Brains. Power. Millions of dollars in the bank. Nick D’Aloisio has them all. Already. And he’s only 18.
You might have heard that D’Aloisio sold his viral Summly mobile news summarization app to Yahoo a year ago for a cool $30 million. He was just 17 at the time. The Australia-born British programmer wunderkind wrote the app in his parents’ bedroom at their London home when he was 15.
D’Aloisio is one of the youngest self-made millionaires ever. He is also the world’s youngest venture capital-backed entrepreneur, first raising $300,000 in seed funding in 2011 from Hong Kong billionaire Sir Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures for Summly. Then he raised $1.23 million in 2012 from various A-List celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono, Rupert Murdoch, Stephen Fry and Ashton Kutcher.
Recently named “Innovator of the Year” by the Wall Street Journal, D’Aloisio is now a key full-time member of Yahoo’s mobile engineering team. He launched the tech giant’s sleek new Yahoo News Digest app, which Yahoo describes as an evolution of the work he did at Summly. Not bad for someone in his last year of high school.
We caught up with D’Aloisio to talk about his success, Yahoo, his favorite gadgets, and what it takes to get your big break as a young entrepreneur.
Entrepreneur: How did you celebrate when Yahoo acquired Summly?
D’Aloisio: The experience was a bit surreal. I really just went to work and continued to focus on my work that I had begun at Summly. It was a proud moment releasing Yahoo News Digest, the direct evolution of Summly.
Entrepreneur: What do you want people to know about Yahoo News Digest?
D’Aloisio: Yahoo News Digest delivers the most important news twice a day, right to your mobile device. Our digests provide a definitive summary of all the need-to-know news so you can stay on top of what’s happening. Each story summarizes the most important stories of the day into bite-size content. Instead of just a textual summary we offer visual “atoms” -- photos, videos, tweets, maps -- there are around 14 atoms.
People have information overload and with Yahoo News Digest we want to give users a sense of completion and conclusiveness when they come to an end of the top stories of the day. Our digests are finite but informative, with an option to dig deeper into stories that interest them.
Entrepreneur: What do you do for fun, when you're not at work?
D’Aloisio: I live a fairly normal life for an 18 year old in London. I still go out on the weekends with my friends, go to parties, and I’m finishing school so there is a lot of studying.
Entrepreneur: What are some tech gadgets you just can't live without?
D’Aloisio: I really like using Snapchat and Vine. They’re great examples of transiency being brought to information and the immediacy of knowledge that was now being demanded in an online age.
Entrepreneur: What are some mistakes entrepreneurs should avoid when pitching venture capital investors?
D’Aloisio: I think some entrepreneurs focus too much on the idea, but not enough on the planned implementation or quantifying the success of their solution. Metrics, plans, patents and implementations are just as important as the initial idea.
Entrepreneur: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs hustling for their first big break?
D’Aloisio: There are so many resources available online that the primary goal of someone wanting to succeed should be to teach themselves all of the necessary skills e.g programming, business development, design, marketing etc.
Be fearless and don't be afraid of failure. There is no better way to learn than through trial-and-error.