Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message



Sophie Curtis

Summly buyout is wake-up call for the UK IT industry

Article comments

We can't rely on people learning to code in their bedroom to keep UK IT flourishing

The news this week that a 17-year-old British school boy has sold his app company to the Internet giant Yahoo for an estimated $30 million (£20m) should come as a massive wake-up call for the IT industry.

Nick D'Aloisio from Wimbledon taught himself to code at age 12. After creating several apps, including Facemood, a service which used sentiment analysis to determine the mood of Facebook users, and SongStumblr, a geosocial music discovery service, D'Aloisio founded Summly in December 2011 with backing from Horizons Ventures.

Summly is a free iPhone app that automatically summarises lengthy news stories and features for consumption via mobile devices. Before making the deal with Yahoo the app had been downloaded almost a million times from the App Store, and had been featured as one of Apple's best iPhone apps of 2012.

Nick_D’Aloisio.jpg“When I founded Summly at 15, I would have never imagined being in this position so suddenly,” said D'Aloisio. “With over 90 million summaries read in just a few short months, this is just the beginning for our technology. As we move towards a more refined, liberated and intelligent mobile web, summaries will continue to help navigate through our ever expanding information universe.”

The deal makes Nick one of the world’s youngest technology millionaires. Indeed, he is still too young to be a director of his own firm, so the money from the sale of the business will go into a trust fund. Even Mark Zuckerberg was 20 by the time he founded Facebook. Like D'Aloisio, Zuckerberg began writing software as a hobby at the age of 12.

It is significant that neither of these successful businessmen learnt to code as part of a formal education process. Perhaps it is a indication of their entrepreneurial spirit that they chose to teach themselves - or perhaps they were just mega-geeks.

The point is that D'Aloisio's success does not have to be a one-off. There is a whole new generation of 'digital natives' currently making their way through high school who are equipped with an intuitive understanding of digital content. What many of them lack, however, is formal skills training.

If the UK wants to build up a reputation for IT innovation, then we cannot continue to rely on the odd kid learning to code in his bedroom - computer programming has to become a central part of the school curriculum, as it has in many other countries. Moreover, we need more role models like D'Aloisio, and more backers like Horizon Ventures to put up the seed money.

Moves are being made in this direction. The IT curriculum is being updated, and last week's budget introduced some measures designed to make investing in start-up technology businesses more attractive. But everything seems to be moving at a glacial pace and, really, these are things that should have happened years ago.

What we also sorely lack is incentives for successful UK businesses to stay in the UK. Summly is yet another example of a nascent British tech company selling out in its early stages to a US giant before it has had time to fully bloom. This has to stop if we are ever to build a UK tech giant.

D'Aloisio has chosen to stay in the UK for now, but the the Financial Times notes that two of Summly’s employees will move to Yahoo’s HQ in California. No doubt Yahoo is also hoping to tempt D'Aloisio over to the US when the time is right.

It is therefore up to the government and the IT industry in this country to ensure that, by the time D'Aloisio has finished his A-levels, the tech investment environment in the UK is sufficiently attractive that he and his peers will choose to found and grow the next generation of technology businesses on this side of the pond.

Enhanced by Zemanta


More from Techworld

More relevant IT news


Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *