March 26, 2013 at 8:04 AM ET
One of Britain's youngest Internet entrepreneurs has hit the jackpot after selling his top-selling mobile application Summly to search giant Yahoo.
Seventeen-year-old Nick d'Aloisio, who dreamed up the idea for the content-shortening program when he was studying for his exams, said he was surprised by the deal. As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo didn't disclose how much it is paying for Summly, although British newspapers suggested the deal's value at several million dollars.
"I would have never imagined being in this position so suddenly," he wrote on his website, before thanking his family, his school — and his venture capitalist backer Li Ka-Shing — for supporting him.
Summly works by condensing content so readers can scroll through more information more quickly — useful for the small screens of smartphones.
D'Aloisio said he was the majority owner of Summly and would now invest the money from the sale, though his age imposes legal limits for now on his access to it.
"I'm happy with that and working with my parents to go through that whole process," he said.
D'Aloisio, who lives in the prosperous London suburb of Wimbledon, highlights the support of family and school, which gave him time off, but also, critically, the ideas that came with enthusiastic financial backers.
He had first dreamt up the mobile software while revising for a history exam two years ago, going on to create a prototype of the app that distils news stories into chunks of text readable on small smartphone screens.
He was inspired, he said, by the frustrating experience of trawling through Google searches and separate websites to find information when revising for the test.
D'Aloisio taught himself to code at age 12 after Apple's App Store was launched, creating several apps including Facemood, a service which analysed sentiment to determine the moods of Facebook users, and music discovery service SongStumblr.
He has started A-levels - English final school exams - in maths, physics and philosophy, and plans to continue his studies while also working at Yahoo's offices in London. He aims to go to university to study humanities.
Although he has created an app worth millions, D'Aloisio says he is not a stereotyped computer geek.
"I like playing sport," he said. "I'm a bit of a design enthusiast, and like spending time with my girlfriend and mates."
The deal announced Monday is Yahoo's fifth small acquisition in the past five months. All of them have been part of CEO Marissa Mayer's effort to attract more engineers with expertise in building services for smartphones and tablet computers, an increasingly important area of technology that she believes the Internet company had been neglecting.
D'Aloisio is younger than Yahoo, which was incorporated in March 1995.