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Why is tech the only industry that creates teenage millionaires?

March 27, 2013|By David Lazarus
  • Nick D'Aloisio, 17, is now a millionaire. Other than entertainment, are there are other businesses that hold such opportunities for teens?
Nick D'Aloisio, 17, is now a millionaire. Other than entertainment,… (AFP/Getty Images )

I want to feel good for Nick D'Aloisio, I really do. It's not every day that a 17-year-old kid becomes a millionaire after spending off-hours while attending school writing code for a smartphone app.

My petty jealousy aside, though, D'Aloisio's story got me thinking: Are there any other industries -- other than entertainment -- that would create opportunities like this?

I can't think of any.

First of all, there just aren't a lot of businesses that allow teenagers to participate, even on the periphery. That's why you don't hear a lot about teens cashing in after developing a new miracle drug or a more fuel-efficient car engine.

No less important, I can't think of any other businesses that not only reward the efforts of anyone with a good idea, regardless of who that person may be, but do so at warp speed.

D'Aloisio has been attending high school in London while also working on his app, Summly, which condenses news stories for smartphones.

(And, as a journalist, all I can say is thank goodness someone has created a technology that automatically takes my work and, without either reading or understanding it, turns it into little bite-sized bits easily digested by people with cat-sized attention spans.)

D'Aloisio reportedly has pocketed $30 million from Yahoo for coming up with this string of software code. He's also gotten a job with the tech giant.

Presumably, he'll never have to worry about money, or a job, or his future. Again, he's 17.

Perhaps the world would be a better place if things like this happened more often. Perhaps we sacrifice a lot by erecting corporate barriers to young whippersnappers with nifty new ideas.

It's tempting to wonder how many struggling companies could be turned around by an infusion of fresh -- really fresh -- blood.

On the other hand, there's something to be said for a little seasoning, for learning the ropes. Or maybe tech is the only industry that has no need for such things.

It's also hard to avoid a nagging feeling that Yahoo grossly overpaid for a product with an unknown shelf life. Is there really that much demand for itty-bitty news digests? And if there is, won't it be just a matter of time before someone else comes up with a newer and better version?

That's not D'Aloisio's problem. He's got his.

I want to feel good for him. Really.


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