A former Hove schoolboy hopes to win the backing of Sir Richard Branson for a marketing campaign worth £150,000.
Seb Tucknott, 28, is taking part in Virgin Media Business’s Pitch to Rich 2015, competing against a number of other start-up businesses.
Mr Tucknott, who grew up in Hove and went to Blatchington Mill School, has set up IBDrelief.com to help fellow sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and related conditions.
He aims to use the website to help sufferers find ways of coping with their debilitating illness without just relying on drugs and surgery.
Mr Tucknott, who now lives in Shoreham, wants www.ibdrelief.com to bring together all the latest information about the condition for sufferers, their family and friends and medical professionals.
The site will also be used share positive experiences from other sufferers alongside advice and recipes from nutritionists, tailored exercises to help with fatigue and joint pain, a discussion forum, surveys and more.
Mr Tucknott had ulcerative colitis – a form of IBD – diagnosed eight years ago. The condition causes inflammation and ulceration of areas of the bowel.
It results in symptoms that cause many sufferers frequent trips to the toilet, blood loss through stools, fatigue, hospital stays and visits and many other complications.
Along with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is one of the two main inflammatory bowel diseases.
Well-known sufferers include footballer Darren Fletcher, Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave, former England rugby union captain Lewis Moody, pop singer Anastacia, magician Dynamo and reality TV star Sam Faiers.
When Mr Tucknott received his diagnosis he had never heard of IBD. After reading stories online about the condition he believed that he would never be able to live a normal life again.
Mr Tucknott, who runs web design company Brightsite, said: “There are around 300,000 known IBD sufferers in the UK and I read so many horror stories from people who weren’t able to manage their condition.
“They said they were unable to exercise, work or socialise. Even the doctors agreed it would be difficult to live a normal life.
“As a 20-year-old this scared me. I wanted to be able to do all of these things and started to believe I wouldn’t be able to again.
“After eight years of living with the condition I have learnt this is not the case. I’ve done a lot of reading, research and spent time talking to other sufferers about what helps them and I’m now able to live a fairly normal life after making big changes to my diet and lifestyle.
“I exercise more, eat more healthily and feel better than I’ve ever done. I’m on limited amounts of medication and have, so far, managed to avoid surgery.
“I wish someone had told me there was an alternative to medication and surgery when I was first diagnosed. It has completely changed my life for the better.”
Mr Tucknott believes that by learning how to manage his condition he has saved the NHS about £100,000 a year.
He said: “While doing research into IBD I found there was so much information out there in so many different places and I wanted to bring it all together in one place to make it easier for sufferers.
“I also wanted to provide somewhere for other sufferers to contribute recipes and ideas that help them.
“Another big part of the website is about gathering information from sufferers about foods that trigger their condition.
“Diet is a huge factor for me in managing my IBD but I’ve found very little research into the link.
“I wanted a way to survey other sufferers to see if the things that trigger my IDB also affect theirs.
“This information can then be used by other sufferers and the medical and pharmaceutical industries to improve care and advice.
“By entering Pitch to Rich I hope to promote IBDrelief.com to sufferers to improve their lives but to also raise awareness of IBD among non-sufferers.
“It is hard for some sufferers to work with their condition and the long-term aim would be to employ some sufferers to work on the website alongside me.”
To make it into the next round of the Pitch to Rich competition Mr Tucknott needs to receive public votes.
The winner of the Pitch to Rich start-up category will receive a £150,000 marketing campaign which Mr Tucknott would use to raise awareness of the condition and the website.
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