Saturday 19 April 2014

Technology reveals a hard edge behind the romantic image

THE technology world can be a strange place. It is an industry, particularly when it comes to start-ups, that talks about "disruption" and "taking on the big boys" such as Microsoft and Apple.

Perhaps the stories about Google and Facebook starting off in college dorms adds to the romantic image of starting a company at 25 and being a billionaire by 30.

There is a hard edge to the industry, though. We have seen it with how Facebook pushes user privacy back when there is a user outcry.

It continued this week at the 'The Europas'. One of the continent's most prestigious technology awards nights, the event is aimed at start-ups across Europe.

Most of these businesses are billed as doing "incredible" work and are "fascinating" companies. The subtext is clear: these are the good guys and we should be proud of them.

It was with surprise then, that The Punt noted the pay day loans company Wonga won the award for best heavyweight start-up, given the nature of its business.

The UK firm doesn't operate here but that hasn't made it any less notorious.

The company has been the subject of much press coverage in the UK that has focused on its lending methods, its APR of 4,241pc, and its alleged harassment of debtors.

That is not to say it is anything other than a legitimate business, but it is hardly the "exciting" start-up the industry usually talks about.

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