When Microsoft bought start-up SwiftKey for £173m ($250m), it made its creators overnight millionaires – something Chris Hill-Scott would have shared too had he not decided to cash in his stake in the company. For a bicycle.
In 2008, Hill-Scott joined Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock in setting up the company that would go on to create SwiftKey but he soon found the long hours and lack of salary too hard to handle. He decided to sell his shares to his fellow founders for the princely exchange of a bicycle. A decision that might sting today.
Little did Hill-Scott know the company's AI predictive text technology would eventually work its way on to over 300 million smartphones and tablets and be one of the UK's biggest start-ups, fetching a substantial acquisition fee from Microsoft that saw Reynolds and Medlock reportedly pocket £25m each.
According to the Times, Hill-Scott left on good terms back in 2008 and went on to design websites for the government but it is understood he "did not receive a penny" from the sale. Ironically, the software is designed to pre-empt what the user is going to type next; if only Hill-Scott could have shared this same premonition.
"When SwiftKey was founded 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," a SwiftKey spokesperson said.
Records show Hill-Scott was listed as the director of SwiftKey's parent company, TouchType, in August 2008 and then left his post by October of the same year.
Foresight is a wonderful thing but you can understand from Hill-Scott's point of view why he would make that decision to find regular income as any start-up is a gamble. With the boom in start-up companies, we imagine this will not be the last time we hear of such a story.