How To Become a Teen Millionaire: Be an Insufferable Startup BratS

Nick D'Aloisio is 17 years old and lives with his parents in London. He has a girlfriend. He also just made $30 million—most of it in cash—by selling a dubious app to Yahoo!. Bully for Nick. But what Yahoo! doesn't realize is that they just hired a total pain in the ass.

I first met Nick in 2011, when he was peddling a no-name app called Trimit, which D'Aloisio pegged as "the world's first automatic text summariser for iOS." Summarizer is a pleasant way of describing it: news articles are tossed into the app, algorithmically shredded, and then reconstituted into a handful of soundbites, a sort of verbal pink meat slime.

Trimit bombed, and so D'Aloisio—showing the spirit of Silicon Valley all the way over in the UK—slapped a different name on it and kept going. This second try, dubbed Summly, is what Yahoo! just snatched up for a tremendous amount of cash, along with Nick and the handful of developers he'd brought in to work with him. It's unclear what exactly these engineers have been doing, as the summarization tech that runs Summly, the invisible magic that's supposed to distill into something screen-addled brains will bother reading, is just licensed from another company.

It's also unclear whether Summly does much of anything. Here's a video demo of the app at work, taking an article about Facebook privacy and converting it into four lines—the only lines you'd really need to know, D'Aloisio would contend.

How To Become a Teen Millionaire: Be an Insufferable Startup BratS

As you can see from the screengrab, one quarter of the summary is, "This isn't fear mongering or snarky criticism, I'm really trying to help." Another is, "I sincerely worry that all over the world, this is happening right now: 'Oh look, a new Facebook profile design.'"

If you can figure out what the article is about based on stuff like that, maybe you deserve a $30 million prize as well. But assuming Yahoo! knows all this—that the app is based on someone else's work, doesn't work very well, and is maybe even illegal—it's got more to worry about. Nick D'Aloisio is a tantrum-throwing problem child. Back when he was pushing Trimit to Gizmodo in 2011, he had a nuclear meltdown in my inbox, sending over a hundred histrionic emails to me and my colleagues screaming, pleading, bleating to get his way. Gizmodo published a handful of them back then, and my colleague Adrian Chen revisited those a couple of days ago. But I thought it would be worthwhile to take a deeper dive.

Here are just some of the emails we received—most were directed at Casey Chan, who handled app coverage, but they were cc'd to a wider group. Keep in mind that their author is now rich for the rest of his life.

Hi Casey,

Release is on Wednesday so do you think you could be able to release something for that day? We would be so grateful if you could! We could give promo codes for a competition etc if you'd like? Do you want me to send a pre-release version or will you write the article on the day?

Thanks!
Nick

Hi Casey,

Release is likely to be tomorrow so do you think you could be able to release something for that day? We would be so grateful if you could as we understand how important Gizmodo is in terms of spreading tech news across the web! We could give promo codes for a competition etc if you'd like? Do you want me to send a pre-release version of the app today or will you write the article on the day?

Regards,
Nick

Hi Matt,

How is everything going regarding trimit? I have some information that I'd like to send to the reviewer so how could I go about doing that? (email address?)
Hope your day is going alright (I'm a little stressed here haha)

Thanks,
Nick D'Aloisio

Fwd: (please reply!!!) trimit;automatic summariser (exclusive preview of iPhone app)

Hi Casey,

It is really imperative for our rankings that the article goes out tonight! Could that be possible? How did you actually find the app?
Why are you not replying to our emails? Sorry if we seem to be emailing quite frequently, its just it is realy hectic on launch day and trimit is doing so well that we want to keep it climbing in the ranks! with Gizmodo's help, we could definitely get to no1 in category.

Could you do something for Giz tonight?

Thanks so much,
Nick

Please get back to me even if you decide not to do the story but I'm trying to show you (without hassling!) that there is a lot more behind the business than the app at this point, and like you said, we eventually aim to sell the algorithm to enterprise companies, e.g law firms so that abstracts for cases can be instantaneously made and accurately produced since this process of "abstraction" would be used.

trimit has been released today and we are willing to give you guys the exclusive story! http://www.crunchbase.com/company/trimit and app store link; http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/trimit/id446909528?mt=8. trimit has got all 5 star reviews on the store so far and is in top 10 of its category already! Would you like to do the story? We can send promo codes.

