Broadcast: News items

Sussex finance student becomes award-winning businessman

Julian Bourne

“It’s great that I’ve been able to start a business whilst studying for my degree,” says Julian Bourne, 23, who has just graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Finance from the University of Sussex Business School.

Julian co-founded his technology startup, Waffle, a personal assistant chatbot that helps to connect users with real-time restaurant deals in their area, after becoming frustrated by the amount of money he was spending on eating out.

“I love eating out,” he says. “But that’s not always easy on a student budget. If you’re out and about in town a lot, it can be really expensive to buy lunch or if you make it yourself you have to be really organised. We want to make it easy for students to discover cool places to eat, while getting the best deals. So if you’re new to Brighton, you still know where to find the best pizza, burger or whatever you’re into.”

It was over a meal in an empty Nandos that Julian and his Waffle co-founders, Matt Pritchard and James Powell, had their initial idea: “Seeing so many empty tables, and waiters just, well, waiting around, we saw a lot of wasted capacity. Restaurants often use deals as a way of attracting customers when they know they’ll be quiet, but what about attracting customers when they didn’t expect to be quiet? That’s what Waffle’s for.”

The team were lucky they had a ready-made focus group right under their noses. “The value in still being a student was being surrounded by the very people I wanted to target with the Waffle. So anytime I wanted feedback or ideas I’d ask my course mates. It was awesome to get their insight,” says Julian.

The team recently beat 41 other businesses to win the Pitch@Palace People’s Choice award at St James’s Palace. Julian credits his second year with giving him the fundamental skills he needed to get started, and his placement year with giving him the chance to gain real-world experience. He says: “I learnt so much from accounting to how to be the director of your own company.”

But the path to success could have been very different for Julian, who switched from studying physics to finance in his first term at Sussex. He says: “I realised I wasn’t getting any closer to where I wanted to be in life studying physics. I was always very interested in technology and business and I was very lucky, because I got in touch with the Student Life Centre at and they helped me switch courses to finance - which was definitely the right course for me!”

Although he enjoyed the traditional student life in his first year Julian decided to give up going out to focus on Waffle. He says: “After starting Waffle I knew things weren’t going to happen on their own! Although I still love spending time at the seaside to clear my mind.”

So does Julian ever regret not sticking with physics? “Everything worked out perfectly, I wouldn’t change anything over the past four years.”

The team are now based in the Sussex Innovation Centre working on Waffle full-time. If you’re hungry, chat to Waffle here.

See other inspiring Sussex students graduating in Summer 2018.

By: Lynsey Ford
Last updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2018