Profile. Gillian Doyle is Cerebreon’s Chief Executive Officer, former senior analyst of Watch Portfolio Management and graduate of UCD with a PhD in “The plasmonic response and coupling of nanoforests and nanoparticles.”.
Gill, why did you found Cerebreon?
Cerebreon was founded by myself and Ken Doherty in 2016 with a mission to support the most financially vulnerable people in society. After leaving my previous role, I felt that the industry was trying to achieve the right outcome for the consumer but that the reliance on manual processing substantially drove up the costs of doing this. The operational spend had to be on processing instead of the human value role of debt advice and resolution. We wanted to supply intelligent tech to enable all the stakeholders to achieve their mission but at a lower cost and, through the insights we could provide, with greater success.
“A huge number of consumers never get out of debt despite everyone’s best efforts and to me that’s a fractured system, yet it’s a problem that can be fixed.”
There are a lot of clever solutions in the industry but many tend to address only very focussed and specific issues. For us it was the opportunity to bring a more holistic solution that integrates with all and promotes proactive engagement rather than reactive.
Cerebreon was founded with an aim to achieve a sustainable outcome for all parties within the debt industry through tech innovation and automated systems.
Tell us what Cerebreon does
Cerebreon is an award-winning, intelligent data extraction, analytics and transmission platform for the insolvency and debt recovery industry. The platform integrates all data between creditors, insolvency firms and other stakeholders to deliver highly efficient and accurate processes, while ensuring the best journey for the most vulnerable consumers.
Using deep learning and machine intelligence, we identify when a customer may potentially fail their arrangement so that preventative action can be taken. By ensuring as many consumers as possible become debt free, all stakeholders receive maximum returns.
How has your background prepared you for this?
Before we founded the company, my roles were predominantly technical based.
Working with Hughes Insurance, the biggest insurance broker in Northern Ireland, was my first experience of automating team systems. We changed the outbound sales team from working in excel lists to an automated system with predictive models, which substantially increased the answer rate for the team.
After Hughes, I went to Watch Portfolio Management as a senior analyst to predict debt recovery for their clients and I ran a small operations team who managed the annual reports. The annual reports are a reflection of how a portfolio is performing and so I developed a front-end system to load in the data. From there I developed multiple in-house systems such as claims management and compliance systems, but the objective was always to improve data quality and automate the processes while having a full audit trail for transparency.
While the majority of my career was predominantly technical based, I spent a lot of time with the business units and teams helping to improve the balance between technical requirements and what the end user needs. I think that was a key learning – the relationship between the product development with the commercial need and end user buy in.
You completed a PhD – what was it in and how does that apply to Cerebreon now?
Completing a PhD in Nanophysics provided an incredible amount of skills and experiences that have been invaluable to starting and running Cerebreon. The research was half theoretical, half experimental, with potential application to solar cells and optical computing.
Programming in multiple languages was core to achieving the PhD. There were so many different systems from equipment of different eras to state-of-the-art software and hardware, all of which needed to communicate seamlessly.
This became the technical basis of my career and has shown that even the most complex of problems can often be overcome with code, but that nature and human input will always be unknown variables!
The 5 years spent completing the PhD also taught me skills that can only be learnt through experience. As the experiments didn’t work during the day due to the building vibrations, I spent the 5 years on my own overnight in a dark room in order to complete the research. The resilience, motivation and determination to keep going and work so hard can only be achieved when you truly believe in and are fascinated by the work.
Cerebreon is the same – every founder of a company will tell you that financial reasons are not enough to keep going and this is so true. You have to believe in the what and why not only at a company vision level but on a day to day basis as well. It’s in the day-to-day that I rely on those dark room skills I built during my PhD the most!
How is Cerebreon growing?
Cerebreon was launched in 2016 and has made significant leaps since. From first validating the idea with our first external investor and entering Enterprise Ireland, to getting our first member of staff and receiving the first customer validation, we have celebrated the small wins as well as the big ones.
When the product first came out of trial was one of my favourite milestones for Cerebreon. To see the power of the technology in action and been able to clear a 6 month back log in less than 3 weeks was an incredible moment of validation and excitement that has pushed us to further grow and succeed.
However, we have also had some incredible big moments over the past few years including winning the highly competitive Seedcorn business competition, joining Microsoft for Startups and becoming a graduate of the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab.
With every win or raise we have hired a new member of staff, prioritising company growth within Cerebreon. Between our HQ in Donegal, Ireland and our Dublin and UK offices we now have 11 members of staff across 5 different nationalities. Diversity is fundamental to us but this also includes way of thought and therefore we prioritise mixing thought processes within teams.
Most recently we closed our seed funding round of £1.5m in March 2020, to scale operations and expand business reach in the UK.
Cerebreon supports the debt industry with deep learning and data, using automated technology solutions to support IVAs and Creditors to predict and prevent insolvency arrangement failures. Find out how Cerebreon can help you, visit our Creditor solutions.