Fwd: PLEASE REPLY. trimit;automatic summariser (exclusive preview of iPhone app)
We need a response!!!

Fwd: (URGENT) trimit; article?
Hi Casey,

How are you finding trimit? Could you guys put it as App of the Day as we really feel trimit would be appropriate for this title; over twenty 5 star reviews, climbing ranks in Utility category and close to breaking top 100 of store, innovative and brand new idea to the App Store so will be interesting for Gizmodo readers :)

Please could you reply so we know whats going on????

Thanks so much,
Nick D'Aloisio

Casey?

Please reply as we need to know what's going on for tomorrow.

Thanks,
Nick

Hi Casey,

Just wanted to check how everything is going regarding trimit? Do you think we could possibly get featured on Gizmodo tomorrow on launch day?

Thanks so much!

Hi Casey,

How are you finding trimit? Could you possibly do a post? We'd be so appreciative if you could!

Thanks
Nick

Hey Casey,

How are you finding it? We're coming 38th in Utilities now already!

Hey Casey,

Did you get our last message? All our reviews so far in the store have been 5 star!

Cheers,

Hi Casey,

Could you give me an update regarding an article?

Casey, is that possible? Did you try it out?

Hey casey,

Are we going to please get a post? We now have over 10 five star reviews and are in top 20 of utilities!

Thanks,

Casey? Are we going on at 6pm?

Hi Casey,

Could you do a post today just mentioning trimit etc.? Is that possible? Please reply

Thanks

Please reply?! We really need to know if we can get this article out today?

Casey? Could you please reply? Now coming 10th in utilities!

Regards,

Hey Casey?

Please Casey. This is putting the app at jeopardy. Can you just tell me if you could do an article or not?

Regards,

Hi casey,

How is it?

Are we likely to be app of the day?

Regards,

I have to stop and highlight this one, because just, wow.

why are you not replying to our emails...
At least email us back to say if you can do the article or not?

I'm sure the community would love the concept! (they did when it was on Mashable)
Could you guys put something short on tonight?

Regards,

Casey what do you think?

At this point, we'd had enough.

Casey,

Why does it say "worst app of the week" next to our app? It wasnt there a minute ago?

I can't believe this. Please just put us back on the list. Anywhere.

I feel like crying I'm that disappointed. Please.

You don't understand what this means if we don't get featured. We'll go bust and I'll end up unemployed.

Why have you done this. I can't actually believe this is happening.

Please, seriously Casey, don't destroy my livelihood.

I am speechless about all of this. I can't believe we were on there and now off. What have I done. I'm such an idiot.

Oh crap, please remove that tweet. Oh my God please just change everything to how it was; you don't understand what your going to do

Fwd: We're going to go bust now.

Casey? Please :)

We're going to lose all our sales. Please don't do this Casey. It's not fair; we are not the worst iPhone app on the store for this week. Just remove us from the list altogether.

I cannot believe this is real and you'd actually do this to a startup. You will single handedly destroy our app.

Please consider what you are doing.

Hi Casey,

What's up? Why aren't you replying. Could you give us feedback on trimit (not in top 10 of category!) and tell us the status of a possible article?

Thanks so much!
Nick

Please Casey. This is putting the app at jeopardy. Can you just tell me if you could do an article or not?

Regards,
Nick

Fwd: We're going to go bankrupt now

Why didn't you reply to me earlier saying to stop emailing. I swear to God i Would've stopped. I didn't mean to do this to you or to my team and our app; we're already in debt now. Please just return it to the way it was, neither of us lose out that way and we can all just move on; you'll never hear from me again but come on, you said we were going to be on the list yesterday and therefore we began investing in heavy marketing for this evening. Now we've wasted $10,000 as we dont have the article to accompany the efforts.

That puts us in debt and we can't pay that back for ourselves so now I'm going to have to go without food for the next month.

Please man. Please.

And that's maybe half of everything he sent us.

OK, he was 15 at the time. Maybe he's matured incredibly, miraculously, over the past two years. Maybe. But no brat has ever been cured by dumping $30 million into his teenage lap and touted as a wiz-kid who will save a giant, ailing company.

[Photo via Wikipedia]