Wonga: Errol Damelin and Jonty Hurwitz
Errol Damelin on the unexpected growth and overwhelming response to his instant online loans company
Founders: Errol Damelin and Jonty Hurwitz
Company name: Wonga
Location: London and Ukraine
Date launched: 2006
Staff numbers: 37
Tell us what your business does
Wonga is a ground-breaking internet lender, offering consumers small, short-term loans with unparalleled speed and convenience.
We’ve developed sophisticated risk and decision systems which enable us to offer a fully automated and real-time application and approval process.
Our mission is to provide consumers with cash on demand and we’re committed to doing this in a responsible way.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I looked at the vast credit market in the UK and felt that new technology could be used to create a compelling alternative to existing loan providers. Banks and other established lenders are weighed down by tradition, old technology and complexity.
So I launched Wonga, with my co-founder Jonty Hurwitz, to solve the inconvenience and inflexibility which consumers faced whenever they needed some short-term cash in a hurry.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I became aware of the exciting possibilities of developing ideas and having the courage to take risks while helping others as an investment banker. I’ve always believed life’s what you make it and business success can be yours if you have the right ideas, attitude and a bit of luck!
What planning did you do before you started up?
We started by looking at existing financial service models and working out how we could make radical improvements. We then tried very hard to find existing technical solutions, to enable us to create our vision, but none existed.
We therefore invested a lot of time, money and creativity in developing our own technology from scratch.
How did you raise the money?
The Credit Crunch has meant it’s not easy to get funding at the moment, but if you have the right ideas, vision and approach the challenge with solid rationale for your success then you can do it. We have venture capital backing from Balderton Capital, TAG and Kreos Capital.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them?
Our first major challenge was developing our own technology in order to offer our service, because off-the-shelf-solutions simply didn’t exist.
No-one had done what we now do, so it was a case of starting from scratch and building each component we required to offer real-time loan processing. The second biggest challenge was probably coping with the speed of our initial growth!
We launched our beta site in October last year, hoping to generate a handful of applications each day to begin with. It wasn’t long, however, before word got around and we were processing thousands of loans each month.
That required a lot of hard work, flexibility and dedication by the entire team to ensure we maintained a high level of service while making continual improvements along the way.
What about staff?
I only recruit world class people so it’s been an ongoing focus of mine to ensure we build a team that’s motivated, experienced and creative. Because of our rapid growth during beta testing we’ve had to build the team fast as well.
So we currently have 37 people. It’s a challenge for any successful company to get the balance right between business needs and staffing levels, but getting the right people and then motivating them to succeed is a personal passion of mine.
What has your growth been like?
Our initial growth took almost everyone by surprise and we helped tens of thousands of customers during our beta phase. We’re well ahead of our business plan but no-one’s resting on their laurels!
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
What home life?