Errol Damelin

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Errol Damelin
Born (1969-08-23) 23 August 1969 (age 49)
South Africa
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town
Boston University
OccupationEntrepreneur and early-stage technology investor
Known forFounding and being an early backer of PurpleBricks, TransferWise, Skurt, VivaReal, Thread and CityMapper.
Home townLondon

Errol Damelin (born 23 August 1969) is a South African-born, Israeli entrepreneur and early-stage technology investor. He was the founder and CEO and later Chairman of Wonga, an internet company that gained notoriety for charging extremely high interest on short-term loans.[1]

Early life[edit]

Errol Damelin grew up in a Jewish family in Klerksdorp, a small town in rural South Africa, where his father was a country doctor who later specialised as an anaesthesiologist. He went on to attend the University of Cape Town where he studied Business Science and Law and took up numerous leadership positions, including winning election to the UCT Students Representative Council in 1991. He was politically active and associated with the left leaning non-racial and anti-apartheid NUSAS students grouping during the years immediately preceding the end of apartheid in South Africa. He was detained at least once while a student for protesting against the apartheid government policy of detention without trial.[citation needed]

Following his graduation in 1992 he emigrated to Israel and then completed a Masters of Science in Management from Boston University.

Personal life[edit]

Damelin lives in London and has five children.[citation needed]


Damelin began his career working as a corporate finance banker at an Israeli investment bank that later merged into Israel Discount Bank.[2]

In 1997 Damelin left banking to make an impact as an entrepreneur and become part of the founding team at Barzelan. At the time, a high tech producer of speciality steel wire based in Beit Shemesh, Israel,[3] which grew to export to over a dozen countries.

In 2000, Damelin founded Supply Chain Connect, an award winning[citation needed] cloud based supply chain software company in London, United Kingdom. The company pioneered what's become the ubiquitous sharing of supply chain collaboration data via the Internet. Supply Chain Connect listed customers such as Dow Chemicals, DuPont, Phelps Dodge, General Cable, Mondi Packaging and Corning. He sold the business in 2005 to ChemConnect for an undisclosed amount

In 2007, Damelin founded, a financial technology business that provided web- and mobile-based short term loans in the UK and later in over a dozen countries. Wonga is regarded as the earliest of fintech companies. Damelin and his co-founder Jonty Hurwitz, conceived of and deployed the world's first fully automated, real-time risk decisioning system together with a breakthrough 'slider' user interface. Under their stewardship, and together with early investor, Chairman and close mentor Robin Klein, Wonga grew to one of the UK's most well-recognised brands [reference] and successful companies. It sponsored premier league football teams Blackpool F.C. and Newcastle United F.C., where is purchased the naming rights to the historical home ground and promptly handed the naming back to the fans, renaming it St James' Park. The company had grown from a standing start to revenues of [£300 million] and over 500 staff in 2013, his last year as Wonga CEO. The company had. launched a number of new products and services including Everline (formerly Wonga for Business), which was designed to provide short-term cash flow solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses[4] and Damelin lead the acquisition of Germany-based BilPay as part of its international expansion. Wonga came under pressure from the media amidst allegations of exploitation of the most vulnerable in society. A few weeks after he stepped down, Wonga was required by the Financial Conduct Authority to offer about £2.6 million in compensation to customers for poor historic debt collection practices, including sending fake solicitor letters to customers. It later surfaced[citation needed] that their practices were industry standard and that most UK utilities and banks had long been using similar approaches to collection. Damelin always called for better regulation of the consumer lending sector and more transparency in the wider financial services industry within the United Kingdom.[5] The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) was responsible for regulating the industry during Damelin's tenure building the business. From April 2014, responsibility for consumer lending companies moved to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), a change Damelin welcomed. In a statement published in The Guardian newspaper,[citation needed] he disclosed that he felt no moral personal issues relating to Wonga's criticised trading ethics because credit can be an important force for good when transparent and fair and Wonga's customers were overwhelmingly happy with and supportive of the company.

Financial interests[edit]

Damelin is a major shareholder in, owning 16.8m shares through Castle Bridge Ventures, an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands.[6]


Damelin received a number of entrepreneurial awards.

  • Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, 2011[7]
  • The Guardian’s Digital Entrepreneur of the Year, 2011[8][9]
  • Ruban d’Honneur in the RSM International Entrepreneur of the Year category of the European Business Awards, 2009[citation needed]
  • Founder of the Year, Founders Forum 2012[10]
  • Credit Suisse Entrepreneur of the year at the National Business Awards, South East, 2008
  • Digital Entrepreneur of the Year (Digital Entrepreneur Awards), 2010[11]
  • Entrepreneur of the Year (Growing Business Awards), 2010[12]
  • Founder of the Year (Tech Crunch – The Europa's), 2010[13]

Wonga is also ranked in the Sunday Times Tech Track Top Three,[citation needed] with 2012 seeing the organisation being awarded "fastest growing company" at the Media Momentum awards in Berlin.[citation needed]


Damelin is active in Jewish charities, and has appeared on panels and discussions for World Jewish Relief and Jewish Care.[14][15]

Damelin has also been an ambassador for Charity: Water, the New York-based charity that builds wells to provide sustainable, clean water in Africa and Asia. He ran the Antarctic Ice marathon in 2012 where he raised substantial funds for the charity.

Founders Pledge: In 2015, Damelin was listed as a founding member of the group of technology entrepreneurs who pledged 2% of the equity in their companies to philanthropic causes.


  1. ^ Rupert Jones. "Wonga cuts cost of borrowing, but interest rate still 1,509% | Money". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  2. ^ Wonga chief speaks to the JC
  3. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  4. ^ Andrew Cave (13 May 2012). "Wonga's Ice-cool chief Errol Damelin can take the heat". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  5. ^ James Quinn (30 June 2013). "Wonga boss Errol Damelin: it's time to push the bad guys out of payday loans". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  6. ^ "Wonga sets £1.2bn target" by Simon Duke in The Sunday Times, Business section, 10 November 2013, p. 2.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Megas Digital Innovation awards 2011: Winners". The Guardian. 25 March 2011. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Megas Digital Innovation awards 2012: Errol Damelin". The Guardian. 19 October 2011. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 August 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2017.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Winners of the 2017 Digital Entrepreneur Awards". Digital Entrepreneur Awards. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  12. ^ "The 2010 Growing Business Awards". Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  13. ^ Butcher, Mike. "The Europas European Startup Awards 2010 – The Winners and Finalists". TechCrunch. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  14. ^ "The JC Profile: Errol Damelin, payday loan king". Jewish Chronicle. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  15. ^ Sandy Rashty (3 October 2013). "Jewish Care attacked over Wonga appearance". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 25 June 2014.

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