Stake in R4bn app sold for a bicycle

05 February 2016 - 03:05 By ©The Daily Telegraph

A British app founded by three Cambridge graduates that predicts the next word you want to write using artificial intelligence has been bought by Microsoft for £174-million (R4-billion) - but one of the three missed out after selling his stake for a bicycle.Chris Hill-Scott, who set the company up with Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock in 2008, relinquished his share in SwiftKey the same year. He now works for the Government Digital Service, the branch of the cabinet office that is attempting to bring government operations online.He tweeted that it was the "biggest mistake I ever made" and posted a picture of his resignation document, The Times reported.Reynolds and Medlock, however, stand to receive multimillion-pound windfalls from the deal.The app is used on around 300 million smartphones, replacing the default keyboard with one that can write words by swiping between letters and can learn users' typing habits to predict their next word. Its prediction technology also helps power Stephen Hawking's speech system to make it easier for the scientist to communicate.SwiftKey used to charge users for its app, but went free in 2014, moving to a freemium model that charged for additional features. Revenues fell that year to £8.4-million and the company was seen by some as an acquisition target.SwiftKey is not available for Microsoft's Windows Phone software, but Microsoft has moved into developing apps for rival operating systems as its own struggles. It has recently bought Sunrise, a popular calendar app, and Wunderlist, a task-management service popular on smartphones.The deal for one of the UK's most promising technology companies comes amid a race for artificial intelligence talent among major tech groups...

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