Making it Work: Custran plans for expansion in post-Brexit customs market

The Cork-based company which offers a combination of software and industry-specific ‘practical’ guidance is seeking to raise up to €500,000 in funding to expand its operations in Britain

Steven Merrick and Kieran Gleeson, founders of Custran, are predicting a sharp increase in the number of customs declarations processed in Ireland and the UK. Picture: John Allen

Custran, the Cork-based firm which helps British and Irish companies complete customs declarations, is aiming to raise up to €500,000 in a funding round to pay for an expansion of its British activities.

The company, set up in 2017 by Kieran Gleeson and Steve Merrick, has already raised €500,000 in recent months and is now targeting further investment within the next four months.

Customs requirements for Irish and British companies are set to tighten over the coming years as a result of Brexit, and Custran is predicting a sharp increase in the number of customs declarations processed in Ireland and the UK.

“Brexit changed everything,” Gleeson said. He explained that beforehand, there were about 1.5 million customs declarations processed in Ireland every year. “Post-Brexit, that is to rise to about 20 million,” he said.

Many companies are grappling with the challenges of the new trading environment, and Gleeson, who spent years working in freight forwarding, said there was a “real lack of knowledge” when it comes to customs procedures.

While Custran is not the only company offering software to companies to help them file customs declarations more efficiently, it is attempting to carve out a niche by providing them with industry-specific advisory services on how to meet the new requirements.

“There are plenty of good training programmes in Ireland and Britain at the moment, but they’re quite general,” Gleeson said. “It’s not specific to an industry a company may be in. We’re hearing this directly from our customers.”

Working with a network of trainers, Custran shows companies how to use its software to create the templates they need to accurately submit declarations to Ireland’s Revenue Online Service (Ros) and Revenue and Customs in Britain.

Ireland’s Ros system has made all declarations digital since 2005, but parts of Britain still use manual processing – meaning phone calls, emails and faxes.

“Britain is still quite behind in many of its processes,” Gleeson said. “There’s a lot of easements that won’t be there next year, and there’s a lot of checking that will be tighter in the future. Brexit is still ongoing.”

With the number of permutations and demands increasing for companies trading between Ireland and Britain, Custran believes it is entering the market at the right time with a combination of software and “practical” guidance for companies that need it.

Midway through a funding round, it is hoping to use the additional investment to develop its marketing and sales efforts in Britain and hire a small number of new staff.

It already has the backing of Enterprise Ireland, and also works with Teamwork Catalyst, the Cork-based co-working space. “They’ve been very good to us over the last couple of years, in terms of mentoring and product development,” Gleeson said.

In the long term, Custran is hoping to expand its operations beyond Ireland and Britain and into European markets, including France, Germany and the Netherlands.