One of Yahoo's newest employees is a 17-year-old high school student in Britain. As of Monday, he is one of its richest, too.
That student, Nick D'Aloisio, a programming whiz who wasn't even born when Yahoo was founded in 1994, on Monday sold his news-reading app, Summly, to Yahoo for a sum said to be in the tens of millions of dollars. Yahoo said it would incorporate his algorithmic invention, which takes long-form stories and shortens them for readers using smartphones, in its own mobile apps, with Nick's help.
"I've still got a year and a half left at my high school," he said in a phone interview Monday, but -- to partly abide by the company's new and much-debated policy that bars working from home -- he will make arrangements to test out of his classes and work from the Yahoo office in London.
Nick, who declined comment on the price Yahoo paid (the technology-oriented website All Things D pegged the price at about $30 million), described himself not as the majority owner of Summly, but as its largest shareholder. Summly's other investors, improbably enough, included Wendi Murdoch, Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono. The most important was Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, whose investment fund backed Nick's idea early on, before it was even called Summly.
"They took a gamble on me when I was a 15-year-old," Nick said, providing seed financing that let him hire employees and lease office space. The fund read about his early-stage app on the Silicon Valley news site TechCrunch, found his email address and startled him with a message expressing interest.
Nick's father, a commodities trader, and mother, a lawyer, had no special tech knowledge but nurtured their son's fascination, and he started coding at age 12.
Eventually, he decided to develop an app with what he calls an "automatic summarization algorithm" that "can take pre-existing long-form content and summarize it."
Summly officially came online in November. By December, Nick was talking to Yahoo and other suitors.
Yahoo said that while the Summly app would be shut down, "we will acquire the technology, and you'll see it come to life throughout Yahoo's mobile experiences soon."