Gigaom

Meet Nick D’Aloisio, 17, Who Just Sold His Startup for Millions


Nick D'Aloisio, founder of Summly, poses for a photograph in London, U.K., on Mar. 26, 2013

Photograph by Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

Nick D'Aloisio, founder of Summly, poses for a photograph in London, U.K., on Mar. 26, 2013

Nick D’Aloisio just agreed to sell his mobile news-reading startup Summly to Yahoo! for a rumored $30 million—which wouldn’t be so unusual, except D’Aloisio is 17 years old. And while many seem to assume that the young entrepreneur will take his windfall and flee the faded Internet portal as soon as possible, D’Aloisio says he has no intention of departing. He wants to stay at Yahoo and help the company capitalize on its strengths to return to greatness.

The young Brit created Summly to help people consume news content on mobile devices—something a number of others are focusing on as well, including San Francisco-based Circa. D’Aloisio’a app creates machine-generated summaries of news articles, and D’Aloisio says in a phone call from London that he wants to see what Yahoo can do by applying the same kind of algorithmic approach to some of the company’s other news and entertainment content:

“It’s going to be a really fun journey. To see where we can take our technology, with Yahoo’s focus on mobile under Marissa Mayer, will be really exciting. … There is so much opportunity to take these daily habits like weather, news, stocks, and sports and use technologies like Summly to really turn them into an A-star experience. And I want to be there for as long as I feel is necessary to get Summly and Yahoo really doing well with mobile.”

Although Yahoo has been criticized by many (including us) for being too large and slow to adapt to the new age of digital content, D’Aloisio says he is excited to join the company and thinks that Yahoo under Marissa Mayer has a chance to be great again:

“Definitely, with the approach they are taking at the moment: They’re moving at light speed, and it’s really exciting to be joining the company at this stage because there’s so much opportunity in the next 12 to 24 months to take technologies like Summly and the other assets they have—like the newsroom and all of this content—and take it to the larger mainstream.”

The Summly founder says that while many see Yahoo as an also-ran, he thinks the company still has a chance to take advantage of its millions of users:

“Yahoo to me, as the founder of a company, is one of the biggest opportunities you could have; it’s one of those classic internet companies. … The fact is that they have massive leverage in the industry, they have hundreds of millions of people coming to their content every month, and it’s really exciting to be building for that scale. That’s the exciting thing: It’s the scale that Yahoo brings—and that user base—that I really want to build products for.”

D’Aloisio also admits he’s surprised at how something that began as a hobby has turned out—and at how much he has accomplished while so young:

“It’s a surreal journey. I guess I always saw this as a hobby; it’s just a passion of mine. And the fact that it’s [resulted in] an acquisition is something I never expected … and it wouldn’t have been possible without Horizons Ventures and Li Ka-shing, who took a gamble on me as a teenager. I really owe it to them and to everyone who has been by my side supporting me.”

The young entrepreneur says he’s had a number of learning experiences—including one described in a Gizmodo post from 2011 entitled, “How I Made a 15-Year-Old App Developer Cry”—but adds that it has been “a really incredible journey” and that he is looking forward to the next chapter with Marissa Mayer and Yahoo. One thing is for sure: If everyone at the company were as eager as D’Aloisio seems to be, Yahoo would have no reason to fear the future.

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