Being Acquired

First of, you may or not know that my current employer is uSwitch which is a home services comparison website, which is all fine and dandy but we are currently owned by ZPG which is the parent company of many similar websites such as Zoopla, PrimeLocation and money.co.uk, but how did we end up here?

It all started at a company called Top10.com which was a small startup which was founded in 2006 and I joined the company in 2009 when there was about 10 other employees there.

So what was Top10.com? It was a price comparision website (PCW) that compared the best broadband, TV and mobile phone deals that were available where you lived and back then PCW were all in early stages of development and there was only a couple of other competitors in the market, especially who were also offering broadband comparison services alongside the traditional loans and credit cards comparisons.

Our edge that we had was that not only was there only a couple of competitors but that we focused on a particular area of home services, which was communications which is broadband and mobile phones and TV. We were also free of lots of regulation and complience issues that offering other services such as loans and credit cards entails which enabled us to really stand out from the crowd and offer brand new features such as our Broadband Speedtest service which displayed your neighbours speeds on a map and you could see how fast there broadband was.

Which was featured on BBC Technology when it was launched and this is really where other PCW started to take note of what we were doing.

And in June 2011 we were acquired by a company called Forward, which was the owner of a competitor PCW called uSwitch, who did provide a broadband comparison service but there major focus was the energy market of which they were the biggest for.

So by acquiring Top10.com they effectively had a market leading PCW for communications services that was able to adopt the uSwitch brand and help it’s market share increase by some margin.

Working life at uSwitch was all very different from what it was like at Top10.com. There was suddenly about 100 more employees working alongside us but rarely worked together as all product teams were very much siloed so we were all still working together just in a much larger office which very nice and was kitted out with what you would expect from an umbrella company, such as Table football, table tennis table etc.

Over time it was becomming more apparent that our new owners, Forward, were looking to sell uSwitch after about 2 years of ownership of which we were then sold to Lloyds Development Capital who are another private equity investor who saw an opportunity to get a good return on their investment.

This was our second acquisition in as many years and this came with a lot of change, our own new office space, whole new rebrand and a lot more room for marketing opportunities such as TV advertising, something at this time we hadn’t really explored too much due to the sheer cost of doing so.

This is where probably the most change happened though, we lost a few core employees and it was then when it was decided that the team was going to be split into two, where one team would focus on Broadband comparison and the other on Mobilephone comparison making them 2 distinct products, but weirdly still connected from a supplier point of view.

It felt we had quite a lot of freedom when during this time, there was lots of collaboration between teams, lots of ideas and user testing but not much actually changed on the site due to not affecting the business objectives as it was clear that again we were probably going to be sold once Lloyds Development Capital had got their investment back and some.

This moves us on to our third acquisition by ZPG, who own the biggest online estate agent, Zoopla and other companies such as Prime Location.

Out of all the acquisitions so far this seems to be the most natural fit considering the nature of ZPG which is all about offering services for the home and I don’t think we’ll be sold again as I can’t really see anyone else really who could offer more.

As you might imagine after all this time, most of the original team at Top10.com have moved on to other jobs but there still a few of us remaining working on the same product after all this time.

We are still evolving the website but again do have to keep in mind business objectives as always, especially now as we are apart of a Publicly traded company but we are able to explore a lot more due to the size of the company and the traffic it brings with it.