Business

The teenager who sparked an internet scandal

Ted Nash Image copyright James Drew

Ted Nash realised that his gossip website had somewhat backfired when a media scrum descended upon his parents' home in rural south-west England.

Aged 19 at the time back in late 2010, and still living with his mum and dad in Somerset, Mr Nash had developed a website called Little Gossip, where schoolchildren could anonymously post news of interest to their fellow pupils.

Mr Nash, now 25, says he had the best of intentions, but things very quickly went wrong.

The website was an immediate viral hit, gaining 33,000 users in just its first hour, then hundreds of thousands across the length and breadth of the UK within a few days.

Unfortunately, at least 10% of the comments posted were malicious. And amid accusations that it was a bullying free-for-all, schools and parents were soon loudly complaining.

And Mr Nash was doorstepped by tabloid reporters and TV crews.

Image caption The woes at Little Gossip were widely reported

Mr Nash says: "My mum walked out one morning in her dressing gown to open the front gate for someone, and suddenly there were reporters asking her, 'Does Ted Nash live here?'

"She ran back inside, shouting to me, 'What have you done?'"

With the story being widely reported across national UK newspapers, and on TV, Mr Nash shut down the website a few months later.

A serial technology entrepreneur, who set up his first money-making website when he was just 12 years old, Mr Nash describes Little Gossip as "an unbelievable learning curve".

He says: "As is more often the case, I came up with the idea for the website to solve my own problems.

"At school I was always much more interested in building a company. Because of that I felt that I had missed out on a huge amount of gossip and socialising, so I thought something like Little Gossip would be very useful, and it was started with good intentions.

"Unfortunately it was a sad state of affairs that you couldn't allow some people to be anonymous [without them abusing it], and we had to close it."

'Spark'

Now chief executive of a start-up technology company called Tapdaq, which aims to help small mobile phone apps more easily grow user numbers, Mr Nash is already 13 years into a busy and eventful business career.

At 17 he made almost £3m when three million people around the world paid 99 cents to download an app he had developed called Face Rate, and then he subsequently spent 18 months helping Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper group, News UK, develop its mobile presence.

Image copyright Ted Nash
Image caption Mr Nash says he was 12 when he caught the business bug

But Mr Nash says it all started when, aged 12, and on a family holiday in Spain, he was inspired by an 18-year-old he met who had made a decent amount of money by developing an early internet search engine.

"I saw all the material items that he had, and me being 12 I wanted that as well.

"It completely set off a spark in my head, and from that point onwards I was just fascinated by technology and the impact it can have. And, of course, the money it can make.

"At that age all I could think about was buying the next toy - literally. But [as] you get older you realise that the money is not so important, and that it is a subset for building something of value for other people to use."

Returning to the UK, Mr Nash set to work on learning how to build websites, and still just 12, was successful with one of the first ones he built. Called Rediz, it was an online shopping index, with links to shopping websites.

Image copyright James Drew
Image caption Tapdaq is based in London

Mr Nash was savvy enough to build up a user base, and he was soon getting paid by retailers for each customer who clicked through to their websites from his.

"I was earning the kind of money that 12-year-olds shouldn't, but I had to get my parents to sign all my contracts, because I was obviously too young."

Many of Mr Nash's other websites, including an attempt at a search engine, were far less successful.

He says: "From age 12 to 16, it was pretty much all trial and error. I built [metaphorically speaking] thousands of websites, the majority of which didn't see the light of day."

Support, advice and occasional investment along the way came from Steve Pankhurst, the founder of one-time UK social networking website Friends Reunited. Mr Nash had met Mr Pankhurst via his father.

'Billion dollar'

After Rediz, Mr Nash's next big hit was Face Rate, an app that measured - or at least tried to measure - how attractive a user was. It went viral, and Mr Nash says he "made an obscene amount of money for a kid of that age".

Image copyright Tapdaq
Image caption Mr Nash has big ambitions for Tapdaq

The ignominy of Little Gossip then followed, before Mr Nash helped the Times and Sunday Times newspapers improve their digital presence.

Mr Nash says his sole attention since 2013 has been London-based Tapdaq, which helps mobile phone apps cross-advertise on each other's platforms, thereby helping them to more easily build up user numbers. He says it has so far secured financial backing of $8m (£5.5m).

The ambitious Mr Nash has high hopes for the company, which he says "could become a multibillion-dollar business".

"For me being an entrepreneur is both a blessing and a curse," he says. "I'm always thinking [of business ideas]. It keeps me awake at night."