Benjamin Freund is the co-founder and CEO of GoSwitch.com.au, an online electricity comparison service based in Melbourne and operating Australia-wide. He has a professional background in advertising, communications and online ventures.
Ben co-founded the business in 2007 after experiencing firsthand the difficulties associated with moving house and moving utility bills. The company has changed the way hundreds of thousands of Australians assess their energy needs and it has successfully delivered hundreds of millions of dollars in savings to Australian consumers since its establishment.
…a solution that offers the most convenience to consumers always does well
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
The idea, which I developed with Leora Freund, was to provide consumers with free access to a genuine, trustworthy price comparison service online that would allow consumers to compare electricity and gas offers from all providers easily and quickly. This model would allow ordinary consumers to find a cheaper plan, tailor it to their specific needs and ultimately save money on their utility bills. The electricity and gas markets are extremely complex which makes it difficult for consumers to find the right energy solution for them. The arrival of a dynamic system such as GoSwitch.com.au put the power back in the hands of the consumer and made it easier than ever before to find the right plan and switch to it.
Please explain your business model.
Our revenue model is simple: we charge the power companies a low, flat fee for every customer they win through GoSwitch.com.au. The revenue model is aligned with our mission to champion the cause of consumers. It is the power companies that deliver the greatest value to consumers that win new customers. These providers ultimately fund the system and make it available for free to the public.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
Right now I am working on an innovative new technology platform that will reward our users and their friends. I have no idea how the market will respond to it but it is based on three things that appeal to me: technology, democratising the marketplace and empowering consumers.
I make ideas happen by putting together a team that covers IT, business processing, operations and marketing. We then take the idea from concept to execution and we usually do it quickly. Before proceeding with a new idea I always consult a number of trusted advisers including key shareholders and IT experts.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day always starts with breakfast with my kids and sometimes taking them to kindergarten. The rest of the day usually consists of scheduled meetings and phone calls with the individuals that play a key role in our company. I do most of my work from a home office. It allows me to focus, redirect commuting time towards productive work and spend more time with the kids when they come home.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
I think that starting a business is challenging anywhere. You have to raise capital, develop a good product or service, find the right the people and overcome doubt and risk. In Australia, consumer facing businesses have to manage a considerable regulatory risk. The regulatory burden on businesses in Australia has been increasing. New companies need to be cautious and budget resources for legal advice and comprehensive insurance.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
I can give this idea for free: a solution that offers the most convenience to consumers always does well. I was told that when I started working in advertising after university and it has always been true.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry at the moment?
One Big Switch introduced marketing innovation by mobilising energy consumers through mass PR campaigns. I haven’t seen that done before and it was very effective.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I don’t really think businesses can lead social change. I believe that the right way to run a business is to start the way you want to finish, lead by example and deal with people decently. Businesses who do that contribute to prosperity and an ethical environment in which we all live. I believe that business leaders should be more outspoken about economic matters but the reality is that many don’t want to aggravate government authorities, so their voice isn’t heard and the community is poorer for it.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
I would recommend GoSwitch.com.au, it is the best energy comparison site around! And it works. For news and current affairs I really like the Wall Street Journal and my absolute favourite is youtube.com
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
Three Australians you should follow on Twitter? Try your top three competitors. You might be surprised by the extent people forget themselves and how much they reveal on Twitter.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
We are always ready to consider new partners. Our shareholders include some of the most distinguished business people in Australia and we would consider anyone who can add value to our team.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about start-ups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
I am still trying to figure out how to make social media a part of our marketing mix that pays for itself. Has anyone had success with that?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
Favourite café? That’s tough. I live in Carlton and near Fitzroy. There are so many great cafes. Campos in Carlton has been a loyal friend for a long time.
Favourite restaurant? I love sushi at Melbourne’s Nobu.
Favourite bar? I’ve got little kids so I haven’t seen the inside of a cool bar in a while.
We thought it would be cool to crowd source an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?
Breakfast with Ben. On me of course.