Irish tech firm HR Duo goes to Romania to beat hiring ‘challenge’ at home

Jerome Forde of HR Duo says despite offering good salaries, it is hard to compete for developers. PHOTO: ALAN ROWLETTE

Sarah Collins

A bid to keep costs down and expand fast has led Irish recruitment tech firm HR Duo to look outside Ireland – to Romania – to set up its new “satellite” development hub.

While the firm’s headquarters and core business will remain in Dunshaughlin, in Meath, founder and chief executive Jerome Forde said hiring software developers in Ireland is a “challenge” given rising rents and competition from big tech firms.

“It’s not to say we don’t pay well – we do,” he told the Irish Independent ahead of a trip to Brasov in central Romania, where HR Duo’s new office is based.

“But with the sheer volume of developer jobs, it can be difficult for a small company like ourselves to be heard.

“It’s very difficult to grow our development capability in Ireland. It’s difficult to get people to come and work with us. We do recruit within Ireland. But for us to be able to grow by another 10 people in Ireland would be very difficult. And it’s very difficult to rent anywhere.

“Romania gives us the ability to grow our capacity and manage our costs as well.”

Average national rents rose to €1,750 in the first quarter of 2023 – up 11.7pc in the year – according to property website, with Dublin rents soaring above €2,300.

Average hourly earnings in IT firms were the second-highest of any economic sector (after education) at the end of last year, with weekly earnings at tech firms rising 9.8pc in the final quarter of 2022, compared with a year earlier, CSO data shows.

Brasov, which sits on the northern slope of the Transylvanian Alps, was a “logical” move for the company, which has operated in Romania for a number of years, Mr Forde said – especially given its “young and largely English-speaking workforce that is highly educated”.

HR Duo, which develops software that it says can automate up to 80pc of human resources (HR) for small and medium-sized businesses, currently employs 45 people in Meath and has around 10 staff in Romania, but aims to grow to a total of 70 people by the end of the year.

The firm successfully raised €4.5m in series A funding in January.

This will go towards product development as well as its expansion in Romania and a new sales hub in the UK.

After almost 10 years in business, Mr Forde hopes to turn a profit in 2024.

In June, the firm is to launch its first artificial intelligence (AI) product, which Mr Forde insists is not going to replace the work of HR managers.

“We’re freeing up that HR capability for the really important work.”

On This Day In History - 18th May