It's fair to say Nick has done some great things with Summly, but looking at the underlying technology and how he grew his product, a few key things can be learnt about how he achieved his success.
The execution and promotion of his product are also rather interesting. Nick took to blogs such as TechCrunch and Gizmodo as well as others and literally spammed the bloggers. He had determination to get featured on these sites and eventually he did. Despite a bit of a tarnished reputation to start with, his app slowly started getting traction and he was able to contact other well known blogs and influential people to further promote his product. Stephen Fry for example is featured in the promotional video, and currently has over 5.6 million Twitter followers. By having someone such as Mr. Fry constantly tweet the link, it's easy to see how his app gained awareness.
The app also made use of the App Store. With a quick initial 'boost' from the blog coverage his app will have easily made it into the top rankings further helping promote his app. From there, it's a matter of keeping a constant level of promotion till the number of downloads catch up with the other big news apps.
As Derek Sivers (2009) said:
To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.
Looking at the above image, it displays his idea rather nicely. A great idea with poor execution is worth nothing, however a simple idea with great execution is worth million ($30 million in this case).
The one lesson which I believe can be pulled from Nick's huge success is that you should focus on your product, regardless of whether it is a disruptive idea or not. Provided it is something people want, the only thing stopping you from succeeding is your drive and execution.
18 year old back-end software developer. Curious. Always learning. http://Riotcleanup.co.uk && http://PDFtribute.net. English and French.