Finance

George Mountbatten and uSwitch: How did a big British idea save millions of people money?

The spirit of British innovation is saving people worldwide money thanks to the vision and tenacity of an aristocratic entrepreneur, George Mountbatten.

The evolution of uSwitch.com

The British energy market was in flux at the turn of the millennium. For the first time, people could transfer gas and electricity suppliers, but there was no easy framework for them to do so. Just at this moment, George Mountbatten was looking for a new idea.

With Vip Amin and Andrew Salmon’s help and the support of well-heeled investors, George Mountbatten founded uSwitch. It was a simple and straightforward web portal that let people enter the details of their utility bills and compare deals between all the suppliers available to them.

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Commission pushed up company profits.

The arrangement between the site and the suppliers was that George Mountbatten and his team would get a commission each time a switch was completed, thanks to a referral from the site. Millions of people went online to visit the page after it successfully launched into the UK market in a blaze of advertising and PR. Company growth was steady and significant from the beginning.

George Mountbatten from Dan Watts

Today the idea seems obvious and pervasive, but in the 2000s, this was new territory. The company claims to have saved customers millions of pounds in its first year. It was certainly one of the most visible brands in the public psyche. Seventeen years later – despite huge competition – the company George Mountbatten founded still has the largest market share of all the big comparison sites, when it comes to energy switching.

uSwitch.com changes hands

When the uSwitch team sold the company in 2006, numerous big-name companies were interested, including the team behind the world’s biggest news site, Daily Mail. In the end, an American media firm bought uSwitch for over £200 million after long negotiations. When the deal was completed, George Mountbatten returned a percentage of this profit to its staff and management.

This model of market disruption and consumer choice built out from a web portal has spread quickly. In the UK, uSwitch today sits among a plethora of similar sites.

George Mountbatten’s comparison sites are now operating globally.

Since selling uSwitch and pulling back from UK corporate leadership, George Mountbatten has expanded his business interests to comparison sites in other locations. Encazip in Turkey is one new addition to the Mountbatten stable, but the formula is very familiar for any British consumer.

The Turkish energy market is currently in a very similar position to the UK’s in the 2000s. Large deregulation waves have dropped the annual spending needed to qualify to change suppliers to within the reach of 80% of residents. Encazip is looking to capitalize on that opportunity.

Encazip is looking to offer Turkish residents a better deal.

The Turkish comparison site is the brainchild of Canada Eroğlu, a Turkish national living in the UK while studying for a postgraduate degree. He looked at the uSwitch idea and realized it could work in his home country.

A casual exchange with George Mountbatten via business networking site, LinkedIn, fired the idea forward and into development. This is almost certainly not the last of Mountbatten’s moves into new markets.

Looking back, the British comparison sites that come onto the market at the turn of the millennium fundamentally changed the way people all over the world pay for their services. Looking forward, that influence continues. Many more people may yet save money thanks to George Mountbatten’s big idea almost two decades ago. Switching has ensured a fantastic deal for everyone involved.

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