On 6th June 1961, an exceptional aristocrat was born. George Ivar Louis Mountbatten, alternatively styled as the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven, entered the world as heir to the storied House of Mountbatten, to begin a life of wealth and privilege undreamed of by most.
He had an incredible legacy to live up to. The direct descendant of famous figures including Catherine the Great and Russian writer Alexander Pushkin, the Marquess of Milford Haven seemed fated to fade into obscurity when viewed beside his celebrated ancestors, but he too would come to make his mark in the world.
A brilliant idea of Marquess of Milford Haven
His claim to fame would stem not from the nobility of his blood, but from his exceptional aptitude for business, with the Marquess of Milford Haven going on to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his generation. His story is also the story of a company that defined the advent of online empires: uSwitch.
The idea for the venture hailed from an unlikely source, a little-known field marketing enterprise that the Marquess of Milford Haven invested in. Going door to door to persuade consumers to switch their gas and electricity suppliers, it helped to highlight the opportunities posed by the newly deregulated energy market.
It signalled a lightbulb moment for Mountbatten, who realised that what was really needed for this new and vast market of shoppers was a comparison site; one that allowed them to compare prices, and in doing so, take control of this freedom to benefit their finances.
An instant success
And so uSwitch was born. An instant success, it gave consumers a greater ability to save themselves money than ever before, and meant that rather than having to listen to the spiel of salesmen, they could make their decisions based on cold, hard fact alone. This popularity allowed the venture to grow at an incredible rate, so that within a short space of time, it was able to expand massively, into areas including credit cards, loans, and telephony.
Assessing Mountbatten’s credentials on paper, this success was hard to tally with the image that emerged. A peer 459th in line to the throne, Mountbatten had pursued the path taken by many of his aristocratic breed, becoming a phenomenal polo player, but his prior achievements were confined to the playing field alone.
Following an unsettled period, uSwitch marked a turning point in his life, indeed an exceptionally dramatic one. The reason for this was a simple one: it offered a service that the public was crying out for. Based upon the most benevolent of principles, its primary focus was on how it could benefit the consumer. It thus charged its users nothing, instead levying a fee from those suppliers who wished to be featured on the website. Suddenly, it was businesses that were having to pay, and the buyer who was treated as the more privileged party.
The savings that users were able to make were exceptional, with the average consumer cutting their costs by around £140 each year just by switching their supplier. As the Marquess of Milford Haven explained: “The wonderful thing about uSwitch is we make money by saving people money.”
The concept was a genius one, and American media firm EW Scripps recognised this, making an offer of £210 million when the company was placed on the market in 2006. Sold to them, this netted Mountbatten an exceptional profit of around £100 million.
The sale was highly symbolic, showing the whole world how impressive the enterprise had grown to be. For a man who had never achieved any real financial success until its creation, it proved that although anyone can be knocked down by life’s vagaries, those who keep getting up will always triumph in the end.