Perhaps it is my age and the longing to go back and “do it all again”. Or perhaps it is the fact that I have interviewed a LOT of people over the years and have seen a disturbing pattern. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I think it is really interesting to see companies acquired in the tech space and the reasons for the acquisition. In any event, the announcement that seventeen year old Nick D’Aloisio is selling his company Summly to Yahoo for a reported $30 million dollars is inspiring on so many fronts. Here’s my take, and I can sum it up in four words; “this is freakin’ cool!”I have been in technology for a long time…twenty-two years to be exact. The changes I have seen have been numerous. The trends have been interesting and the emotions of the dot.bomb era are still fresh. When I started as a Unix admin in the early 1990’s I never imagined that I’d end up living in and loving the Open Source world as I have, and how I would survive the flame wars of the Linux community to see Linux “grow up” and outgrow the community and eventually begin to erode market share from Unix platforms. Virtualization, then Cloud and Big Data…the trends and movements have been amazing. But it has not been without its sore spots…mainly outsourcing to overseas companies. If I had a dollar for every friend that lost a job in the tech field to an overseas person I’d be a rich man. Most of those jobs have been in the development arena. But then something interesting happened. Mobile applications began to become the goldmine for developers, and when you look at Google Play or the App Store from Apple, there are no shortage of applications for any number of needs.
Summly was started by D’Aloisio when he was fifteen years old. He found investors willing to take a chance and two years later, that risk for Ka-Shing and Horizons Venturing paid off. While all of that is cool, what I find exceptionally exciting is that Apple awarded Summly their “Best Apps of 2012” award. Again…all of this by a teenager. Oh, and it wasn’t just him. He was the CEO. If you look at the Executive Team, it wasn’t just a bunch of kids. It was a bunch of industry professionals who believed in his vision.
Why did Yahoo buy Summly? If you look at Marissa Mayer’s vision for the re-birth and transformation of Yahoo, acquisition of the best companies that are priced right are high on the list of ways to accomplish her mission, and that brings me to why I am writing about this right now.
Nick D’Aloisio didn’t start this business in Silicon Valley. He started it in his bedroom in London. A lot of people believe that innovation is only possible in Silicon Valley, Seattle or New York City when it comes to these things. Not so. More importantly than that, with Nick we have the example of a young man who was more interested in knowing how the game worked, rather than playing the game. Yes…it took me 526 words to get to that point. Sorry…I’m just loving every minute of this story. I talked earlier about interviewing people. One thing held true in so many cases…that too many kids are more interested in playing video games than they are in creating them. The result, we have an entire generation of kids that are not qualified to work in the IT field because BlackOps II was more important. In the United States we have created an entire generation that is going to give their jobs to people in other countries for no other reason than those people in other countries took the time to learn coding. They saw the opportunity and they took it. Studying and learning is a way of life, and here…”life” seems to get in the way of studying and learning.
Nothing would make me happier than to see the young people of today here in the US start to get interested in technology. Maybe that will happen again. It won’t though unless parents take an active role and encourage their kids to explore these areas. Encourage your kids to go to meet-ups, and if they show the slightest interest in technology, make the investment in the tools that will help them learn. Make the investment in the education that they need to write solid code. Encourage them to start creating Mobile Applications and apply for Google’s “Summer of Code” when they hit the ripe old age of eighteen.
I believe that there are a lot of Nick D’Aloisio’s out there. We just have to help them when they are young and share their vision.