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Summly’s teenaged founder says he wants to help make Yahoo great again

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Nick D’Aloisio just agreed to sell his mobile news-reading startup Summly to Yahoo (s yhoo) for a rumored $30 million — which wouldn’t be that unusual, except for the fact that D’Aloisio is 17 years old. But while many seem to be assuming the young entrepreneur will take his windfall and flee the faded internet portal as soon as he possibly can, D’Aloisio said in an interview that he has no intention of doing this — on the contrary, he says he wants to stay and help Yahoo capitalize on its strengths and find a way to return it to greatness.

The young Brit created Summly to try and help solve the problem of consuming news content on a mobile device (something a number of others are focusing on as well, including San Francisco-based Circa). The app created machine-generated summaries of news articles, and D’Aloisio said 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.”

Yahoo has a chance, D’Aloisio says

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 said that he is excited about joining 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 said that while many see Yahoo as an also-ran, he thinks the company still has a chance to take advantage of the millions of users it has:

“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.”

A “surreal journey” at times

D’Aloisio also admitted that he was surprised at how something that began as a hobby has turned out, and how much he has accomplished at such a young age:

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

22 Responses to “Summly’s teenaged founder says he wants to help make Yahoo great again”

  1. John Doe

    I know everyone likes a teenage wunderkind story, but I feel I must rain on this particular parade.

    1. Aloisio did not code a single line of the App either under its original name of Trimit or the rebrand ‘Summly’

    2. The deal was not for $30 million, nothing like it. Those figures are being bandied about by the same people stage managing this PR stunt.

    3. Yahoo was already in complete control of the App prior to its relaunch as ‘Summly’. In fact the UI work was done in house.

    4. This entire charade was orchestrated by board level people at Yahoo to push a big product Yahoo has been working on: a social network aimed at Startups. The plan is for Yahoo to make a huge push with this and have stakes in thousands of projects at a very early stage.

    5. Aloisio was picked as the posterboy because of his mother’s connections with Yahoo, and because someone saw his failed Trimit App as an opportunity to craft a headline grabbing narrative. Trimit was redesigned as Summly only to lend some semblance of credibility to the ‘acquisition’. They are killing Summy immediately because aside from a slick UI it is almost completely useless as far as doing what is states.

    Our cretinous CEO involves the company in idiocy like this which will inevitably backfire rather than focusing on consolidating Yahoo’s product portfolio.

  2. triathlonphil

    Mathew – great post.

    You say “the young Brit created Summly to try and help solve the problem of consuming news content on a mobile device (something a number of others are focusing on as well, including San Francisco-based Circa).”

    Could you please list some of the other companies for me please?



  3. Altaf Boghani

    it takes a 17 year olds untarnished outlook on life that may make yahoo great. Nick, I could not tell you how proud a lot of people are of you and your enthusiasm for Yahoo. I would not listen to the naysayers who said Apple was dead and sold the stock at $19.
    Stay fresh, stay young, always.

  4. adalberto-cervantes-rodriguez

    Is Enron marking the end, the USA fell? Why is it related to IT technology?
    “The budget should be balance, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduces, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.” Cicero, 55 BC. Rome fell.
    We have learning since then, and of course we know that the Law of the Large Numbers can be applied in our capitalist economic case if someone wants to make us fell, but only one person is not possible. This is possible in the Cyber-attack with strategic control over the finance, accounting, and IT of the American 500 hundred Fortune Companies. That´s why American people prefers the commercial competition with Japan than with China, India., Mexico and allies; they do not follow business standard rules, and we have the Free Trade wars that are putting millions of people in extreme poverty, and rebounding again slavery. We have to be careful about no regulated investments like Forex because we can lose larger amount of money in minutes.
    The ERP can be part of it definitely, if we do not use mathematical models to increase productivity using well known techniques as the Activity Based Costing instead of that hiding fiscal and accounting numbers and cooking the books with it. We cannot forget the way we used to do businesses before ERP for not having the 7 signs of the apocalypse in the American businesses again, today working with global mafias.
    We have been reducing the use of industrial engineering to integrate scientifically the ERPs instead of making them really productive and efficient. At the same time business quality added is important as we know in this important process.
    As we see if we follow our business and economic principles and our character will be difficult to have USA fell like the Rome Imperium.

  5. I am a Yahoo user for almost a decade.
    It is in my best interest that Yahoo go ahead. I am a kind of stuck with it because I use yahoo for my business and to communicate with my network. Changing my email will cause disruption that I would like to avoid.

    First some good things about Yahoo
    I think Yahoo calendar is good enough and allow me to keep track of things maybe some synchronization with Outlook will be beneficial.

    Now some bad things
    However the email service is every day worse and worse. It is buggy, unproductive, and unpredictable. It is like somebody is paying the developers to make it the worse email in the universe.
    Contacting customer services is an ordeal. The customer service is so bad that I called them and somebody has the nerve to tell me that yahoo is a bad email provider and he recommend me to change my e-mail provider.
    The problem did not start with Marissa but it aggravated after she took the driver’s seat.

  6. Swannee1948

    Nick – ought to focus his energies on creating a strong competitor to Facebook. Facebook ( Mark Zuckerberg ) needs some very stiff competition.

  7. WHO CARES IF IT WORKS! Don’t miss the bigger point here folks. We FINALLY have a teenager more interested in creating something great than he is in playing with something great. If you don’t want to get excited about Yahoo, fine. But let’s be excited for this young man who is doing what more kids SHOULD be doing.

  8. Brandon Alloe

    Good luck with that one. You have a better chance investing your time in Lycos, which failed a few times. Perhaps, if you look at what failed, you’ll better understand those things that don’t fail as often.

  9. I don’t think Yahoo and Mayer is aiming to be the next Apple. Her push for improve mobile awareness of the brand will be critical if Yahoo can survive or not. I didn’t know Summly existed and was happy to give it a try today, only to learn they already removed the app. 30 million sounds like a cheap price to purchase something they don’t have in R&D. The hard part is figuring out how to monetize their mobile brand. I would say advantage Mayer for now. Assuming she walked away from Google with a wealth of experience… betting against her would be a foolish thing.

    • Betting against Mayer WOULD be a foolish thing and I think Yahoo could still pull off a comeback BUT, I don’t think Summly and this kid are the ones that are going to do it for them. Based on the reviews and experience I’ve had with it, it’s not there. Plus, the previous articles about the kid kind of indicate he’s just riding a wave without a surfboard. Sounds to me like he might be kind of desperate for the glory. Could be wrong but he’s shown some real immaturity in the past and those basic traits don’t change overnight.

      • “shown some real immaturity in the past” haha great quote…. we all showed immaturity in the past, especially when you are a teenager, he can’t even drink yet!. The kid probably hasn’t even got laid yet and he’s now got close to £30 million in the bank – who cares if he makes Yahoo great or not he’s a MILLIONAIRE!!!!

  10. H. Murchison

    Yahoo has no chance of becoming relevant again. None.

    Everything they offer can be delivered better by competitors. They are not Apple and have a legion of loyal customers that cling on to a well curated product. Yahoo sells what everyone else sells and lacks the style, grace and panache to standout.

    Had Summly on my phone…tried it…deleted it. It was just another news aggregator that failed to spark on the test flight.