What’s he doing with $30 million?


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30 March 2013·

This week Yahoo bought 17 year old Nick D’Aloisio’s iPhone app, Summly, for $30 million. When Yahoo was founded in 1994, Nick wasn’t even born yet.

What’s he doing with $30 million? As Nick says, “I can’t even buy a car because I don’t have a licence yet.” So he’s going to buy a new bag. Why? “Mine is broken; it’s old and the strap’s not working.”

3 STEPS TO $30 MILLION

Nick’s app has delivered over 90 million news summaries in the four short months since he launched it on his 17th birthday in November. But Nick isn’t even old enough to be a Director of his company, so his mum is the Director while he sits in as Company Secretary.

What has gotten Nick to success so quickly in 15 months when so many of us are still struggling after 15 years? Here’s 3 steps his journey has in common with most super-success stories:

PROBLEM + PASSION = $300K SOLUTION

Nick’s Summly App was the solution to a real world problem that no one else was solving well. As Nick relates, “I was 15 years old and I was revising for some kind of history exam. The problem was I was trying to find information that was useful to me.”

Searching Google on his phone didn’t give him enough detail to know what was or wasn’t a useful link. So he put his own iPhone app together. The app quickly rose up the download ranks and Apple featured it in their store.

Then came a fateful email: “About a month later, the private fund of the Hong Kong billionaire Li-Kashing cold emailed me and expressed an interest to invest, but they didn’t realize I was 15…It turned out that they actually liked my age because it demonstrated I was net-native, so I’d only grown up with the Internet. They flew to London about a month later and invested $300,000. That kick-started this whole journey.”

$300K FUNDING + EXPERTISE = $1.3M REPUTATION

Nick used the money to bring in world experts to help relaunch the app. At 16 years old, he teamed up with the leaders in Natural Language Processing, Stanford Research Institute (Who create Apple’s SIRI – named after the company’s initials, SRI).

In between high school classes in London, Nick worked with SRI in the US by phone and text messages to build the new app. SRI’s solid reputation and Nick’s focus on approaching well known celebrities to help him attracted high profile investors Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono who invested $1.3 million. Nick made the most of his investors, with Stephen Fry starring in the launch video for Summly.

$1.3M REPUTATION + SINGLE-MINDED FOCUS = $30M STORY

With world class partners and world class investors, Nick gave up full-time school at the end of 2011, with his parent’s blessing: ““I talked about it with them and my headmaster and we decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it would be silly not to run with it. Now, looking back, I can say it was a massive gamble. But it was a good gamble.”

From a standing start to $30 million, Nick has taken the age old 1-2-3 formula of solving a problem in a smart way, then using the resources he attracts to bring in the best talent, and leveraging that to attract the most influential partners.

What made him think he could just go and knock on the door of the best companies and most well known people in the world? As he says “I was naive. I didn’t know I couldn’t.”

Nick is now reflecting on this week’s news: “Numbing is probably the best word to describe it. It’s a shock to be honest. The only thing I can take from this is that I’m genuinely kind of proud that I’ve been getting a lot of tweets where young people are commenting and saying, “This is really inspirational, I want to go and start my own thing.”

How many of these 3 steps in the 1-2-3 formula have you taken in your business? What can you do to upgrade your product, your talent or your partners?

Or maybe it’s time to be a kid again, be naive again, when you didn’t know you couldn’t. And start something entirely new.

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