Last week, Yahoo! made big news when they combined forces with a 17-year-old British kid named Nick D’Aloisio. Nick created an iPhone app called Summly that condenses news articles down to a digestible 400 characters. Yahoo shelled out a cool $30 million for the app, which means that they must think it is incredibly valuable, right?
While the app certainly has a unique selling point, the buyout smells like a PR stunt.
D’Aloisio’s story has the makings of a front-page headline. Take a kid who hasn’t even graduated high school yet and make him a modern-day success story. Give him millions of dollars for an app he’s created, presumably in his parents' basement. Drop in the phrase “the next Mark Zuckerberg” a few times, and people will get it.
And they did.
The New York Times led their coverage with the headline, “He Has Millions and a New Job at Yahoo. Soon, He’ll Be 18.” The Silicon Beat went so far as to call him “The New Face of Yahoo,” which is probably exactly what Yahoo wanted — and needed.
After getting some controversial news coverage in the past month regarding their new policy that prohibited working virtually, Yahoo needed a win. Other outlets predict that Yahoo used the story to ignite a new interest in working at the company. The fresh-faced D’Alosio and his inspiring story were just the ammo Yahoo needed to reposition its brand...or were they?
Putting a 17-year-old into the spotlight poses its own set of challenges. Especially if they’re tech savvy, they most likely have an Internet trail, which in D’Alosio’s case isn’t the most likeable. If Yahoo is going to keep riding the young-entrepreneur wave, they’ll need to invest in PR strategies to protect and improve their new employees’ images.
A little background check wouldn’t hurt, either.