There was a stunned silence at TechCrunch Disrupt London today after panel moderator Ryan Lawler asked a group of top European venture capitalists about Wonga, the controversial short-term lending company.
Wonga was recently forced to write off the loans of 330,000 of its customers, a humiliating step-down for a company often heralded as one of the UK’s most exciting tech companies.
The writing off of hundreds of thousands of loans isn’t the only problem that Wonga has faced, though. Earlier this year the company was caught sending fake legal letters to its customers and fined £2.6 million.
So when TechCrunch writer Ryan Lawler asked the assembled VCs what had gone wrong, there was a lengthy silence. Philippe Botteri of Accel Partners, one of Wonga’s investors, sat silently when asked to comment on Wonga’s recent problems. Daniel Waterhouse, a VC at Balderton Capital, another of Wonga’s investors offered some vague comments about the company “moving forward.”
But Eileen Burbidge, one of the VCs on the panel who did begin to explain what happened at Wonga, later tweeted a screenshot of the reaction to the silence. Yes, people noticed just how awkward it was.