Nick D’Aloisio is Yahoo’s youngest employee, England’s newest millionaire, and is only getting started.
On Monday, Yahoo bought Summly, a mobile news app that was founded by the 17-year-old D’Aloisio, for about $30 million, according to All Things D. It was the latest move in CEO Marrisa Mayer’s effort to transform the floundering Internet giant into a nimble, mobile-first company. Yahoo may be seeing an investment in more than just a new technology; as All Things D’s Kara Swisher notes, D’Aloisio will be invaluable in helping Yahoo project a fresh image.
“Nick will be a great person to put in front of the media and consumers with Mayer to make Yahoo seem like it is a place that loves both entrepreneurs and mobile experiences, which in turn will presumably attract others like him,” one source told Swisher.
For his part, D’Aloisio seems excited to be a part of Yahoo’s makeover. “This is what I love,” he told Forbes. “You’re going to have hundreds of millions of people at your fingertips. As a startup you’re touching hundreds of thousands. At Yahoo it’s millions.”
“People are kind of underestimating how powerful it’s going to become and how much opportunity is there,” he told the New York Times.
Yahoo said it will shut down Summly, but will incorporate its technology into its own mobile offerings. D’Aloisio sounded eager to share his technology with Yahoo’s media partners: “The great deal about joining Yahoo is that they have a lot of publishers, they have deals with who we can work with now,” Reuters reported.
D’Aloisio’s fascination with computers began when he was 9, and he programmed his first iPhone app when he was 12, an experience he found transformative. “I had the same real estate (on the iTunes store) as EA Games. It was really democratized. The first day I put an app in the store, I made 79 pounds. To me, that was amazing,” he said in an interview with the Telegraph. After that, D’Aloisio started developing a new app every year over summer vacation — “a hobby that’s gone crazy,” as he described it.
D’Aloisio came up with an early version of Summly, then called Trimit, in the summer of 2011. The app broke down news articles into tweet-sized summaries, and it quickly gained attention from venture capitalists ranging from actor Ashton Kutcher to Yoko Ono to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.
“They took a gamble on me when I was a 15-year-old,” D’Aloisio told the Times. “It’s been super-exciting” he said in another interview with Reuters. “They all believed in the idea, but they all offered different experiences to help us out.”
Summly launched in November, and has been downloaded nearly a million times. It received critical praise, and Apple gave it a Best Apps of 2012 award for Intuitive Touch.
While D’Aloisio is still in high school, he’ll work in the company’s London office and won’t need an exemption from Yahoo’s new no-telecommuting policy. He has already worked out a sabbatical from his school and doesn’t attend classes, though he hopes to take the exams needed to graduate next year.
“Education is always there,” he told the Telegraph. “I can go back a year later, or five years later. In technology, you have a one-off chance to find a gap in the market and really go for it.”
D’Aloisio encourages other innovators to follow their dreams. “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.
Those Yahoo millions will remain in a bank account, out of touch for now, at least until he turns 18. “I’m happy with that and working with my parents to go through that whole process,” he told Reuters.
As for the future, D’Aloisio is keeping his options open. His contract with Yahoo only runs 18 months, according to All Things D, and he said he has Oxford in his sights. After that? “I see myself doing other companies,” he told the Telegraph. “In the Summly version of what I do in the next 20 years, this will only be the first half sentence.”
Reuters photo/Suzanne Plunkett