Well, here’s an inspiring story – this 17 year old boy (the one on the left – that’s his new mate, the considerably more mature Stephen Fry, on the right) has built a clever app that’s netted him $1 million (around £620,000) of investment.
The words “new Mark Zuckerberg” get bandied about quite a lot these days, but this time, it sounds like they might actually be merited – Nick D’Aloisio’s app, Summly, condenses news stories into three key paragraphs that fit on an iPhone screen, and it’s been named App of the Week by Apple.
Nick, who’s taking time out from school in Wimbledon to concentrate on his business, got the financial backing to develop the app on his 16th birthday. The main investment comes from venture capitalists Horizon Ventures (who also back Facebook, Siri and Spotify) but Stephen Fry and Ashton Kutcher are also involved. Impressive, no?
“I designed Summly because I felt that my generation wasn’t consuming traditional news anymore,” says Nick, who taught himself coding at the age of 12. “I’m described as a net native, so I was born when the internet was founded and have only known a world with internet.
“Young people are just not aware of the constraints, so why not go build a social network, for example? I was using Google and Bing and there were so many results to scroll through it was really inefficient. So I built an algorithm that shared them and trimmed them. Then it just transformed into the idea of: ‘why not just summarise news in general?’.”
He makes it sound so easy. But despite all the fuss, Nick is still just a normal teenaged boy… albeit a potentially very rich one. “The reality hasn’t sunk in, I’ve just been focused on building the product,” he says. “My friends treat me the same, so do my parents. I have a girlfriend. I keep in touch with my school. But instead of coming home from school, I come home from work at 6pm. And instead of homework, I’m reading emails or testing the product. I get just as stressed with Summly as I did with exams.”
We’re hoping some young coders as ambitious as Nick will turn up at O2 Think Big’s Digital Skills day next week.
For more info on Nick’s app (and a funny video of him hanging out with Stephen Fry), visit http://summly.com/