TWO FORMER students have created an app to make nights out in Oxford cheaper.
More than 100 bars, restaurants, cafes, shops, gyms, hairdressers and clubs have signed up to The Dealer, launched this week.
Co-founder Ed Alun-Jones, who studied history at St Edmund Hall, explained: “Students are hampered by lack of cash, as to how much they can go out.
“Yet I noticed many retailers around the city have a lot of spare capacity, especially on Monday to Thursday and it struck me as weird that prices stay the same.
“We are generating an extra level of demand by tapping into those people who don’t have enough money to go out to eat but will if there is a deal.”
The Dealer, downloadable for smartphones and tablets, allows restaurant owners to track demand.
When take-up is low, they can offer cheaper rates.
Mr Alun-Jones added: “People can access all the discounts through their handsets.”
Before graduating in June, he spotted a gap in the market.
He explained: “Students don’t tend to use things like Groupon or Wowcher, as there’s a middle-aged, old-fashioned feeling to them.”
The idea went down well with independents, who lack the resources of big chains.
He explained: “At the moment, if you want to advertise a special offer, you write on board and place it outside.
“The only people who see it are those who physically walk past your bar.
“With The Dealer, we’ll put your deal on a virtual space and everyone will know.”
He added: “The general response was ‘If you build it, we will use it’.”
With no technology know-how, Mr Alun-Jones and business partner Henry Hayes, who recently graduated from Warwick University, raised £40,000 to have the app built.
It took more than 25 pitches to net the cash, which came from four investors.
He said: “We will eventually make money, because we are paid commission linked to how many people we bring through the door.”
If successful, Mr Alun-Jones and Mr Hayes plan to launch in other university cities.
They promote the app, which is free to download, through social media, events at Hythe Bridge Street club The Bridge and student ambassadors.
Although their core target market is 18-27-year-olds, they are keen to attract older customers.
Unable to afford a permanent home in Oxford, the pair stay with friends.
Mr Alun-Jones said: “We rejoice every time we find somewhere with a washing machine.”
Although take-up so far is from independents, Mr Alun-Jones is hopeful they will get chains on board.
He pointed out: “The main push-back from chains is that they already have an app.
“But unless you are a very loyal Nando’s customer you are not going to have all these apps on your phone.
“With The Dealer, everything is in one place.”
And he added: “It’s as much about discovery as discounting.
“If you are new to the city you wouldn’t know about the off-the-beaten-track places in Oxford.”
The pair will donate a proportion of any profits this year to homeless charity Crisis Skylight Oxford.
Mr Alun-Jones added: “We are completely missing the point, if we don’t help people who need it most.
“Obviously students are strapped for cash but that’s nothing compared to those on the streets.”