Teenage CEO of Summly wants to 'Cliff Note' the news

The 16-year-old entrepreneur, backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li-Ka Shing, relaunches his app to summarize news articles.

A Summly summary of a news article tailored for the iPhone 5 screen size. Summly

Even in a Silicon Valley flush with young college dropouts, 16-year-old Summly CEO Nick D'Aloisio's age is still an attention grabber.

And despite his age, or maybe because of it, he's perfectly comfortable with reincarnating his product -- technology that can automatically summarize information -- as needed. D'Aloisio's company released a news reading app today that summarizes news articles, creating a sort of CliffsNotes for the news, for the iPhone.

It'll be the second time the London-based teenager has repackaged his product, and this time he did it because he feels like the consumption of news on mobile devices hasn't been properly addressed.

"I'm just frustrated with all the aggregators and apps that, to be honest, that's just taking this full content and shoving it down your throat," he said.

The news-reader space is a crowded one, with apps like Zite and Flipboard encouraging the personalization of news as a way of filtering out irrelevant content. But, D'Aloisio said he doesn't think any existing apps go far enough to address the needs of mobile readers who are flooded with content constantly, particularly his generation of on-the-go citizens who don't want to wait for full articles to load.

He said he wants Summly's app to also take a personalized approach to its article selection in the future-- currently the app has preset categories and a user can create specific key words filters to pull up relevant articles -- but it's not the end-all to reading news.

"I don't care how personalized it is, I don't have the time to read through thousands of articles," D'Aloisio said.

D'Aloisio's app started out as Trimit, which summarized the information in Web pages. He created as a tool to help him comb through the vast amount of information he needed to review for his school work. Soon Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, founder and chairman of of Horizon Ventures, invested $250,000 in D'Aloisio's company and Summly was born.

Since then, Summly has attracted investors like celebrities Ashton Kutcher, Yoko Ono and Lady Gaga business manager Troy Carter; and tech notables lile AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky, Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman and Zynga CEO Mark Pincus. Those angel investors bring Summly's total funds raised to $1 million.

Summly

The company had plans to expand the original Summly iPhone app to other operating systems and even to the desktop, but Aloisio said the rapidly changing market changed his mind. That's when he set his sights on news.

"It's a massive market. No one has tapped into it properly," he said.

Summly uses an algorithm to pull out the pertinent information from articles to create a block of text that has enough information "to sound clever at a dinner party," as D'Aloisio puts it.

Each Summly summary adjusts to fits the size of your phone's screen. Currently, the app is only available for the iOS.

Eventually, D'Aloisio would like to open up, and charge money for, a Summly API, or Application Programing Interface, for content publishers who want to add Summly summaries to their sites.

For now D'Aloisio, who has taken some time off of school to work on Summly, wants to make sure users enjoy using the app.

"I want to, for as long as I can, stay with with the company as a founder, but at the end of the day I will have to go back to school all day," he said. "The number one thing is to keep focusing on the product."

 

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