Business News

Published: Tuesday March 26, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 24, 2013 MYT 1:58:42 PM

Teenager, who just made US$30mil, tells other teenagers 'if you have a tech idea just do it'

LONDON: Got a tech idea and want to make a fortune before you're out of your teens? Just do it, is the advice of the London schoolboy who's just sold his smartphone news app to Yahoo for a reported US$30 million.

The money is there, just waiting for clever new moves, said 17-year-old Nick D'Aloisio, who can point to a roster of early backers for his Summly app that includes Yoko Ono and Rupert Murdoch.

"If you have a good idea, or you think there's a gap in the market, just go out and launch it because there are investors across the world right now looking for companies to invest in," he told Reuters in a telephone interview late on Monday.

The terms of the sale, four months after Summly was launched for the iPhone, have not been disclosed and D'Aloisio, who is still studying for school exams while joining Yahoo as its youngest employee, was not saying. But technology blog AllThingsD said Yahoo paid roughly $30 million.

D'Aloisio said he was the majority owner of Summly and would now invest the money from the sale, though his age imposes legal limits for now on his access to it.

"I'm happy with that and working with my parents to go through that whole process," he said.

D'Aloisio, who lives in the prosperous London suburb of Wimbledon, highlights the support of family and school, which gave him time off, but also, critically, the ideas that came with enthusiastic financial backers.

He had first dreamt up the mobile software while revising for a history exam two years ago, going on to create a prototype of the app that distils news stories into chunks of text readable on small smartphone screens.

He was inspired, he said, by the frustrating experience of trawling through Google searches and separate websites to find information when revising for the test.

Trimit was an early version of the app, which is powered by an algorithm that automatically boils down articles to about 400 characters. It caught the eye of Horizons Ventures, a venture capital firm owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, which put in $250,000.

That investment attracted other celebrity backers, among them Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher, British broadcaster Stephen Fry, artist Ono, the widow of Beatle John Lennon, and News Corp media mogul Murdoch.

That all added up to maximum publicity when Summly launched in November 2012, but the backers brought more than just cash for an app that has been downloaded close to a million times.

"It's been super-exciting, (the investors) found out about it in 2012 once the original investment from Li Ka-shing had gone public," said D'Aloisio. "They all believed in the idea, but they all offered different experiences to help us out."

His business has worked with around 250 content publishers, he said, such as News Corp's Wall Street Journal. People reading the summaries can easily click through to the full article, driving traffic to newspaper websites.

"The great deal about joining Yahoo is that they have a lot of publishers, they have deals with who we can work with now," D'Aloisio said.

He taught himself to code at age 12 after Apple's App Store was launched, creating several apps including Facemood, a service which analysed sentiment to determine the moods of Facebook users, and music discovery service SongStumblr.

He has started A-levels - English final school exams - in maths, physics and philosophy, and plans to continue his studies while also working at Yahoo's offices in London. He aims to go to university to study humanities.

Although he has created an app worth millions, D'Aloisio says he is not a stereotyped computer geek.

"I like playing sport," he said. "I'm a bit of a design enthusiast, and like spending time with my girlfriend and mates." - Reuters

Earlier report

Yahoo acquires mobile news start-up Summly

SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON Yahoo Inc has snapped up mobile news aggregator Summly, the latest in a string of small acquisitions intended to bolster the Web portal's mobile services.

Summly, founded by 17-year-old Nick D'Aloisio two years ago from his home in London, sorts news by topics in quick bites for smartphones.

The start-up works closely with News Corp and is backed by Chinese investor Li Ka-Shing and angel investors including actor Ashton Kutcher and artist Yoko Ono.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though technology blog AllThingsD reported that Yahoo paid roughly $30 million, citing anonymous sources.

D'Aloisio said Yahoo would use the technology that powers Summly to reinvent the delivery of information such as news, weather, stocks and finance for mobile devices.

"What I am excited about with Yahoo is under the new leadership of Marissa Mayer, it's a classic Internet company that has such a big opportunity," he told Reuters.

Yahoo said it will shut down the Summly app but will integrate the company's natural language processing and machine-learning technology across Yahoo's various online services, particularly Yahoo's line-up of mobile services.

Yahoo Chief Executive Mayer is stepping up the company's efforts to build online services for the smartphones and tablets that consumers increasingly use to access the Web. Yahoo has acquired a handful of small, mobile start-ups since Mayer took over in July, though the company has yet to do any large acquisitions.

Three Summly employees will join Yahoo as part of the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter, according to Yahoo Senior Vice President of Mobile and Emerging Products Adam Cahan. Summly founder D'Aloisio will remain in London and be Yahoo's youngest employee, Cahan told Reuters.

D'Aloisio, a pupil at King's College School, said he was unperturbed about moving from a start-up to multinational.

"I'm looking forward to it because they've built a really great environment for start-ups and founders," he said.

He said he planned to invest his multi-million pound windfall, although he added that due to his age, he "could not really touch it" yet.

Shares of Yahoo, which have surged roughly 50 percent since Mayer became CEO, rose 19 cents to $23.45 Monday afternoon. - Reuters

Tags / Keywords: News, Business

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