I couldn’t see how my colleagues could top the speakers at our first Digital Library Conversations @British Library. Internet pioneers Vint Cerf (known as one of the fathers of the internet) and Ted Nelson who founded Project Xanadu, the first hypertext project in 1960. There is a video of the meeting if you are interested.
However, I was wrong. As a result of Stella Wisdom (one of our Digital Curators) reading an article in the Metro newspaper, we were privileged to hear from 16-year-old ‘internet genius’ Nick D’Aloisio, the founder of Summly.
This iPhone app has made international headlines and attracted backing of an investment company controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing..
Summly is an iPhone app which summarises and simplifies the content of web pages and search results. Currently it can condense reference pages, news articles and reviews but according to Nick, has the potential to go a lot further.
Nick has been profiled in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Wired and FastCompany for his entrepreneurial success and interest in Artificial Intelligence. Before founding Summly, Nick created Facemood, a service which used sentiment analysis to determine the mood of Facebook users, and SongStumblr, a geosocial music discovery service.
Did I mention he was 16 years old?
According to an interview with the BBC, Summly came from his frustration in researching for his exams.
“I was revising for a history exam and using Google, clicking in and out of search results, and it seemed quite inefficient. If I found myself on a site that was interesting I was reading it and that was wasting time,” he said.
“I thought that what I needed was a way of simplifying and summarising these web searches. Google has Instant Preview but that is just an image of the page. What I wanted was a content preview,” he says.
What impressed me most from our meeting with Nick at the British Library (which you can get a glimpse of here thanks to Reuters), was his intelligence and modesty.
I’m sure he has had plenty of practice, but his ‘elevator pitch’ (which is something of an obsession with me), was superb.
And when I asked him if he was planning to pursue an entrepreneurial path or go on to university, he talked enthusiastically about studying philosophy after his A levels. This is from someone just back from a series of meetings with high powered investors and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.
I came away with the impression that he was quite possibly the most confident and mature person in the meeting.
Addition 28 March 2012:
The video of this event has now been posted onto YouTube, and the interview with Nick starts 34 minutes in.