Twitter buys chat app founded by a serial entrepreneur who sold his first start-up to Yahoo when he was 17

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Jack Dorsey creator, co-founder, and Chairman of Twitter and co-founder & CEO of Square arrives on stage at the Bitcoin 2021 Convention, a crypto-currency conference held at the Mana Convention Center in Wynwood on June 04, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
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LONDON — Twitter announced that it’s acquired a chat app called Sphere, which was co-founded by British serial entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio.

Incorporated in 2016, Sphere started out as a real-time question and answer app that involved micropayments before it pivoted to become more of a group chat app.

Between 2017 and 2019, it raised around $30 million from investors including Index Ventures, Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky, Tinder co-founder Sean Rad and Sequoia venture capitalist Mike Moritz.

“It’s really important and necessary in order to achieve impact to partner with the right companies at the right time that have similar visions and ideas,” D’Aloisio told CNBC on a call.

Roughly 500,000 people used the first version of the app, D’Aloisio said, but he declined to comment on the latest user numbers.

The terms of the deal, which was announced Wednesday and will see approximately 20 Sphere employees join Twitter, have not been disclosed. But D’Aloisio claimed “everyone is happy.”

Sphere said in a blogpost that it will be “winding down” its standalone product in November as a result of the acquisition. “Obviously Sphere was our own thing and that’s no longer relevant to what Twitter is trying to achieve,” D’Aloisio said.

The entrepreneur added that he and his team will work alongside Twitter employees to try to take the “vision” they had at Sphere and “integrate that into various parts” of Twitter.  

Nick Caldwell, vice president of engineering at Twitter, announced the acquisition of Sphere via his company’s social network.

“The Sphere team’s expertise and leadership’s passion for finding ways to help people connect will help accelerate our Communities, DM, and Creators roadmaps,” he said.

D’Aloisio sold his first start-up, a mobile news app called Summly, to Yahoo for $30 million in 2013 when he was 17 years old. He spent two and a half years as a product manager at Yahoo before becoming an “entrepreneur in residence” at Airbnb, where he worked with Chesky.

He started Sphere while studying computer science and philosophy at the University of Oxford, which is where he met his co-founder, Tomas Halgas.

Over the years, Twitter has acquired several other U.K. start-ups with the best-known one being TweetDeck. It has also bought artificial intelligence firms Magic Pony Technology, Fabula.ai and Aiden.ai.

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