We had to reduce our salaries to the point of survival and setting up in Donegal gave us more time to get the company off the ground,” says Kenneth.
Set up in 2016, Cerebreon Technologies Ltd is based in Ardara, just down the road from Kenneth’s hometown of Narin, where his parents still live. Cerebreon provides an intelligent debt recovery platform for credit providers and advisors needing to drastically increase money recovered whilst meeting reegulatory requirements.
“We renovated the premises which has space for 10-12 employees. There’s five based there now, but we chose a building with room for growth as we are hoping to expand in the near future, and we want to keep our headquarters in Donegal.”
There are seven staff members (excluding Gillian and Kenneth) based in three different offices – Donegal, Dublin and Birmingham. Cerebreon recently set up the UK office to shield itself from currency fluctuations that may result from Brexit.
“Lots of people ask when we will move our HQ to Dublin, but we don’t want to and we’re trading with the UK, so there’s no need for us to be in Dublin. We’re very happy with our set up here in Donegal.”
The co-founders say Donegal attracts high-calibre employees looking for long-term jobs. “We don’t get a huge volume of job applications, but we get really high-quality ones, so we find ourselves in a great position as employers,” explains Kenneth.
“A lot of tech staff in Dublin are job-hopping on a 12-month basis, whereas here the cost of living is much more affordable, so we get more experienced people looking to return to the Northwest with their families,” says Gillian.
“No one here is losing two hours a day commuting, so the staff tend to be happier as well and if you’re into outdoor activities, it’s a great place to be.”
Donegal offers the perfect work-life balance, but as founding members, Gillian and Kenneth find themselves working every hour under the sun.
“Our staff have the work life balance and we get the hours get back to do more work,” says Gillian. “We spent most of our time on the road commuting when we lived in Belfast, so it’s great to be able to use that time more productively now.”
Being a Donegal native, Kenneth tries to escape from the office and enjoy the local scenery every now and again. “I like to take advantage of my surroundings whenever I can, so I sometimes go golfing after work, or nip out for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean whenever there’s some downtime.”
Gillian and Kenneth have found their entrepreneurial experience in Co Donegal to be very positive. “Overall, Ireland is an amazing place to start a business and Donegal in particular has been very good to us,” says Gillian.
“This is my first time to live in rural Ireland and I was surprised by how much the community backs you. They want to know what you’re doing and how you’re doing. It’s been very positive and encouraging.”