And a Teen Shall Lead Them

How 15-year-old Ben Casnocha brought e-government to Cupertino, Menlo Park, Burbank, and other cities across California

When the girl has passed, Casnocha lowers his voice and says, "It's funny. I was talking to her the other day, and she said, 'I never know what you're really thinking because you're always being such a clown.'" His face reddens a bit, and he drops his head. "I felt terrible, you know? I guess when I'm at school, I'm not very serious most of the time, but it's weird how people here have such a different perspective on me."

Even though he's a basketball player and the chairman of his own company, Casnocha doesn't have a girlfriend. He hits a fair number of high school parties and goes to most of the dances, but if it weren't for basketball -- which he jokingly calls "my link to humanity" -- he's sure most of his peers wouldn't know what to make of his life outside University High School. "Most of them probably think, 'Well, I know he's got that business, but beyond that ....'"

Soon, Casnocha will likely be forced to decide whether he's more a student or a businessman. As his father puts it: "What is Ben's role at the next level? He'll be going to college -- one hopes -- and at some point I suspect he'll become more of an observer [at Comcate]." For his part, Ben says he'd like to attend college, provided his grades and standardized test scores are good enough, if it "makes sense with where I'm going."

"A lot of my peers are smarter than I am," says 
15-year-old Ben Casnocha. "They just can't express 
what they're thinking as well."
Paolo Vescia
"A lot of my peers are smarter than I am," says 15-year-old Ben Casnocha. "They just can't express what they're thinking as well."
Ben Casnocha and his 53-year-old father, David, 
share many of the same interests: government, 
business, and a desire for their company, Comcate, to 
succeed.
Paolo Vescia
Ben Casnocha and his 53-year-old father, David, share many of the same interests: government, business, and a desire for their company, Comcate, to succeed.

"I'm sticking with Comcate until it makes sense not to," he says, after joking he's been looking into some online universities. "It's hard to describe the amount of time I put into it -- not just sitting in front of a computer, but the time I spend thinking about it."

He puts away his BlackBerry, stands, and readies himself for the departing bus. Ahead of him lies a long, exciting night of high school basketball, but most of the time, he'll be thinking about Comcate.

"Once it gets into you," he says with a grin, "it's hard to stop."

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