Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo Acquires Hipster Mobile News Reader Summly for Close to $30 Million

Yahoo has bought Summly, the mobile news reader app founded by a young British entrepreneur.

In a statement, the London-based company said it had bought the tiny outfit, which will close its app. The price was not disclosed (although I will try to find out soon enough). But the company had been seeking additional funding recently at a big valuation, in stark contrast to its small size (less than one million downloads), staff (five) and business model (zero revenue).

(Update: Sources tell me Yahoo paid just about $30 million for Summly, mostly in cash, with 10 percent in stock, for three employees.)

AllThingsD.com reported in December that Yahoo was looking closely at the startup, with CEO Marissa Mayer meeting with its founder Nick D’Aloisio. As we noted then, Yahoo was aiming at trendy mobile “acq-hires” to give the sleepy Silicon Valley Internet giant some sizzle and improve its moribund mobile offerings.

Mayer has been buying up a range of similar small mobile startups, largely for their teams of talented and innovative engineers. And, at a recent employee meeting, its M&A head Jackie Reses said the Silicon Valley company was looking at two significant purchases and a half-dozen smaller ones.

Said Yahoo: “Founder Nick D’Aloisio and the Summly team are joining Yahoo! in the coming weeks. While the Summly app will close, we will acquire the technology and you’ll see it come to life throughout Yahoo!’s mobile experiences soon. We’re not disclosing purchase price or other terms of the deal.”

Yahoo mobile head Adam Cahan wrote a blog post about the deal, as did D’Aloisio, who also tweeted news of it:

News readers have been getting snapped up of late. CNN acquired Zite for $20 million in 2011, while we reported that LinkedIn was in the midst of buying Pulse for upwards of $50 million.

The 17-year-old D’Aloisio created the high-profile news reading app, which garnered much attention in the last year in the mobile space, which is probably what attracted Yahoo to it.

As I wrote:

D’Aloisio — who looks like he could easily be a member of One Direction if this tech thing did not work out — is perhaps a perfect storm for Yahoo, which is seeking to show that it can attract innovative, young entrepreneurs to the company, while also looking to strengthen its nearly bare mobile cupboard.

Summly is all that and a bag of (fish and) chips, with a very slick app for the Apple iPhone that has become one of the more popular in the App Store since it was re-launched last month. The company has said it has been downloaded 500,000 times.

It deserves the attention, as it is a pleasure to use — think an even hipper version of Flipboard with some more sass. The handsomely designed app summarizes news stories — all using a natural language processing algorithm — in only a few sentences and in under 400 characters. Users can then swipe through topics and stories quickly and click in to be directed to the full story on the original news site.

Summly originally started as a prototype app called Trimit, which soon garnered attention and seed funding from Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing’s investment firm. In no time, it had a range of other investors, ponying up about $1.5 million, including trendy ones like Ashton Kutcher and tech types like Zynga’s Mark Pincus, Automattic’s Matt Mullenweg and Airbnb’s Brian Chesky.

Since then, it has been striking content deals, including with News Corp. (which owns this site) and others, which seem to be attracted by its investor pedigree, its solid technology and — perhaps most of all — its media-darling founder.

To get an idea of the adorable hip factor involved, here’s a really clever video D’Aloisio did with actor Stephen Fry, who is also an investor in the startup:

Summly Launch from Summly on Vimeo.

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