The pioneers who make sure there's an app for that

Nick D'Aloisio sold his web page condenser for £20m. He's not alone in hoping to cash in on our smart-phone obsession. By Oscar Williams-Grut

Nick D'Aloisio was just 15 when he developed Trimmit in 2011, an iPhone app that condenses web pages into 1,000 characters, 500 characters, or 140-character summaries. That same year he became the youngest tech entrepreneur to receive venture capital funding, gaining $300,000 (£200,000) of investment from Asia's richest man, Li Ka-Shing.

Artist Yoko Ono, actor Ashton Kutcher, Stephen Fry and Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, have since invested in the app, which was rebranded as Summly late in 2011.

Last Monday, D'Aloisio sold Summly to Yahoo for a figure said to be well over £20m. It's a trajectory of success unseen for any British technology entrepreneur, let alone someone who should be studying for his A-levels.

"It's great in one sense as it'll get a whole stack of teenagers writing code, but it's a little bit misleading," says Alistair Crane, the chief executive at the app development agency Grapple. "If he didn't have the backers that he had, he wouldn't have sold for the amount he did."

While D'Aloisio may have got lucky, there's no denying that there's money to be made from apps. "Everything is moving on to the super-computer in your pocket," says Oleg Fomenko, the founder of the radio app Bloom .fm. "People are spending a lot of money on mobile."

Fomenko is just one of the developers hoping to cash in. Across Britain a host of tech entrepreneurs are building apps to get people spending money through their phones as they dream of a million-pound exit like D'Aloisio.

Hailo

The brainchild of three London cabbies and the entrepreneur Jay Bregman, Hailo has revolutionised the black cab industry. The app allows customers to see Hailo-enabled black cabs around them, order fares, pay by card and keep a record of journeys. The company takes a cut of all fares booked through the app.

It has been trading for little over a year but already has around 10,000 drivers signed up within London, and it has expanded into Dublin, Toronto, Chicago and Boston, with New York, Tokyo, Madrid and Barcelona all in the pipeline.

What makes the app so successful, says chief executive Bregman, is its role as a "Bloomberg box for taxi drivers. It's got one or two features that a driver will look at and say 'Wow, there's definitely a cab driver behind that'."

The driver app offers real-time traffic data, taxi rank and passenger numbers, and allows drivers to track orders, set targets and measure efficiency.

Blippar

Blippar "turns the camera on your phone into an extension of your eye," according to co-founder Omar Tayeb. The app uses "augmented reality" to add animations and links to real-world images captured on the phone's camera using the app.

At little more than 18 months old, the company has already worked on advertising and marketing campaigns with Unilever, Nestlé, Heinz, Diageo, Xbox, Samsung and Cadbury, and has opened an office in New York.

Its success saw Tayeb, 26, last year named one of London's top young entrepreneurs in the Spirit of London awards, with Summly's Nick D'Aloisio (see opposite).

Tayeb says the next step is to develop technology that can recognise anything, not just from the images Blippar stores on its mainframe. "The way we see mobile going is it will become an extension of you," he Tayeb says. "Not just storing data but giving you better senses."

Paddle

Paddle aims to make online payments as easy as paying for something in real life – click "Pay with Paddle" at a web checkout and a code is generated that can be scanned with the app on your smartphone. The app stores credit card and address details, so once you've scanned you just click the card and address and you're done.

"The last innovation in online payment was PayPal 15 years ago," says founder Ed Lea. "We're updating for smartphones."

This four-man operation has only been running since May 2012, but is already processing card payments, and, next month, Marks & Spencer is starting a trial of the service.

King.com

King.com chief Riccardo Zacconi is an old hand in tech, having survived the dot.com boom of the Nineties, but his company has been hailed as the "poster child for the European gaming industry" by Facebook's European gaming chief.

King's wildly successful Candy Crush Saga and Bubble Witch Saga have dominated both mobile and Facebook app charts and its games are played five billion times monthly. King makes money from in-game purchases of extra lives and advantages, and the company has also recently signed advertising deals with Pepsi and Unilever.

What makes King unique is that its games are synchronised across all platforms, allowing users to stop playing on one platform and pick up where they left off with the game on another.

The company is rumoured to be considering a stock market flotation next year, but Zacconi says he's currently "focused 100 per cent on building the business", planning to crack Asia this year.

Scoopt

Launched in January, Scoopt is designed to let people share their favourite places with friends. "Somebody that you've never met saying this is a really great restaurant doesn't really mean much," says creator Glynn Jones. His app allows you to browse your friends' recommended bars, restaurants, shops, hotels and more, with pictures pulled from Instagram of each venue.

Jones had the idea while in the South of France two years ago when he was wishing he knew of a good local restaurant to go to. While it has only been operational for little more than three months, Microsoft has agreed to promote Scoopt on its Windows 8 phone, and Jones has ambitious plans to monetise the app. In June, he will introduce a shopping feature that allows users to buy from independent shops that are recommended by friends.

Citymapper

Citymapper is a complete journey planner in your pocket, offering bus, Tube, train and cycle information for Londoners.

"I thought there was an opportunity to nail the transport app and London was the city to do it," says the apps creator Azmat Yusef.

Yusef had previously worked on the successful Busmapper app, but felt a fuller app was needed. He and his team built their code from scratch, calculating all journey times themselves. Yusef plans to expand the app to other cities once they've perfected their code.

Yplan

YPlan allows users to book tickets for events on the night or a night in advance – everything from flamenco dancing to a tour of a gin distillery.

"Being able to offer something a bit quirky has really helped attract customers," says co-founder Viktoras Jucikas, a former Goldman Sachs executive.

Jucikas and co-founder Rytis Vitkauskas recruited employees from Time Out magazine, Ticketweb and Airbnb, the travellers' bed-for-a-night website, to design and curate the app.

As well as last-minute tickets, users are offered such incentives as discounts, free drinks on arrival and waived booking fees. It appeals to promoters and organisers because it gives them the chance to offload unsold tickets, and YPlan makes its money by taking a cut of all tickets sold through the app. The app currently only covers London, but the founders are looking at expanding it.

Bloom.fm

Aiming to recreate the success in the US of the personalised radio service Pandora, Bloom.fm lets users listen to radio stations based on a selected genre. Users who subscribe can "borrow" their favourite tracks offline to listen to them whenever they want.

"Our proposition is basically like rental space," says Oleg Fomenko, the app's founder. He's hoping to cash in on small-time music consumers, with subscription rates starting at just £1 a month for storage of up to 20 tracks.

Fomenko has worked out deals with most of the major record labels and the app already has a catalogue of 16 million tracks. Fomenko and his team are also working on a web app: "You can listen to our service on the way to the office and when you get to the office you can pick up where you left off."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£12500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Adviser - OTE £24,500

£22500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Inbound and outbound calls with...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £40,000

£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash