Andrew Salmon and the story of uSwitch
Andrew Salmon and the uSwitch management team changed the face of consumer buying in the UK. Salmon served as Chief Executive Officer of the internet technology firm from its inception in the early noughties, right through to its eventual sale for over £200 million in 2006.
What the team did was extraordinary. The idea behind the platform was that the deregulation of the electricity market meant customers could make a transparent choice for the first time. What Andrew Salmon did was help them get the right information to be able to do that.
The rise of internet comparison sites
Around the time of the uSwitch sale, Andrew Salmon told a publication that from an economic point of view the internet was about “perfect information.” He and his business partners, including Lord George Milford Haven, felt the internet had huge untapped potential in allowing people to search information about the products they use, all from the comfort of their own home.
At a time when no one else did, they saw that a user-friendly system that could facilitate product decisions which they could profit from would be a money-spinner. And so, uSwitch was born.
An experienced team helped develop the uSwitch platform
It’s no surprise that Andrew Salmon took this approach. After all, he trained as an economist and then moved into working in the deregulating authorities as the utilities market evolved. Moving into this new arena of internet technology didn’t phase Salmon. In fact, he adapted quickly to the needs of running a brand.
In the interview around the time of the company sale, he explained he thought the rise of the internet had changed the way companies did business. The new level of transparency offered by the wave of information online means companies – whatever their business model – have to work harder to keep their customers on board.
It took time for uSwitch to build a successful platform
He also acknowledged that the uSwitch founding team had to build the platform’s reputation on two fronts. Gas and electricity suppliers were initially cautious of getting into bed with the comparison site but its growing reputation put them in a situation where they had to.
Clever advertising and a clear brand message made uSwitch the first of the now ubiquitous internet comparison sites. This was thanks to a significant overhaul of the company’s visuals and a product redesign. Many companies and sites watched and took notes and there’s a strong argument that they owe their success to what Andrew Salmon shaped over 15 years ago. They all follow in the space created by this smart businessman and his partners.
This phase of growth and development allowed customers to realise big savings and took the company into a period of very respectable profit where it served as the industry leader. By 2006, Andrew Salmon and his associates were taking advice about where the company could go next. Two options were on the table; either a sale or the launch of an initial public offering which would take the company out into the stock market.
Strong sales translated into a healthy sales price
At the time, uSwitch had turned over £14 million of revenue in the previous year and was well-placed to move forward. After taking advice from boutique investment firm, LongAcre Partners, several potential purchasers for the business emerged, including the group behind the Daily Mail.
American media group EW Scripps emerged victorious from the scrum, agreeing to a sale price of £210 million. That was twice the expected price and a sign of the regard the business Andrew Salmon built was held in.
Today, uSwitch has diversified and offers customers value in a whole range of different sectors, but the initial ethos remains. Information is power and the customer deserves a great deal. Andrew Salmon set a precedent that made the market what it is.