swiftkey chris hill-scott

SwiftKey Co-Founder Misses Share Of $250 Million Microsoft Buyout Over A Bicycle

For some tech companies, a multi-million dollar buyout from an industry giant like Microsoft is the stuff of dreams. That dream is about to come true for two of the three co-founders of SwiftKey, which is the company behind one of the most popular keyboard apps on Android and iOS.

According to Business Insider, Microsoft is expected to pay about $250 million in a deal to acquire SwiftKey. Two of the three co-founders of SwiftKey will receive a significant portion of that buyout price.

The third co-founder of SwiftKey, Chris Hill-Scott, will see nothing out of the deal.

The Telegraph reports that Chris Hill-Scott, now working for the British government, sold his stake in SwiftKey in 2008 in order to buy a bicycle.

swiftkey keyboard
SwiftKey is a smartphone keyboard app that predicts what users will type next. [AP Photo/Jeff Chiu]
SwiftKey was founded in 2008 by three friends and graduates of Cambridge University. According to The Guardian, Hill-Scott was appointed as the director of TouchType LTD, the parent company of SwiftKey, in August 2008. However, he resigned and gave up his stake in the company two months later in October 2008.

In a statement given to The Times, a SwiftKey spokesperson elaborated on the parting of ways.

“When SwiftKey formed there were three founding members. Chris was a friend of Jon’s from school and Ben was a friend from his university in Cambridge. Two months after forming the company, Chris decided to leave. Jon and Ben bought his shares. He left on good terms.”

In reaction to the buyout news, Hill-Scott tweeted that resigning from the company he helped to co-found was the “biggest mistake I ever made.” He also posted a picture of his resignation document, according to The Telegraph.

Hill-Scott’s Twitter account is now set to private.

According to The Guardian, Hill-Scott worked in design and photography after resigning from SwiftKey. He ultimately went to work for the U.K,’s Government Digital service, where Business Insider reports that he earns about £55,000 ($79,000 USD) year.

Hill-Scott’s co-founders will each take home about £25 million of the Microsoft buyout, which converts to about $36 million USD. Since he gave up his stake in 2008 for a bicycle, Hill-Scott gets nothing.

The Telegraph reports that SwiftKey is currently installed on about 300 million smartphones, and that the app is designed to replace the default keyboard with one that allows users to swipe between letters. The app also utilizes predictive algorithms to make educated guesses about what word a user is typing.

Although SwiftKey was originally a paid app, it went free in 2014. According to The Telegraph, the move resulted revenues dropping from £9.9 million ($14 million) in 2013 to £8.4 million ($12 million) in 2014, which may have opened the company up to acquisition.

Microsoft already has a decent mobile keyboard in place on its Windows phones, according to The Verge. The buyout may have more to do with SwiftKey’s artificial intelligence research than its keyboard app. SwiftKey’s newest Android keyboard uses a neural network rather than standard algorithms to predict text.

According to The Verge, SwiftKey and Google are the only two tech companies that have successfully implemented this type of artificial intelligence on a smartphone. Other examples of artificial intelligence, like Cortana and Siri, are cloud-based, while SwiftKey’s Neural Alpha and Google’s Translate app both do all the heavy lifting right on the phone.

With their $250 million buyout of Swiftkey, Microsoft gets both SwiftKey’s extremely popular keyboard app and potentially much more important artificial intelligence research.

Chris Hill-Scott exchanged his stake in SwiftKey for a bicycle long before the company got into artificial intelligence, but that hasn’t stopped Twitter from tormenting the unlucky co-founder.

Do you think Chris Hill-Scott’s friends and co-founders at SwiftKey owe him any part of the Microsoft buyout, or should he just let it go and move on?

[Image via Chris Hill-Scott/Twitter, @quis]

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