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Teen whiz: Let kids find own paths

D’Aloisio

– At 17, he’s a tech whiz, he’s rich – and he can even offer some advice on how to raise your kids.

Teenage programmer Nick D’Aloisio’s decision to sell his news application Summly to Yahoo for what’s rumored to be a massive payout has turned him into a media sensation. The sale caps a short but successful career at Apple Inc.’s vast app store, where hundreds of thousands of pieces of software compete for the attention of smartphone and tablet users.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, D’Aloisio said his computer skills were self-taught, explaining that he started by mastering movie-making software before tackling programming languages.

He said his parents were “very enthusiastic and supportive.” Asked what advice he’d give couples hoping to raise their own wunderkinds, he urged them to let their children explore their own paths – be it computer science or drama.

“If there’s a natural curiosity, that’ll lead to, eventually, some success,” the teenager said.

Summly is one of several apps that D’Aloisio has designed. It uses complex algorithms to automatically condense online news content into attractive little blocks of text that are useful for the small screens of smartphones.

D’Aloisio said he was thrilled to be working for a “classic Internet company” – Yahoo! Inc. is older than he is – and he laughingly dismissed a reporter’s suggestion that his friends might be jealous.

“All my friends have been very supportive,” he said.

He noted that the publicity over Summly had been building for more than a year, meaning he and those close to him had had time to adjust to the outside attention.

As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo didn’t disclose how much it is paying for Summly, although British newspapers suggested the deal’s value at several million dollars. D’Aloisio had already received investment from several sources, including venture capitalist backer Li Ka-Shing.

Asked what he’ll do with the payout, he responded with serious answers unbefitting of an adolescent. He said the money was being kept in a trust until he turns 18, and he didn’t seem interested in talking about what he’d buy for himself for his next birthday.

“I’d like to keep it safe. Bank it … If I was to do anything it’d be angel investing,” D’Aloisio said.

D’Aloisio said he eventually wants to attend university, perhaps to study philosophy.

“I haven’t decided yet,” he said.

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