Teenager, who just made US$30mil, tells other teenagers ‘if you have a tech idea just do it’; At 17, App Builder Rockets to Riches From Yahoo Deal

Updated: Tuesday March 26, 2013 MYT 12:35:40 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

Updated March 25, 2013, 8:21 p.m. ET

At 17, App Builder Rockets to Riches From Yahoo Deal

By AMIR EFRATI

Seventeen-year-old Nick D’Aloisio is taking some time off from school in London, where he lives with his parents. He will let mom and dad help manage his money.

Those are the decisions of a newly minted teenage millionaire.

Mr. D’Aloisio has sold the free newsreader app he began developing at age 15 to Yahoo Inc., YHOO +0.52%which announced on Monday it bought Summly without disclosing a price. A person familiar with the situation said Yahoo paid tens of millions of dollars for the company.

Not bad for a team that will bring just two other employees to Yahoo and generates no revenue.

Plenty of teenage entrepreneurs have built companies that later have success, but very few strike it rich so quickly.

Yahoo was attracted to Summly’s core technology for automatically summarizing news articles. The technology, which included an algorithm for deriving the summaries, was created with help from SRI International, a Silicon Valley research-and development firm that has an artificial-intelligence lab and has an ownership stake in the startup.

Behind the app was Mr. D’Aloisio, who taught himself how to create computer programs at age 12, and previously created several apps, including Facemood, which analyzed a person’s Facebook FB -2.33% account to determine their mood, and a service that helps people discover new music.

In 2011, Mr. D’Aloisio founded his company, at the time called Trimit. He redesigned the app to automatically boil news articles down to 400-word summaries and re-launched it as Summly in late 2012 with help from SRI.

To help with the launch, Mr. D’Aloisio raised funding from Zynga Inc. ZNGA -0.29%CEO Mark Pincus and the investment firm owned by Hong Kong business mogul Li Ka-shing, who Mr. D’Aloisio said “contacted me out of the blue” after Trimit began to receive accolades.

That opened the door to other high-profile investors, who collectively gave him a total of $1.5 million in funding, including actors Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Fry. Besides its effectiveness in summarizing content, Summly has drawn attention for its slick design. The colorful app’s menu features different types of news content that are refreshed by swiping them to the side.

Mr. D’Aloisio became a minor tech celebrity, and his efforts garnered numerous print-media articles and TV appearances.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” he said of the past few months. “I didn’t expect this to happen after launching [Summly] in November.”

Mr. D’Aloisio, who lives with his parents and younger brother near the southwest London suburb of Wimbledon, said he will stay at home for the time being and remain on a kind of sabbatical from King’s College School while continuing to take some “exams outside of school” in order to prepare for eventual university enrollment. He said he is planning to study humanities rather than computer science.

Mr. D’Aloisio said his parents are Australian and that he spent ages one to seven there before returning to the U.K., where his father works as an analyst for a commodities division of Morgan Stanley MS -0.95% . His mother is a lawyer.

He said he doesn’t have any special plans for the funds he will earn from the acquisition other than to work with his parents to manage it.

He also said it would be “reasonable” to spend a few years at Yahoo but added that “I have no limits on time. I want to go in with open eyes and try to innovate.”

Last fall, when Mr. D’Aloisio was seeking financing, he said “a number of companies approached us” about a possible acquisition. Mr. D’Aloisio was attracted to Yahoo because of its “scale” and Chief Executive Marissa Mayer‘s “real focus to beautify content when you’re on a mobile device.”

The deal is at least the sixth startup acquisition since Mr. Mayer became Yahoo’s CEO last year. Yahoo said it is shutting down the Summly app, which was downloaded less than one million times, and incorporating its technology into other Yahoo services.

Adam Cahan, a Yahoo senior vice president, said in an interview on Monday that Mr. D’Aloisio was an “exceptional” talent and that Yahoo did “extensive” testing of Summly’s algorithm, or mathematical formula, for condensing news articles.

Mr. D’Aloisio has met with a number of Valley luminaries, including Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design Jonathan Ive, according to people familiar with the conservations.

Other investors in Summly, Mr. D’Aloisio said, include Wendi Murdoch, wife of Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive and chairman of Wall Street Journal owner News Corp.,NWSA -0.20% which signed a deal with the startup so that its content could easily be integrated with the app.

Ms. Mayer has said the company is looking to create services for mobile devices that fit into people’s “daily habits.” She said she is focused on increasing the amount of time people spend on Yahoo, which in time will lead to greater revenue.

The company also is in talks to buy a controlling stake in France Télécom SA’sFTE.FR -2.40% online-video site Dailymotion, which is valued at around $300 million, according to people familiar with the talks. If the deal materializes, it would be Ms. Mayer’s first major acquisition since taking over the Internet pioneer last year.

Yahoo, which generates the bulk of its $5 billion in annual revenue from selling ad space on its websites and apps, also has been examining numerous advertising-technology firms that it could snap up, people familiar with the matter have said.

The move by Yahoo into news-reading technology for mobile devices comes less than a year after the company shut down its Livestand app, which it created in 2011 to compete with companies such as Flipboard Inc. and Alphonso Labs Inc., the maker of the Pulse app.

“There is a consumer behavior around reading and finding information and articles on mobile devices, and lots of people have innovated in this space,” Mr. Cahan said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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