Two Cambridge graduates who quit their day jobs to develop a predictive keyboard powered by artificial intelligence are set to become multimillionaires after their firm was reportedly bought by tech giant Microsoft.
SwiftKey was set up in 2008 by Jon Reynolds and Dr Ben Medlock and their app is now used on 300 million devices every day.
The company has also worked with Cambridge-based Professor Stephen Hawking, helping the scientist and author to upgrade his communications, applying predictive language software to his system and enabling him to speak faster and continue to give lectures.
Neither firm has commented on reports of the deal, said to to be worth £174 million.
Dr Medlock studied computer speech and sciences at Cambridge and the pair used his knowledge of natural language patterns and artificial intelligence to create the SwiftKey system, which predicts what a user is typing based on their previous writing habits – finishing words for them so they can write faster.
It started as a side project as both men worked full-time elsewhere following their graduation, with Mr Reynolds in the civil service, working on the sale of the High Speed 1 Channel Tunnel rail line.
After founding the company, the pair’s first SwiftKey app launched on the Android platform in 2010, supporting seven languages, and quickly took off. It has since been downloaded from the Google Play App Store more than 10 million times, and has topped the download rankings in 47 countries.
The app was described as a “revolution” in typing and communication, being named Best Startup Business at the 2012 Guardian Innovation Awards, and coming third in the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 – a list of Britain’s best private technology companies – in 2014.
Today the app supports more than 100 languages, has been incorporated into many apps as the default keyboard, and is pre-installed on many smartphones as the default typing tool.
Offices have been opened in San Francisco and Seoul, South Korea, alongside the headquarters in Southwark, south London, with the company now employing more than 160 staff.
In 2014 the app was launched on the iPhone, and it was downloaded more than a million times in the US alone in its first time on the iOS App Store.
Since its launch, SwiftKey says its predictive technology has saved users nearly two trillion keystrokes on their devices and more than 23,000 years of combined typing time.