Summly and its teen founder snapped up by Yahoo

Nick D’Aloisio, the 17-year-old whose mobile startup Summly has been bought by Yahoo for about $30 million, talks about developing applications and his plans for the future. He speaks with Mark Barton on Bloomberg Television’s “Countdown.” (Bloomberg)
March 26, 2013

Yahoo has announced its acquisition of Summly, an app that lets users easily skim through news and articles on their mobile devices — an app that’s particularly notable because its founder is just 17 years old.

Nick D’Aloisio, who founded the company when he was 15, launched it in December 2011, and has received financial backing from investors including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher. The service sums up news articles in 400 characters, making it easy for users to scan for information and get to full articles if they want a more in-depth read. As the Associated Press noted, D’Aloisio is younger than Yahoo itself, as the company was incorporated in 1995.

D’Aloisio said he will pull Summly’s app off the market but that users should expect to see the technology behind the app in Yahoo news products “soon.”

All Things Digital reported that Yahoo paid around $30 million for the service, and will also hire two other Summly employees.

According to a report from the British newspaper The Telegraph, D’Aloisio will join Yahoo full-time while the firm integrates Summly’s technology into its own products — and as he prepares for his final school exams.

The Summly acquisition is a notable one for Yahoo, even without considering the young age of its founder. It shows that Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer is continuing to put a focus on mobile, which she has said should be the company’s main focus moving forward, something reflected in the company’s recent redesigns of Yahoo Mail and Flickr. Summly’s appeal is that it can condense a lot of information in a way that’s easy to digest on a small screen — a very desirable trait as smartphone and tablet use continues to rise.

Yahoo’s been on a bit of a shopping spree since Mayer joined the company in July — Summly is just the latest of a handful of start-ups the company’s purchased since she took over from interim CEO Ross Levinsohn. Nearly all of those purchases, Fast Company noted, have been of companies that get a read on what users are most interested in, whether by offering custom restaurant recommendations or suggested news articles. And all of them have had strong mobile components, often with mobile as their primary platform.

Mayer has said she wants to make Yahoo a place where people go to meet the needs of their daily habits, whether that’s checking the news, reading e-mail or looking at their photos. The Summly deal seems to be right in line with that vision.

Related stories:

British teenage whiz kid strikes deal with Yahoo over mobile app Summly

Teen millionaire Nick D’Aloisio plans more start-ups after Yahoo

Marissa Mayer’s plan for Yahoo

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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