Meet Nick D’Aloisio, the 17-year-old entrepreneur Yahoo! just made a millionaire

26 Mar 2013

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Nick D'Aloisio at LeWeb London 2012. Photo by Kmeron via Wikimedia Commons

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British-Australian Nick D’Aloisio, born in 1995 and student at King’s College School in London, has just seen the company he founded snapped up by Yahoo! for a rumoured US$30m. Not bad for a teenage entrepreneur.

D’Aloisio got his hands on his first computer – a Mac laptop – at the age of nine and by the age of 12 he had taught himself to code and had moved on to developing apps.

Trimit, which he developed at age 15, was his fourth app. The news summarising app for the iPhone used an analytical tool to condense online articles into just 1,000, 500 or 140 characters. Launched in March 2011, the app quickly gained more than 100,000 downloads and was featured as Apple’s No 1 staff favourite in more than 100 countries in August 2011.

The success of Trimit caught the attention of Li Ka-Shing who, at the time, was the world’s 11th wealthiest person (he has now climbed to eighth) according to Forbes. Ka-Shing’s venture capital firm Horizons Ventures had previously invested in technology successes like Facebook, Skype, Spotify and Siri, and he now wanted to invest in D’Aloisio.

World’s youngest VC-funded entrepreneur

On receiving US$300,000 from Horizons Ventures and becoming the youngest tech entrepreneur to receive venture capital funding, D’Aloisio set about refining and redesigning Trimit, which was relaunched in December 2011 as Summly. Just like Trimit, Summly summarised web content, powered by natural language processing and machine learning. The clever app could even detect the content genre and apply different metrics to different types.

Summly iPhone app icon

Summly iPhone app icon

The first version of Summly was really just a prototype, though it attracted more than 200,000 downloads. In November last year, Summly received further backing of US$1m, again from Ka-Shing and Horizons Ventures, as well as celebrities Yoko Ono, Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Fry, and D’Aloisio set about creating version 2.0 with an assembled team of investors, advisers, technologist and backers.

The second version of Summly arrived on his 17th birthday and delivered more than 90m summaries in a few short months.

Since being labelled the internet’s new ‘boy genius’ by GigaOm’s Om Malik in December 2011, D’Aloisio has appeared in Forbes’ 30 under 30 and the Evening Standard’s Top 1,000 Londoners, and received a Spirit of London Award for Entrepreneur of the Year 2012, while Summly received an Intuitive Touch award in Apple’s Best Apps of 2012.

Yesterday, it was announced that Summly would be acquired by Yahoo! in a deal expected to close in Q2 at a cost of US$30m to the internet giant. Summly is no longer available from the App Store and the promised Android app will never be, but the technology will soon appear in multiple Yahoo! products.

Meanwhile, D’Aloisio, who is now Yahoo!’s youngest employee, is surprised by his own success saying, “I would have never imagined being in this position so suddenly,” in a final post on the Summly blog yesterday.

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Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com