A former winner of the StartUp Sussex student enterprise competition has won the title of Graduate of the Year at the Sussex Business Awards, two years after founding his digital agency. Chris O’Hare received the award in a ceremony at the Brighton Grand Hotel on 1st December, in recognition of his impact on business in Sussex. The judges made their decision based on evidence of professional motivation, communication skills, practical skills, resilience, leadership, maturity and integrity.

Sussex Graduate of the Year winner, Chris O’Hare

Chris was the winner of the 2015 StartUp Sussex competition, and shortly afterwards moved into the Sussex Innovation Centre as a permanent tenant with Hare Digital, focusing on bespoke software development. Clients including the University of Sussex and Scorpion Automotive helped the fledgling company to grow by more than 400% in its first year, and it has continued to expand steadily since.

Through its primary clients, Hare Digital has indirectly worked on software projects for NASA, CERN, Tom Tom, Toyota, Ford, Subaru and Aston Martin. While growing the business to its current team of ten people, Chris continued to read for his MSc in IT with Business in Management, graduating this year with a distinction.

Chris with Sussex Innovation’s Simon Chuter at the Sussex Business Awards

“It’s very fitting to win this award just as I graduate,” said Chris. “It’s the culmination of a dream established back in 2014 to take an idea and turn it into a business. I decided that the University would be a good place to help build the right skills, and find a passionate team to help me. We’ve employed three fellow Sussex graduates, and we’re always looking for new and exciting talent from the University. To be associated with some of the best businesses and entrepreneurs in Sussex is truly humbling, and is something I hope to emulate next year!”

This year was the 28th Sussex Business Awards, with the Sussex Graduate of the Year presented for the first time. Sussex Innovation’s executive director Mike Herd stepped into the hot seat once again as chair of the judges, and the Sussex Innovation Sponsor continued its long-running sponsorship of the Award for Innovation in Business, which was won this year by airline technology company Pulse Aero.