British teenage whiz strikes deal with Yahoo - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

British teenage whiz strikes deal with Yahoo

Posted: Updated:
Nick D'Aloisio. Image AP Nick D'Aloisio. Image AP

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 computer skills were self-taught, explaining that he started by mastering movie-making software before tackling programming languages.     

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 computer science 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 news content into attractive little blocks of text that are useful for the small screens of smartphones.        

D'Aloisio said he was thrilled to be working for a "classic Internet company" - 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.      

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."     

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.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Are background checks enough for Florida teachers?

    Are background checks enough for Florida teachers?

    Friday, April 18 2014 7:41 PM EDT2014-04-18 23:41:35 GMT

    In an effort to weed out potential perverts, Florida law requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks before school districts hire employees that will have any contact with children.

    In an effort to weed out potential perverts, Florida law requires fingerprinting and criminal background checks before school districts hire employees that will have any contact with children.


  • Pasco mix-up sends registration notices to wrong drivers

    Pasco mix-up sends registration notices to wrong drivers

    Friday, April 18 2014 6:02 PM EDT2014-04-18 22:02:51 GMT
    The vehicle registration information of hundreds of drivers in Pasco County were sent to the wrong person in a mix-up that led to the firing of a contractor.
    The vehicle registration information of hundreds of drivers in Pasco County were sent to the wrong person in a mix-up that led to the firing of a contractor.
  • Flushable wipes, not so flushable says Tampa's wastewater officials

    Flushable wipes, not so flushable says Tampa's wastewater officials

    Friday, April 18 2014 3:52 PM EDT2014-04-18 19:52:20 GMT
    Personal wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, flushable wipes. They are all designed to help us deal with delicate issues. But the wipes themselves are actually pretty sturdy and increasingly local water systems are finding they are creating costly problems.
    Personal wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, flushable wipes. They are all designed to help us deal with delicate issues. But the wipes themselves are actually pretty sturdy and increasingly local water systems are finding they are creating costly problems.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Captain of sunken SKorean ferry, 2 crew arrested

    Captain of sunken SKorean ferry, 2 crew arrested

    Saturday, April 19 2014 4:22 PM EDT2014-04-19 20:22:12 GMT
    The captain of the ferry that sank off South Korea, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into...
    The captain of the ferry that sank off South Korea, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody,...
  • Creeping landslide devouring part of Wyoming town

    Creeping landslide devouring part of Wyoming town

    Saturday, April 19 2014 3:43 PM EDT2014-04-19 19:43:28 GMT
    A sudden lurch in a creeping landslide in the northwest Wyoming resort town of Jackson split a house in two and forced workers to abandon efforts to stabilize the hillside.
    No one can say when the mountainside collapsing into this Wyoming resort town will give way. But it appears increasingly likely that when it does, it's going to take a piece of Jackson with it.
  • At barricades, Ukraine insurgents await Easter

    At barricades, Ukraine insurgents await Easter

    Saturday, April 19 2014 3:22 PM EDT2014-04-19 19:22:02 GMT
    Russia's foreign ministry on Saturday promised it would offer strong assistance to Ukraine to overcome its crisis, but emphasized that the ultimate responsibility for reducing tensions lies with Ukrainians...
    Pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine on Saturday prepared to celebrate Orthodox Easter at barricades outside government offices seized in nearly a dozen cities, despite an international agreement to disarm and free the...
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.