British teenage whiz strikes deal with Yahoo

Mar 26, 2013 by Raphael Satter
Nick d'Aloisio displays his mobile application Summly, as he poses for photographs after being interviewed by the Associated Press in London, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. One of Britain's youngest Internet entrepreneurs has hit the jackpot after selling his top selling mobile application Summly to search giant Yahoo. Seventeen year old Nick d'Aloisio, who dreamed up the idea for the content shortening program when he was studying for his exams, said he was surprised by the deal. As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo didn't disclose how much it is paying for Summly, although British newspapers suggested the deal's value at several million dollars. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

At 17, he's a tech whiz, he's rich—and he can even offer some advice on how to raise your kids. Teenage programmer Nick D'Aloisio's decision to sell his news application Summly to Yahoo for what's rumored to be a massive payout has turned him into a media sensation. The sale caps a short but successful career at Apple Inc.'s vast app store, where hundreds of thousands of pieces of software compete for the attention of smartphone and tablet users.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, D'Aloisio said his were self-taught, explaining that he started by mastering movie-making software before tackling .

He said his parents were "very enthusiastic and supportive." Asked what advice he'd give couples hoping to raise their own wunderkinds, he urged them to let their children explore their own paths—be it or drama.

"If there's a natural curiosity, that'll lead to, eventually, some success," the teenager said.

Summly is one of several apps that D'Aloisio has designed. It uses complex algorithms to automatically condense online into attractive little blocks of text that are useful for the small screens of smartphones.

Nick d'Aloisio poses for photographs after being interviewed by The Associated Press in London, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. One of Britain's youngest Internet entrepreneurs has hit the jackpot after selling his top selling mobile application Summly to search giant Yahoo. Seventeen year old Nick d'Aloisio, who dreamed up the idea for the content shortening program when he was studying for his exams, said he was surprised by the deal. As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo didn't disclose how much it is paying for Summly, although British newspapers suggested the deal's value at several million dollars. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

D'Aloisio said he was thrilled to be working for a "classic "—Yahoo! Inc. is older than he is—and he laughingly dismissed a reporter's suggestion that his friends might be jealous.

"All my friends have been very supportive," he said.

He noted that the publicity over Summly had been building for more than a year, meaning he and those close to him had had time to adjust to the outside attention.

As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo didn't disclose how much it is paying for Summly, although British newspapers suggested the deal's value at several million dollars. D'Aloisio had already received investment from several sources, including venture capitalist backer Li Ka-Shing.

Nick d'Aloisio poses for photographs after being interviewed by The Associated Press in London, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. One of Britain's youngest Internet entrepreneurs has hit the jackpot after selling his top selling mobile application Summly to search giant Yahoo. Seventeen year old Nick d'Aloisio, who dreamed up the idea for the content shortening program when he was studying for his exams, said he was surprised by the deal. As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo didn't disclose how much it is paying for Summly, although British newspapers suggested the deal's value at several million dollars. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Asked what he'll do with the payout, he responded with serious answers unbefitting of an adolescent. He said the money was being kept in a trust until he turns 18, and he didn't seem interested in talking about what he'd buy for himself for his next birthday.

"I'd like to keep it safe. Bank it .... If I was to do anything it'd be angel investing," said D'Aloisio, who is slim with dark brown hair and bears a passing resemblance to Josh Radnor, the actor who plays main character Ted in the TV sitcom "How I Met Your Mother."

The teen app expert said he was interested in automated technologies that could anticipate users' needs before they even reached for their smartphones—such as an app that downloads the day's news stories just before a user steps into a subway.

D'Aloisio said there were no copyright concerns about Summly, which works by running a statistical analysis of the text to guess which bits are the most relevant to cut the content down. Media companies such as New York-based News Corp. have collaborated on making their content more Summly-friendly, he said, arguing that shortening software would ultimately be a win-win for content providers.

"We're introducing their content to a new, younger demographic," he said. "You like the summary, you read the whole story; it increases publisher viewership."

Nick d'Aloisio displays his mobile application Summly, as he poses for photographs after being interviewed by the Associated Press in London, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. One of Britain's youngest Internet entrepreneurs has hit the jackpot after selling his top selling mobile application Summly to search giant Yahoo. Seventeen year old Nick d'Aloisio, who dreamed up the idea for the content shortening program when he was studying for his exams, said he was surprised by the deal. As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo didn't disclose how much it is paying for Summly, although British newspapers suggested the deal's value at several million dollars. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The technology isn't foolproof: He said the app sometimes has trouble shortening long-form or highbrow pieces, but he noted that humans, too, have trouble summarizing sprawling stories.

The deal announced Monday is Yahoo's fifth small acquisition in the past five months. All have been part of CEO Marissa Mayer's effort to attract more engineers with expertise in building services for smartphones and tablet computers, an increasingly important area of technology that she believes the Internet company had been neglecting.

Although the Yahoo acquisition won't close until later this spring, D'Aloisio said the Summly App will no longer be available. Its technology will return in other Yahoo products.

D'Aloisio will work for Yahoo in its London office—in part so that he can complete his high school exams. Two other Summly workers will join Yahoo at its Sunnyvale, California, headquarters. He said he eventually wants to attend university, perhaps to study philosophy.

"I haven't decided yet," he said.

Explore further: Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

5 /5 (5 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Yahoo buys startup run by 17-year-old entrepreneur

Mar 25, 2013

Yahoo is buying London startup Summly, the maker of a mobile application created by teenage entrepreneur seeking an easier way to read news stories and other content on the smaller screens of smartphones.

Yahoo! helps find smartphone 'apps'

Jun 16, 2011

Yahoo! has begun helping people navigate the sea of applications available for Apple iPhones or mobile gadgets powered by Google-backed Android software.

Yahoo! buys maker of personal recommendation app

Mar 20, 2013

Yahoo! on Wednesday announced that it has bought Jybe, the startup behind a smartphone application that makes local entertainment or dining recommendations based on what people like.

Recommended for you

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

2 hours ago

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

15 hours ago

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

US venture investments highest since 2001 (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into a growing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...