to set up this business”
CFT Group is one of the latest businesses to recognise the benefits that Cornwall can offer digital start-ups. Co-founder and CEO, Marcus Kern, lived and worked in London for 20 years before making the move to the South West with his partner in 2015.
“My journey to Cornwall started when we bought a property right on the seafront in Downderry to renovate. I began considering whether I could run a digital business in Cornwall and, after a few months of research, felt confident that it could work and to this day, it does. It’s fantastic, we are able to live here and operate in a digital industry without having to be in London. The internet connection is amazing; thanks to Superfast Cornwall we have fibre to the premises in our office and there is good talent here for programming and financial service. It may not be as abundantly available as it is in London, but it’s definitely here and that works for us. We want the business to grow iteratively, attracting talent through our reputation as a great employer offering interesting and highly skilled work.”
Marcus and his team are working to revolutionise the way that consumers manage their money, particularly, recurring payments. “We feel that direct debits have not moved on with the times and so we want to transform direct debits into something that fits into our lives today. In the last five years, faster payments have taken shape and the way we make payments to other people but the direct debit model hasn’t moved on and there are no plans of the incumbents to change it. So we feel there is an opportunity to do research and development to explore and figure out, how can we make this better? So that’s our company mission: ‘To transform regular payments to match the way we live today.’
The direct debit model was introduced in 1968 and is currently used by approximately 80% of the UK population. CFT Group is developing a business model that allows consumers to personalise their payment schedule to fit their finances. “Our business model would operate in a similar way to PayPal but for recurring payments. It would not only give consumers more control over how much they paid and when; but it would also enable bills to be split across accounts, which is great for couples and people living in shared accommodation.”
The thinking behind CFT Group is next generation. The business is at a crucial stage of development having received a grant from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme and attracting some additional match funding, but it could not come to fruition without a robust digital infrastructure and highly skilled workforce. “I couldn’t have chosen a better place than Cornwall to set up this business. I’m from the software industry and I would recommend anyone to start up here [in Cornwall] for a number of reasons. Start-up costs are considerably lower than in other parts of the country and the loyalty of talent and people who work for you is much stronger. I think that stems to another obvious draw to living and working in Cornwall which is of course the amazing lifestyle here.”
Marcus takes a modern view on work/life balance and the way that he runs his business, offering surfing lessons and an extra day off for your birthday as part of his employee benefits package. But after years of working in the city he believes that the benefits of living and working in Cornwall are far more profound than sandy beaches and surfing. “My day starts with me waking and looking out to the ocean. There’s an immediate relaxation that happens at that stage which creates a calm and collected outlook onto my business, this is something that simply cannot be achieved in the chaos of a London commute. At weekends I have the opportunity to recharge mentally and come back to the office feeling refreshed, which means I am more productive and able to think more creatively – crucial for a project which is being driven by innovation.”
Increasingly, more and more Creativetech businesses like CFT Group are realising how the holistic benefits of living and working in a place like Cornwall can have a real impact on the creative outputs of the business. The ability to recharge and unwind is crucial for people whose work relies on the ability to think ‘outside of the box’. When combined with its digital connectivity and talent pool, Cornwall is proving time and time again that it’s the place to be for such businesses.
Over the next 12 months Marcus hopes to go from research and development through to product testing, eventually bringing a product to market that empowers consumers and benefits businesses nationwide.Marcus Kern CEO
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