George Mountbatten, a member of the Royal Family, is an entrepreneur. Known as 4th Marquess of Milford Haven, he has always possessed an enterprising spirit, and in 2000 he came up with his most successful business venture so far — uSwitch.com.
His creation is a website which helps consumers compare and change suppliers of various services. While its success wasn’t quite overnight, it wasn’t far off.
Following through on a vision
Seventeen years ago, George Mountbatten — who was then known as Lord Milford Haven — was keen to set up a business that could in some way capitalise on the UK’s deregulated gas and electricity markets.
Back in September 2000, the internet still had a long way to travel. Setting up an e-company was a much greater leap than it might seem to be today. Many people in the developed world were still without home internet, so to these people, the story of George Mountbatten, uSwitch and e-commerce, in general, was something of a mystery.
However, he recognised that households were connecting to the internet in their droves. He also had full faith in the service that his website provided for consumers who wished to compare pricing structures from different companies in order to get the best rate.
George Mountbatten and uSwitch: remarkable growth
Before long, uSwitch expanded to become a go-to for consumers in search of the best deals in the phone market. Further illustration of the company’s success followed with the acquisition of buy.co.uk and UpMyStreet.com
Business was growing. George Mountbatten, uSwitch – the name of the person and his company went hand in hand, like Gates and Microsoft.
His initial investment in the company was £4million, which was by no means a small amount to invest in a start-up that could have gone up or down. His company went in the direction of the stars, and the upward trajectory remained during his time at the helm.
Just six years after being formed, the company was sold to the American media firm EW Scripps for a price in the region of £210 million. Upon completion of the sale, nobody could question George Mountbatten’s initial £4 million investment, which was ultimately returned to him by a multiple of 52.5. His faith, and his investment, had been repaid in spades.
His impact remains visible today
Largely because of George Mountbatten, uSwitch continues to thrive, although it hasn’t enjoyed nonstop success since he sold it in 2006.
Two years after its purchase of the company, EW Scripps ran into difficulties, and subsequently sold it for a cut-price £10.3 million in late 2009 to Forward Internet Group. As of today, it remains a successful business model that continues to offer the same price comparison service to customers that was part of George Mountbatten’s vision at the turn of the millennium. In fact, it offers comparisons for a whole host of services, and continues to grow its offerings.
As for the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven, uSwitch is no longer part of his life. However, he will take satisfaction from the fact that the £210 million he received in 2006 is still the most his brainchild has ever been sold on for. Zoopla’s purchase of the company for £160 million in 2015 represents the second highest sale figure, but is still well short of what its founder received.