About a year ago, Greg Prow (one of my partners) introduced me to a guy named Ben Casnocha. He said something to the effect of “Hey Brad – next time you are in California – you’ve got to meet this kid – he makes me think of what you must have been like in high school.”
A few weeks later I hooked up with Ben late on a Monday. I was pretty fried from our normal partner meeting, but immediately engaged when we sat down in a conference room and started talking. I thought I was meeting Ben but his dad and the president of his company – Comcate – were there. Fortunately, the conversation focused on Ben and what he was up to so we spent a good hour getting to know each other.
I walked away intrigued and impressed. I started getting involved in computers when I was a teenager (my launching off point was the Apple II with an Integer card that I got for my bar mitzvah) and my dad had hooked me up with patients of his that were “computer people” by the time I was 15. Ben made me think of this during our meeting and I fondly recalled several of my early mentors like Gene Scott and Chris / Helena Aves. I also remembered plenty of bad experiences and my complete naivete (for example, writing a letter to Stephen Jobs and copying everyone I could think of about how crappy the Lisa / Mac development environment was and how useless the Mac Developers program was, while thinking that anyone would care what an 18 year old thought who wasn’t clueful enough to know that it was “Steve Jobs”).
I was energized by Ben’s passion for the company that he had created. Comcate was a credible business, with real customers, and – while it was living off of angel financing – was gradually generating real revenue. Ben carried himself extremely well for a 16 year (maybe he was even 15), was articulate, and was willing to engage in a real conversation. Ben represented his company well, did a nice job of letting the meeting flow (while clearly showing maturity beyond his years), and even asked for the sale (“Are you willing to keep talking to me and provide on-going advice, mentoring, and introductions?”). I answered with a resounding yes and early the next day fired off a series of email intros to other friends of mine who had accomplished significant entrepreneurial feats at a young age.
Over the next couple of weeks, my meeting with Ben rattled around in my brain. Something bothered me. After talking to a few of the folks that I hooked Ben up with, a consistent theme came back. Ben was a neat guy, had accomplished a remarkable amount of business stuff for someone his age, and had strong opinions. Some of them were the strong opinions of a 16 years – granted – a 16 year old that already had plenty of miles on him in the business world, but were still “unseasoned by life” (yeah – I was 16 once – and I was pretty clueless about a lot of things. I’m 38 now and am still clueless about a lot of things). I realized I didn’t know much about “the non-business Ben” and – given that I lived over 1500 miles away and was unlikely to have much more than an email relationship with him, I didn’t feel it was my place to provide critical feedback to him beyond the domain(s) that he engaged me in.
So – I smiled yesterday when I got a note from Ben telling me that he was beta testing a personal blog. The part of me that was concerned – but didn’t really know why – and didn’t feel like I had any place to comment freely since I didn’t really know Ben – now had a chance – through his blog – to understand him better and learn more about him.
Ben – go for it!