It's not every 17-year-old who can claim to have about 20 employees and more than $1 million in venture capital — let alone have a mission of changing the way people interact with the world.
But that's British teen Nick D'Aloisio for you. His free app Summly, which he created when he was 15, has made its mark since its Nov. 1 launch. In the short times since it premiered on Apple's iTunes store, the app has been downloaded nearly 1 million times, quickly becoming the top news app in 28 countries. Even before then, it had attracted more than $1 million in venture capital from celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Yoko Ono and Stephen Fry, who appears in an online video about the app below. (And it gets better: On March 25, Yahoo purchased Summly for close to $30 million. Yahoo plans to shut down the young company but incorporate the technology into Yahoo's mobile platform.)
"Fry is brilliant," D'Aloisio tells MNN, saying the British comedian and mobile technology advocate has been "very involved" and helpful in developing both the Summy product and the technology behind it.
But wait, what does Summly do? As evidenced by its name, the app sums up the latest news stories and presents them to you in a readable, easy-to-digest manner. It accomplishes that task through algorithms that combine multiple news stories into bites that are easy to scan on a mobile phone — perfect for the on-the-go generation that D'Aloisio embodies.
Users can scan the top headlines or use the app to follow the news topics that matter most to them. It's all free, although users can also click through to the more in-depth source articles, which may be behind a pay firewall. Summly is working on a system to allow micropayments for when you want to read an article at, say, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal without becoming a full subscriber to any of those sites.
Users have embraced the app. In the first four weeks of the app's existence, Summly users read more than 30 million automatically generated news summaries.
Like his app, D'Aoisio communicates in a quick manner. He says his goal for the coming year is to "Get Summly onto as many platforms as possible!"
Watch D'Aloisio's and Fry's video about Summly below:
Editor's note: Story updated on March 25 to add information about the Yahoo purchase.