George Mountbatten, the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven, is a man with connections. He’s a relative of the British Royal Family. He is an extensive corporate investor. And George Mountbatten was the man that founded uSwitch.com.
His name comes with big connotations. It’s a name also carried by the future King of England. When Prince George joined school for the first time this year, he was enrolled as George Mountbatten-Windsor.
His cousins at Windsor Palace have global appeal and interest, and George Mountbatten has not done badly promoting the family name. At the turn of the mgillennium, his big idea changed the way people bought their energy supplies and has saved millions of people money.
George Mountbatten and the birth of uSwitch.com
He started the internet comparison site in 2000 with Andrew Salmon, a former PricewaterhouseCoopers financier. He also recruited a number of high-profile early investors. The idea was to find a way to allow consumers to take advantage of their new-found freedom to switch their gas and electricity tariffs.
It had never been done before. People were only just being given the option to change their utility supplier to get a better deal. Deregulation was new and there were large numbers of people not getting value for moneyfrom their energy contracts. Picking up on that business opportunity was one of many well-timed business choices.
George Mountbatten made the step into the corporate world as he saw there was a space in the market for a product that had never been seen before – and which has been copied many times since. uSwitch.com was born.
Capitalising on a new idea
The portal was designed to easily allow consumers to see if they could get a better price. It was simple but brilliant. The pay-out for the owners came as utility companies paid a commission for every new customer referred to them.
Within six years there were buyers itching to take on the firm. The eventual winner of the battle to purchase it was EW Scripps, an American media firm with interests in internet technologies. They paid over £210m when the deal was done in 2006.
How the uSwitch model has spread
Since the sale, the company that George Mountbatten created has gone further in getting price justice for consumers. The site now offers comparisons for everything from mortgages to health insurance and credit cards to mobile phones.
The current owner is Zoopla, who took on the brand in 2015. This is another site built on opportune moments. Its early boom in development came as the housing market dropped after the 2008 financial crisis. In much the same way uSwitch does, Zoopla offers a single portal to search multiple sources of information to find the right product (or rather, house) for you.
For this reason, uSwitch sits fairly well among the company’s existing portfolio, particularly as the two services complement each other. People purchasing or renting a property are likely to need a number of new household contracts. There is an obvious synergy in the business areas.
George Mountbatten saw an opportunity and grabbed it. Seventeen years later he’s still innovating, with sites similar to uSwitch opening in Turkey and Brazil thanks to his investment.