Ben Casnocha: Business prodigy living a large start-up life

When he was 12 years old, Ben Casnocha was presented with a school assignment to think up ideas for a Web site that could function as a tool for community service needs.

It’s fair to say that he completed that particular assignment — and that it made a lasting impression.

Inspired by the project, Casnocha soon founded Comcate in 2000, an online software company that provides customer-service resources for small city and county government agencies. Comcate offers its services to cities such as Beverly Hills and Alameda, and larger districts such as Sonoma County.

As a full-time CEO and high school student (at San Francisco’s University High School), running Comcate gave Casnocha an opportunity to work on a unique set of scheduling skills.

“I really focused on three things in high school — my company, basketball and my school work,” Casnocha said. “It got a little stressful in my first two years of high school, trying to make conference calls with investors in between classes, but I definitely learned a lot of important time-management lessons.”

Casnocha has since relinquished some of his duties at Comcate to a full-time CEO (he sits on the board of directors) so he can focus on promoting his latest project, an autobiography and self-help book titled, “My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Though Silicon Valley.”

The book, released in May and published by Jossey-Bass, features Casnocha’s personal entrepreneurial advice, as well as guest essays from Silicon Valley leaders he has befriended during his business ascendancy.

“I’ve always loved to write, and I kept a diary of what I thought about my business, being an entrepreneur and other things of interest to me,” Casnocha said. “I consulted some people, and we realized we could publish a book out of my writings.”

In the last year, Casnocha — who graduated from University in 2006 — has spent his time lecturing at various universities across the United States to promote his book, while also traveling around the globe and doing consulting work at Mobius Venture Capital, a company based in Boulder, Colo.

In the fall, he will start attending Claremont-McKenna, a liberal arts college in Los Angeles, where he will focus on blending in with fellow students and committing himself to writing a new book — this one focusing on the history of America’s founding fathers.

“I have a broad range of interests, so I’ll always be working on something,” Casnocha said. “But for right now, my main goal is just seeing what its like to be a 19-year-old in a college social setting.”

Business

New project: Book, “My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley”

Number of e-mails a day: 100

Number of voice mails a day: 3

Essential Web site: ben.casnocha.com

Gadgets: T-Mobile Dash

Education: San Francisco’s University High School

Last conference: Book Expo of America

First job: Founder of a dot-com

Career objective: Have impact on the world

Personal

Details: 6 feet 4 inches tall, 19 years old, loves conversations with interesting people and good books

Hometown: San Francisco

Sports/hobbies: Ping pong, chess, basketball

Transportation: Prius or the Muni N-Judah

Favorite restaurant: Crepes on Cole in Cole Valley

Computer: PowerBook G4

Vacation spot: Japan

Reading: So many books, so little time

Motivation: Hearing the inspiring stories of others

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