What We Can Learn From 17-Year-Old Nick D’Aloisio Who Just Sold His Startup Summly For $30 Million

Image via Flickr/ Kmeron

Ever heard of Summly? Yeah, me neither. But apparently Yahoo just paid a whopping $30 million for the company founded by 17-year-old Nick D’ Aloisio just to shut it down (no, I’m serious).

Summly, a news program that skimmed news sites, “summed up the articles” and distributed them to people’s phones for viewing in a customizable manner, was acquired by Yahoo a few days ago. While an established company buying a startup isn’t news, Yahoo’s acquisition is big for several reasons:

  1. It shut down Summly.
  2. It bought Summly even though it wasn’t making any money.
  3. The CEO of Summly is still in high school.
  4. The CEO of Summly is 17 years old.
  5. I’m not sure if I need any more bullet points because this is already damn crazy.

Now… there’s a lot of confusing stuff going on with this acquisition, mostly because the core technology that made up Summly was not something invented or made by Nick, our 17-year-old millionaire. It was all rented technology, so Yahoo didn’t even buy the company for anything that Summly could do (which was obviously the case when it decided to shut down the app). It can’t really use Nick because he’s 17, has a curfew and still needs to finish up high school. He didn’t even invent his own backend engine.

But here he is, standing before us in London, a millionaire at the age of 17. So why the hell aren’t the rest of us doing the same thing (other than the part where we aren’t all 17 anymore)?

Being in the right place at the right time. Summly just happened to have the right idea at the right time. I know none of us can really be in this position by choice, but we can certainly make the best of it and hope people notice.

Or, stop hoping and start moving. One of the things that Summly has that others do not is a fantastic list of backers. You know what came with that acquisition of the company? The backers and their information. The backers of the company include people like Josh Kushner and Li-Kai Shing, both of who run small – and profitable – companies of their own that Yahoo might be interesting in acquiring today. Nick only had those backers because he hustled.

Speaking of which, you should be hustling too. You might think that $30 million just fell into some kid’s lap because of luck, but that’s not necessarily all that true. Sure, it had a little to do with luck, but so does all success. What Nick did was…well, he just DID IT. He didn’t hesitate or run the numbers. He found the technology he could use until he could get his own running, he found the backers, he found the motivation and the ideas, and he just did it.

And finally, know when you should move on. Nick could have kept his brainchild and kept at it until it became more successful, but it’s unlikely he’d see the kind of return he did on it. Ever, really. Even if he did, it would be awhile. So instead he chose to move on. Not only did he move on, he did it brilliantly, with a bunch of money in his pocket and a hopeful future. Even though you might not get to move on with either of those guarantees, you’ll move on with more knowledge than you had yesterday.

In part, a lot of people think that Yahoo is just throwing cash around so it can get its name in the media again, but the bottom line is that it made some almost two-decade old kid a millionaire for life for little-to-no reward. And some kid convinced it to do it. Some kid and his big ideas.