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Teenage Programmer Backed By Hong Kong Billionaire Li Ka Shing

Forbes.com 12/14/2011 20:56
Teenage Programmer Backed By Hong Kong Billionaire Li Ka Shing - Technology - software

It’s been a wild three months for Nick D’Aloisio. There was the new school year and brand new classes in Russian and Buddhist philosophy. Then there was this technology startup he was running from his bedroom that was going to change the way everybody surfed the Internet.

Earlier this year, D’Aloisio became tired of the glut of information he was trudging through when researching his homework. So he taught himself artificial intelligence programming and created an app for iPhones that would summarize the text of any webpage into its most salient points.

On his first day back at school in September, D’Aloisio, 16, and his new program were profiled by this blog. At around the same time he was fielding calls with a potential big investor in Hong Kong. Uninhibited by his age or anything else, D’Aloisio would bombard his potential investors with emails to ask how things were going. Lucky for him they weren’t put off. Not long afterwards Horizons Ventures, a private investment vehicle for Hong Kong billionaire and world’s 11th richest person, Li Ka Shing, agreed to invest in D’Aloisio’s little company.

The investors changed the firm’s name to “Summly Limited” and today he launched Summly, a free app  on the iOS App store. The latest iteration of his idea can now be integrated into a mobile web browser and within two hours of going live has already been downloaded 1,000 times.

The financials of Horizons’ investment are undisclosed, but it is an eye-popping amount for any 16-year-old. His parents, D’Aloisio says, “are extremely impressed” (obviously) and recently had lunch with the Horizons folks to get a better sense of what their son was getting up to. Horizons’ portfolio includes names like Facebook, Spotify and Siri, the artificial intelligence tool integrated into the iPhone 4S.

So what did D’Aloisio do with the new money from his billionaire investor? Quickly he contracted a couple of more experienced programmers to improve the auto-summarization software that he originally created, ironing out bugs and improving the unique algorithm which is based on genetic programming, artificial intelligence and which “mimics evolution.”

“I had this clear vision of where this could go,” he says. The programmers made it happen and a patent is currently pending.

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